How effective is LinkedIn Marketing for B2B?
After a year of consistent marketing on the LinkedIn platform, continuously learning and improving our tactics, we’re reviewing 2019 and concluding that; LinkedIn Marketing is at least 10 times better than web.
This year, LinkedIn generated at least 10 times more engagements than our website.
At best, we expected 1 or 2 engagements every couple of months to come from website visits, based on our traffic levels. That’s about half a person taking a desired action, like downloading a whitepaper, every month.
LinkedIn generated at least 10 times more engagements than that, when we were consistently posting every day.
Our posting on LinkedIn achieved approximately 4 or 5 engagements every day (here we consider an engagement to be when someone from your external network likes and/or comments on your post).
Likes from your external network are usually signs that your content has been noted, and comments are usually signs that it’s been appreciated.
“External commenters” can be seen as similar to website visitors who’ve had a fairly good read of some your content, but you know more about the new engagers on LinkedIn immediately – with no CTAs or forms involved.
When someone engages with your content, they identify themselves and their LinkedIn profile, from which you can learn more about them and their interests.
Throughout the year we’ve published updates to LinkedIn (posts) and here is a compilation of and commentary on the ones you found most interesting with links to sources and further resources.
If you need to get similar results to those that we have achieved throughout 2019 then you need to be on LinkedIn:
- Branding and Advertising
- Like the big agencies
- Content Marketing
- Covering the customer journey, persona interests and solutions
- Leveraging LinkedIn’s own resources
- Analytics & Reporting
- Actively Managing your Community
- Outreaching influencers
- Understanding the Algorithm
- Priming the initial engagement
- Engaging strongly with target personas to increases your reach
- Using acceptable media in a favoured format
- Engaging with Commitment
- Spending sufficient time and resources
- Using Sales Navigator, Elevate and similar tools
1. Branding and Advertising
Like the big agencies
LinkedIn is known to be a great tool for sales activation in the B2B space, but what about for branding and advertising?
There’s less clarity as to the strength of LinkedIn as a brand building channel.
So, we set out to shed some light on how effective LinkedIn is for brand building.
We visited LinkedIn at their London HQ to find out what the best B2B advertising strategists think…
And learned that brand building is the most effective LinkedIn strategy of all!
In October, we summarised our findings in one of our LinkedIn updates:
“Why Advertise? LinkedIn have set up the B2B Institute to better understand today’s B2B Advertising. LinkedIn kicked off yesterday at their London HQ with the best analysts in the field; thanks Les Binet and Peter Field for a very stimulating presentation. Peter explained that customer acquisition strategies are more effective than loyalty strategies (note the zero on his slide) and that reach strategies tend to be the most effective of all! Rather surprisingly marketing communications focused on product differentiation is a weak strategy. In these slides Les explains that the role of brand building communications increases as the proposition matures. And in their accompanying whitepaper Peter and Les even go back to basics and explain why B2B businesses should advertise at all! I look forward to following up with James Mooney, his team and our clients.”
The importance of LinkedIn for brand building today was further highlighted at the B2B Institute by global marketing leaders.
Without consciously investing in brand building you can’t drive sustainable, long-term growth – and what you post on LinkedIn has a direct impact on the emotional responses that build the reputation of your brand:
“What are the core principles of B2B marketing lead growth? Tomorrow at an Effweek LinkedIn satellite event, Les Binet and Peter Field will present their marketing effectiveness research in the B2B context – based on the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) Databank of over 1,300 case studies from the IPA Eff Awards. I am particularly looking forward to the introduction from LinkedIn’s Tom Pepper and discussion led by Peter Weinberg and Jon Lombardo. Their core principles are referenced in a recent LinkedIn article by Bian Salins arguing that you can’t create a brand just by doing a lot of sales activation. You have to consciously invest in the right type of activity, that can drive the types of emotional response that build long-term memories. You can’t drive sustainable, long-term growth without brand building – and you can’t hope to influence your trust and reputation as a brand without brand building, either. But here’s their secret sauce: If you want to build brand trust, you have to prioritise it! Trust is earned, not bought, and earning it involves having a strategy that aligns with how influence works today. And that applies to what you’re posting on LinkedIn today!”
