Successful social media marketing is about knowing where your customers are and establishing a presence there. It is clear that professionals from all demographics are spending a great deal of time with social media, and that Facebook is the main networking site where we spend (or rather, waste) our time. However, simply because many people are on Facebook does not mean it’s the best use of time and effort for businesses. As a matter of fact, if you asked most people what they use their social networking channels for, they would say Facebook for personal and private use, and LinkedIn for professional use. So, while most people – including decision makers with whom you want to connect, use Facebook to connect with friends and family, LinkedIn is viewed by professionals as a trusted place to network. Therefore, not only is the perceived purpose of each site different, so is the demographic; many more experienced professionals are not represented, or are simply not active, on Facebook. And while LinkedIn may have fewer users, the professional mindset and ability to network with other people who are on the site for the same reason make it a much more valuable tool for B2B companies.
Admittedly, there are many similarities between the two sites. For example, both offer platforms so that people can become part of a business community. For Facebook, these are called Fan Pages. For LinkedIn, they are called Companies Pages. Facebook Fan Pages allow people to interact via wall postings and optional applications, while LinkedIn Companies Pages allow professionals to recommend company products and services as well as add comments to their recommendations. LinkedIn followers can see who in their network made what company recommendation just as Facebook users can see which of their friends like certain pages.
With that being said, let’s take closer look at how LinkedIn provides better B2B business opportunities than Facebook:
More targeted professional community-building: LinkedIn’s feature to follow a company allows you to “like” it simply by following it. When compared to a Facebook “like,” those following your LI page are much more relevant to the business aspect of your company simply due to their professional demographic. Above and beyond that, you can ask professionals to “recommend” products and services on your Companies Page, which has more inherent value to a company than a mere “like.”
Better page management tools: Many Facebook Fan Page administrators have problems managing their pages efficiently because settings don’t allow for specific content control. LinkedIn, however, has several moderation tools built into the groups that allow for granular detail regarding who can post what. For instance, the process for Group admins to easily search through members, add them as managers, delete them, etc. is simple. Facebook does not offer such extensive features. In that respect, LI Groups are at the cutting edge of community management on any major social media site.
Public access allows for greater engagement with interested people and increased visibility: Up until recently, Facebook Fan Pages had been the open arena in which people could engage. Previously, the problem with LI Groups was that they were private worlds; unless you were a member of the group, you couldn’t see inside it. However, LI began to allow existing groups to become public, and new public-only groups to be created. And, now that Fan Pages and public Groups offer virtually the same benefits regarding SEO and visibility, there is little reason for companies not to be active on LinkedIn.
Group members are allowed more room for in-depth conversation: The engagement on Groups is significant because there is a lot of room for discussion; users are not confined to the small and limited status update boxes such as those used on Facebook. Furthermore, Groups offer daily and weekly digests so that followers can stay on top of discussions through email, a feature that is lacking with Pages.
I hope this has helped you understand the sales and marketing potential of the LinkedIn platform and demographic. In 2011, we are already seeing signs that many marketers, especially those in B2B industries, are starting to realize this. A recent report indicated that B2B marketers use LinkedIn more than Facebook for marketing. So with that, there is no question that for an increasing number of companies, LinkedIn is the preferred social media channel for business.
Has LinkedIn become the preferred social media channel for your company?
The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed new LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing,” available at Amazon, Kindle, or iTunes.