Social Media Marketing for B2B

Is LinkedIn a B2B Marketing Platform?

September 28th, 2010 2 Comments

LinkedIn is a great place to maintain your professional network and promote your resume. On LinkedIn, connections can introduce you to hiring managers for jobs and to peers for networking, while recruiters can discover your skill set. You can build your network before you need it and activate it when the time comes.

But, is LinkedIn a good place to market products and services?

I spent the past weeks talking to peers about exactly this question and in the following am presenting a summary of what I found, combined with my own experience.

LinkedIn Marketing Offerings

  1. Paid questions (Pay to send a question to a targeted audience segment on LinkedIn)
  2. Paid InMail  (Pay to send an email message as above; often in conjunction with an ad)
  3. Paid ad placement (Pay to place an ad in LinkedIn groups, profiles etc.)
  4. Free questions and polls (to your LinkedIn connections)
  5. Status updates & Twitter integration
  6. Groups

Evaluation

1.  Paid questions seem to work pretty well, as long as the questions are asked by somebody the target group cares about. Usually, that means that a high profile person has to be recruited in your company or externally to participate.  The person has to commit to engage with the responders to make it worthwhile.

2.  Paid InMail works well if the topic is right for the target audience segment. LinkedIn now claims to have a high percentage of people active on the site who are not just there to find a job but to learn and network.  I know of a campaign for another job site on LinkedIn that showed great results, which would indicate that job search is still a top goal of members. Generally, I caution on using InMail excessively as it can be perceived as intrusive (like direct Tweets). Make sure the offer is extremely relevant.

3.  Paid ads can work very well if placed correctly. As with all marketing, make sure you have clear objectives, target the right audience and stay on top of metrics.

4.  Free questions and polls can work well if the people in your network are interested in participating. I’ve had mixed results and on average find that the response rate is low. But again, the topic has to be engaging for the audience and I’ve gotten some good insights and have found people to connect with on specific topics.

5.  Status updates are a good way to keep yourself top of mind with the active LinkedIn users in your network while creating interest for your offerings. You can promote projects you are working on, events you are attending or other news interesting to your network.  Simply update your LinkedIn status by using #in in your Tweets – or link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile page (if you use it for business purposes).

6. Groups seem to be the most viable and most rapidly evolving area on LinkedIn.  Option one is to start your own group (and control access). Groups communicate through online discussions and announcements. If you are unfamiliar, search LinkedIn groups for a few of your key topic areas and request to join some of the groups to see what’s going on.  Using LinkedIn to drive referrals to other sites works very well (you can use bit.lys in your postings for tracking). Constituents of group seem to respond well to relevant training offerings, educational events and offers such as white papers.  LinkedIn currently has 700,000 groups, and about 1,500 more are added each day.

A second or complimentary option is to leverage existing LinkedIn groups for your marketing efforts. I recommend this highly if another (quality) group in your topic area is already firmly established. Anytime you decide to build your own audience on any social media platform you have to be clear about your goals and the resources needed to make the channel a success. It is better not to engage than to engage half-heartedly (and possibly negatively affect your brand).

Simple post your events in the relevant LinkedIn groups that you have identified and participate in discussions. Answering questions in groups is a great way to get engaged and build your reputation. Don’t be blunt in pushing your marketing agenda but it’s totally ok to promote relevant training offerings, event and assets.

Conclusion

LinkedIn is now showing all the signs of a viable marketing platform, especially for B2B (as opposed to Facebook, where the B2B jury is still out). People on LinkedIn mean business and if messages are put in front of the right audience in the right context, valuable leads can be generated.

I was not able to get solid data yet on the average cost of a lead generated on LinkedIn, if LinkedIn is better for generating leads for large enterprises or SME, and the conversion rate of leads into deals. These are important metrics to keep track of in line with your overall marketing objectives.

I recommend you spend some time experimenting with your personal LinkedIn account before you make a bigger investment: join a few groups, send your network a question, and poll them. You’ll learn a lot and be that much smarter when negotiating your paid campaign with LinkedIn.

Overview of advertising options on LinkedIn.

I’d be interested to hear about your own experience with marketing on LinkedIn or any other feedback on this blog!

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2 Responses

  1. Sylvia Santelli says:

    Well done Natascha, a great summary of where Linkedin is at and also a great reminder, that even with all these social platforms it is not as simple as “build it and they will come”. A very valuable human component is needed to create messaging, curate content and to make it engaging. It reminds me of what my math teachers would say to me in middle school, a calculator is just a tool to help you solve the problem, but you still have to know how to do the work.

    -Sylvia

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