And what about advertising? How effective is LinkedIn for B2B advertising?
We concluded that LinkedIn Ads are effective when you use them to identify contacts who want to build a relationship with your brand, and when your average sales value is £10k or more.
Check out our update from October to see how we came to this conclusion:
“LinkedIn Ads are expensive at $6-9 per click! Are LinkedIn Ads worth it? With a typical Click Through Rate of 0.4% and an audience of >20k profiles, very precisely targeted, plus integrated Lead Generation Forms, that increase conversion by up to 50%, then you can expect 5-10 “leads” per month. We think that is worth it. But these leads are not necessarily sales ready. Although these leads have responded to our advert; * they were not necessarily searching for our solution * best that our offer to them is middle of the funnel – a checklist or webinar * view them as interested in a relationship to nurture. Many thanks to AJ Wilcox for his slides and statistics presented at HubSpot’s Inbound19 conference last month.”
2. Content Marketing
Covering the customer journey, persona interests and solutions
Our next question was:
What’s the best way to do content marketing, as a part of brand building on LinkedIn?
Of course, the key to effective content marketing is to know your target audience, cover their customer journey and point out your solutions at the best touchpoints…
But how does this best practice apply to LinkedIn?
Take a look at our post from October to find out:
“What type of content should you post? If you need to reach a very wide audience – go for something purely entertaining and awesome. * This will build awareness of your brand. If you need to build trust – then educate with thought leadership niche content. * The range of relevant formats is very wide including; video, audio, documents, slides and text. If you want to build relationships – then stimulate conversation perhaps with questions. If you want to connect at a strong emotional level with your community – then perhaps share your personal feelings. And if you need to sell – then offer promotions * For best effect – mix up your post types and formats * Measure and analyse your impact. Happy posting. Thanks to Louise Myers for the great graphic and Joe Apfelbaum for his inspiration”
Leveraging LinkedIn’s own resources
Who better to ask about best practice for content marketing on LinkedIn than LinkedIn’s own editors?
LinkedIn editors post content regularly. They provide great examples of organic posting, and what they’re doing raises important questions about how to achieve effective content marketing for your business:
- Do you need to reach a wide or niche audience?
- What are your KPIs: views, comments, likes?
We posted a summary of the effect of the editors’ posts in November:
“So, who reads posts from LinkedIn’s own Editors on their Daily Rundown and elsewhere? Their company page has 126,000 followers but their posts appear to be viewed by a relatively niche audience; an average of (only) 6,500 views for each of their last 10 video posts. I think it is a good initiative but how could it do better? Maybe the Editors based in London could tell us more about their how we can help? Katie Carroll, Riva Gold, Jessica Hartogs, Isabelle Roughol, Emily Spaven? What is the plan? And what do my experts Mark Williams, John Espirian and ANGUS GRADY think of LinkedIn’s own content initiative? Their goal appears to be to stimulate activity amongst the whole 60 million LinkedIn network. It does not appear to be scratching the surface in terms of activity but their posts are first class in terms of examples of best practice for organic posting. Is this a good way for LinkedIn to stimulate our engagement?”
See an example of a Daily Rundown.
3. Analytics & Reporting
When it comes to reporting on brand building, we noticed that there was a gap in the native LinkedIn analytics.
While you can track the performance of company posts and paid ads over time, you can’t track performance over time for organic posts.
Organic posts published by the individuals in your team are particularly important for building trust and reputation, and are therefore part of the evidence you need to prove the effectiveness of LinkedIn for brand building.
Our post from November outlines the key metrics for measuring brand awareness, and how to use a LinkedIn analytics tool to analyse the performance of organic posts over time:
“So, how has your LinkedIn posting been going? Here is some analysis of mine: since February 15th I have posted 174 times. The bar chart below shows the number of views of the last 20 posts on my personal profile courtesy of my SHIELD INTELLIGENCE analytics dashboard. The tables show the performance of my top 10 posts and my bottom 10 posts in terms of views. Excluding my viral post that went for 148k views and 3 posts where LinkedIn showed 0 views for some unexplained reason (anyone know why?) My top 10 posts average 8k views. My bottom 10 posts average 350 views. Overall my average is: 2.5k views on my personal posts, 1.9k views on my Elder Digital Marketing company posts. In the period my profile averaged 1500 followers. Of course I am most interested in engagement, not views, but that is for another day! Anyone else care to share their benchmark stats?”
