By Brandon Palmer
LinkedIn has been called the Facebook for professionals. Unfortunately, a platform designed for business has not quite garnered the interest that many would have hoped. With that in mind, this blog will discuss the viability of LinkedIn as a crucial part of a firm’s social media marketing strategy.
Many people assume that, as a result of their personal knowledge and use of social media, they can use various platforms to grow their B2B presence as well. Too often, this ideal cannot be further from the truth. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be “easy” to use, but to truly engage with other businesses and consumers alike, proper training, understanding, and practice are necessary.
Engagement is one goal of social media campaigns that requires research in considering the best platform to utilize for your business and who you are targeting. For example, according to the “2016 Social Media Impact Report: B2B Edition” by TrackMaven,” LinkedIn engagement rates for B2B are 1.09, Facebook is 5.99, Pinterest is 15.88, and Instagram is at 22.53. From an engagement standpoint alone, LinkedIn appears to not offer the same audience participation that companies are hoping for, in spite of its reputation as a professional networking site. This may be a result of several factors: lower active user pool (100 million), differences in type of content, and willingness of active users to like, comment, or share postings. Of the many B2B industries that utilize LinkedIn as a channel for their social media marketing mix, the most successful in terms of engagement and followers are machinery, engineering, and biotech. This may prove a surprise for some, but it illustrates the reality that many firms are unprepared, or not suited to, market with LinkedIn. Furthermore, B2B marketing holds many unique challenges that may not find their solution in social media, or LinkedIn specifically. A few of the challenges associated with B2B marketing: volatile market demand, organizational buying relationships, and distance from the actual consumer. Even considering these difficulties, a LinkedIn presence may benefit your firm from the standpoint of increased reach and brand familiarity, rather than engagement.
Indeed, CEOs were polled in 2015 by Forbes Magazine and of those polled, 28% used social media. Of the 28%, 22% utilized LinkedIn and 10% Twitter. The findings do lend credence to LinkedIn’s suitability as a professional social media platform (at least for brand familiarity), but it may only illustrate that business professionals are on LinkedIn, rather than employing it as a vital piece of their marketing strategy. Regardless, if a B2B’s marketing objective is to target executive level individuals, it may prove advantageous to keep a healthy LinkedIn presence.
In terms of an overall social media strategy, LinkedIn may play a role, but it should be supplemented by other platforms that may serve other areas of your target market. B2B companies should participate and actively pursue SMNs that are popular with their customers, and more importantly, platforms that offer engaging ways to communicate and share.