Here's How LinkedIn Is Getting Better For B2B Sales And Marketing

Chris CrumBusiness

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LinkedIn is the best social media platform for engaging with B2B customers both before and after making a sale, according to new research. As studies have shown, the professional network is only growing in importance to marketers, but in the B2B space, it's the most important social network of them all to a lot of businesses.

Is LinkedIn a major component of your marketing and/or sales efforts? Let us know in the comments.

A recent study from Social Media Examiner looked at how marketers are using social media to grow their businesses. It didn’t focus exclusively on LinkedIn, but there are a lot signs within it that point to a bigger focus on the network as time goes on.

When allowed to select just one social platform as the most important, 52% of marketers picked Facebook, but 21% picked LinkedIn. It takes the number three spot in terms of those actually being used:

It’s also in third place behind Facebook and Twitter in platforms used by those with less than twelve months experience. As you’d expect, LinkedIn gets more importance placed on it by B2B marketers. Those focused on B2C are placing more emphasis on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, while B2B marketers are focused on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and SlideShare (which LinkedIn acquired).

For B2B, LinkedIn completely dominates the pack:

In terms of overall importance to marketers, LinkedIn increased to 21% from 17% since 2014 as Facebook decreased slightly. For the self-employed, LinkedIn scored 23% just behind first-place Facebook (44%).

The study also found that 66% of marketers plan to increase their use of LinkedIn in the future. As you’d guess, B2B marketers are more likely to plan on increasing their use. 80% of B2B marketers plan on doing so versus 56% of B2C marketers. 71% of B2B marketers are interested in learning more about LinkedIn as are 55% of B2C marketers. It’s the number two network behind Facebook when it comes to what marketers want to educate themselves about.

18% of marketers are regularly using LinkedIn ads, the study found. That’s actually down from 20%. Still, 29% plan to increase their us of LinkedIn ads.

Regalix recently put out its B2B Social Media Marketing 2015 report (via eMarketer) finding that LinkedIn is second only to Twitter as the most used social platform by B2B marketers. Both were significantly ahead of Facebook. All three were well ahead of everything else.

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LinkedIn is actually on top of of the list when it comes to channels found to be most effective for customer engagement both before and after sales.

"LinkedIn (64%) and Twitter (47%) were the most favoured channels for customer engagement during the pre-sale stage of the buying cycle; they led the pack for the post-sale stage of the buying cycle too, but at lower figures with LinkedIn at 51% and Twitter at 42%," the report says. "Facebook found greater preference among marketers for post-sale customer engagement (30%) than it did for pre-sale (17%)."

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LinkedIn recently extended its ads to publishers sites via LinkedIn Network Display. According to the company, these ads enable marketers to reach a “high-value audience of business professionals” both on and off LinkedIn, while targeting the right people to increase brand awareness with those “who matter most”. You can also track the impact of the ads with its campaign and website analytics.

Looking at content types, the Social Media Examiner study found that 69% of marketers plan on increasing their use of blogs. This could further fuel LinkedIn marketing efforts as its publishing platform, which is essentially a blogging platform, is growing at a healthy clip.

The company announced last month that over a million people had published a post using the platform. They first opened it up to everyone in February of last year. The company says over a million unique publishers publish over 130,000 posts a week, and about 45% of readers are in the upper ranks of their industries, such as managers, VPs, and CEOs. The average post now reaches professionals in 21 industries and 9 countries, it says.

Just today, LinkedIn announced that it's expanding the publishing platform globally, opening it up to more languages.

“As professionals, we all have our own perspective on the world around us, but until recently, we didn’t always have the right platform to share it on,” said LinkedIn's Angela Yang. “That’s why it came as no surprise that when we made it possible for all English speaking members to publish long-form posts on LinkedIn, it quickly became one of the fastest growing features on the site."

In June, LinkedIn launched a new version of its Pulse news reader app, which makes use of the user’s LinkedIn network when determining what content to show them. This should only help with LinkedIn content marketing efforts.

On the sales side of things, LinkedIn is rapidly launching new features to accommodate. In June, it expanded its Sales Navigator tool and added Microsoft Dynamics CRM integration. It's making its Slideshare product better for lead generation, and this week, LinkedIn gave users a new sales metric called Social Selling Index. All users get their own score to determine how effective they are at establishing their professional brand, finding the "right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships."

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"We know that social selling is a vital component of success for many sales organizations: salespeople who excel at social selling are creating more opportunities and are 51% more likely to hit quota," says LinkedIn's Lauren Mullenholz . "It is because of this massive potential that measurement of social selling efforts is all the more important. Empowering salespeople with the knowledge of where they stand with social selling can help them set clear goals and inspire them to become a better social seller."

The score is updated on a daily basis regardless of whether or not your'e an actual salesperson.

Are you placing increased emphasis on your LinkedIn marketing efforts? Do you expect to as time goes on? Share your thoughts about marketing on the professional social platform.

Images via LinkedIn (Flickr), Social Media Examiner, Regalix

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.