See Jonathan’s benchmark stats.
We spotted another gap in the native analytics: how do you find out which people are the most likely to engage with you? And how do you see your overall network activity?
Knowing who your top posters are is important for increasing engagement with your content. Contacts who are using LinkedIn regularly to build their brand are more likely to engage than those who aren’t.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator tells you how many times individual contacts have posted in the last month, but doesn’t give an all-in-one view of your top posters.
There’s a simple workaround to this, which we (of course!) posted about…
“Who are the most prolific posters in your network? How do you find out? * Go to your “Posts & Activity” * Click on “Followers” on the left hand sidebar * Then click on “Following” in the top bar. * For each of your connections see “posts this week”. These are the people that are most likely to engage with you. In effect – this is your community”
4. Actively Managing your Community
Social media management and community management are essential to the marketing mix, but how do you balance these activities effectively online and offline?
“B2B Social Media Manager vs Community Manager: Whats the difference? Running a B2B brand’s social media accounts is a lot of work. You’re simultaneously asked to be a customer support person, marketing person and occasionally, a graphic designer. As a Social Media Manager you speak as your company account and are responsible for; * Publishing content, the mix of social channels and timing * How to source the content, listen and engage with on social media. As a Community Manager you * engage as yourself * are responsible for stimulating relationships within a “community” * are much more approachable than your general company social media account! * need to be proactive in influencing your chosen community. This can be on social media, online or even offline using networking events. Myself, I am very much involved in some HubSpot and Salesforce communities and help community managers build engagement. We engage with our influencers to fuel communities with content and stimulation. Matt Dodgson‘s research uses BuzzSumo‘s Influencer Identification Tool. My friends Doug Kessler and Jason Miller at the top of a list of London’s B2B influencers! Passle (Tom Elgar & David Kirk) make the list just behind Simon Warman-Freed LLB Hons FInstSMM MIMM”
5. Understanding the Algorithm
Priming the initial engagement
Understanding how the LinkedIn algorithm affects engagement with your community helps boost the reach of your posts (and profile).
Essentially, your reach is most effective when you’re engaging with those in your community who also engage with engaging content!:
“Here is the LinkedIn Algorithm Research report I told of earlier this week. Stats about the 1st hour reveal the secret to very wide reach for your posts (and profile)!: In the first hour final views of >50,000 had an average of 80 engagements. 30,000 to 50,000 had an average of 52 engagements. 20,000 to 30,000 had an average of 37 engagements. 10,000 to 20,000 had an average of 26 engagements. Note: here an engagement is a like or a comment. No surprise to me is the Sales Navigator SSI (Social Selling Index) correlation whereby the higher your SSI the higher your reach: 60 to 70 SSI = 87% reach (views/connections), but 70 to 80 SSI = 115% reach, and 80 to 90 SSI = 150% reach. Many thanks to Richard van der Blom for giving us this fantastic report – so relevant. Interested in getting more connections in the 1st hour?”
Engaging strongly with target personas to increases your reach
Quirks such as choice and quality of image can significantly reduce the reach and engagement of your posts:
“My LinkedIn algorithm experiment last week showed: 1) how sensitive the LinkedIn algorithm is to your image 2) how little value there was in my text – I posted virtually the same text three days in a row about the failure of the Ostrich beach lounger. Results: Tue 6th Aug: 405 views, Wed 7th Aug: 330 views, Thur 8th Aug: 4,600 views (& 35 additional comments!) What was the difference: – It was the accompanying image / video only! The first two days used the same photo of a lady on the lounger on the beach but with different editing and text overlay. A woman in a modest bikini. Face down. Showing little flesh. Not sexualised. The third day used a presenter in a studio performing a product demonstration. Many of your comments on the third day expressed how it would be better to show the product in situ…… how wrong you were! The images, both using the same photo of the lady on the lounger, had the same disastrous effect. Lesson learned: LinkedIn may censor your photo. Be careful about using a lady on the beach! LinkedIn’s algorithm may downgrade your post. Your choice of photo can be critical. Anyone else experience poor reach because of censorship?”
