I was recently asked by a Cisco partner which social platform was better for B2B marketing – Facebook or LinkedIn? My response went something like this – We’re all using Facebook to connect and share with our family and friends and with 800 million users, Facebook is hard to ignore, but do we really want our professional networks and personal lives to intermingle to this extent? There is always the option to create a separate Facebook page solely for business purposes. However, these types of pages are more likely to be successful for B2C companies where the target audience is already a regular Facebook user and the product or service they’re selling is a lifestyle fit.
On the other hand, LinkedIn is a social platform designed specifically for the business professional. It’s used by over 160 million people worldwidewho did nearly 4.2 billion professionally-oriented searches within the platform in 2011 and are set to surpass more than 5.3 billion this year. If I only had $10 to spend on social marketing and I had to choose between LinkedIn and Facebook, I would choose LinkedIn. The audience is more targeted, more qualified for the B2B technology market we focus on and the platform offers many ways to engage with this audience.
Here are five thoughts on how to maximize LinkedIn for business:
Complete Your Profile – Individual profiles are the foundation of networking on LinkedIn. People connect with people, not necessarily to businesses. So it’s important that your employees and especially your sales teams to have updated profiles that represent the caliber of your company and can help server to differentiate your business. LinkedIn suggests that a 100% completed profile provides you with a 40% greater chance of successful networking. For instructions and tips on how to create a stellar LinkedIn Profile view these videos from LinkedIn experts.
Create a Compelling Corporate Page – Make sure your company can be found in the LinkedIn companies directory and that your company can be followed by members who want to stay abreast of your company’s activities. Be strategic about the content you include on your company profile. Be sure to edit the company description to be in line with your corporate web site and optimize the page by including key words in the specialty section. Check out the Cisco LinkedIn company profile. Especially take note of the products section and how LinkedIn members can share this information to specific individuals within their personal networks or share across groups to which they belong.
Leverage Groups to Build Your Network – LinkedIn groups serve allow professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, and make business contacts. As a LinkedIn member you can create your own group. However, it is often easier to find an existing group that matches your interest or your target audience and engage through this already established forum. For example, a current search in the LinkedIn Groups directory shows 1,326 groups. A search for IP Telephony related groups yields 90 unique groups and a search on Information Technology shows a substantial 6,622 groups. Learn how to get started with LinkedIn Groups here.
Share Your Knowledge and Expertise – Once you’ve established your profile, corporate page and joined a group or two. It’s time to showcase your unique expertise. LinkedIn offers many ways to do this. First, be an active participant in the groups that you’ve joined. Ask questions, answer questions, provide links to content that is relevant and valuable to the other group members. LinkedIn Answers is another way to answer specific questions posed by other members and showcase a particular expertise. Probably the most basic way to share is via the LinkedIn status update. Aim for two or three updates per day and focus on the quality. Share news about your company and industry that to your target audience. You can also make updates via your company page. Similar to a tweet, Slideshare also offers an app which allows individuals to showcase presentations directly on their LinkedIn profile. This is an excellent way to share your expertise and showcase the value add of your company’s solutions and services. With the recent acquisition of Slideshare by LinkedIn this functionality may find its way to company profiles as well.
Recommendations – Recommendations can be a powerful tool for both individuals and companies. In order to get personal recommendations, it’s best to give them first. LinkedIn requires at least three recommendations in order for your profile to be marked 100% complete. You can also request recommendations for your product and services from your company profile page. For specific instructions on how to do this click here.
LinkedIn is the largest professional social network online today. If you and your company are not well-positioned on LinkedIn you are missing valuable opportunities to drive awareness for your products and services and ultimately, grow your business.