Using acceptable media in a favoured format
In fact, before you’ve even published your post, there are a multitude of factors which affect how many people will see it, including the choice of image.
LinkedIn like to promote certain types of posts over others, so even if you’ve got something really valuable to say, if it isn’t in the best format then you’ve already reduced the number of potential views.
What’s the best format for a LinkedIn post?:
“The strength of your communication matters in real life and on LinkedIn. LinkedIn rewards a big commitment. A “share” is you passing on someone else’s view and not really giving your own. A “like” is a form of personal endorsement. A “comment” is an investment by you giving your view. A “post” seen as a big commitment and investment. LinkedIn algorithm treats these actions in a pecking order: Share < Like < Comment < Post Reaching more people with your post”
6. Engaging with Commitment
Spending sufficient time and resources
What does it take to prepare effective organic posts?
We asked our LinkedIn community, and found out that it’s about an hour:
“How long did your last high reach post take to prepare? 2-5min, 6-15min or 16+min? And you experts? Mark Williams John Espirian Nadio Granata?”
However, no matter how long it takes for you to prepare your content, it’s the LinkedIn algorithm that ultimately decides who sees your post.
If your post took you 5 minutes, and you’re engaging with your community well and you’re engaging regularly, and your post is in the best format, then expect to achieve better reach.
See how long it takes the members of our community to prepare a post to achieve wide reach, in the comments on Jonathan’s post.
Using Sales Navigator, Elevate and similar tools
LinkedIn are developing their platform to support the process of content sharing, helping businesses to boost Sales and Employee Advocacy.
LinkedIn are signalling a best practice process for altering members of your team who would be interested in engaging with posts, highlighting the importance of keeping engagement levels up:
“LinkedIn is improving and endorsing the process of people posting content and alerting fellow members to comment and engage! Announced a few days ago; alerts will show directly in LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator feed from LinkedIn’s Elevate platform when content is posted. This will boost the reach of posts for businesses who curate content posts for their team members to share in employee advocacy campaigns using Elevate and Sales Navigator. It is possibly good news for other publishers and creators who curate content for their communities to do likewise – signalling a LinkedIn best practice process of alerting members who would be interested in engaging with the posts. There is not much difference between a business, using LinkedIn’s Elevate platform and a community pod, using LinkedIn’s Messaging platform to share content and alerts for the same purpose. Also LinkedIn’s Elevate platform provides metrics and analytics on the content performance based on topic trend data from across its network. Because LinkedIn supports hashtags and topic categorisation processes it gives us a better understanding of what is most relevant to our community. Do you want better community engagement, curated content and analytics for your posts?”
So if LinkedIn are endorsing Employee Advocacy, does that mean your business should do more of it?
In October, we asked…
“How many of your employees are effective in their posting and engagement with their LinkedIn networks? Are you using LinkedIn Elevate to maximise your companies marketing potential? Better employee advocacy could: * Amplify your brand story to your community * Develop your position as a thought leader * Drive traffic to your website * Attract job applicants * Further develop relationships in your community * Help communicate with your employees and clients. And LinkedIn’s Elevate platform is helpful to analyse: * Trends in your companies reach, and engagement * Earned media value including across Facebook and Twitter! * Your engaged audience segmented by industry and profession * Employee engagement by topic * Benchmark employee social media performance. There are competitors Hootsuite Amplify, GaggleAMP and EveryoneSocial But LinkedIn’s Elevate can also be seen as a broad communication and social media management platform even helping you regulate the use of social media by employees. Here is a list of myths LinkedIn are keen to dispel!”
If you have any further questions about LinkedIn or B2B digital marketing, please get in touch with us.