Three simple ways B2B marketers can get value from LinkedIn

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When thinking about social media and how to use it for your brand, our initial reaction is often to think about the channels we can use and the conversations we can have. But using social media does not necessarily mean having a channel or joining a conversation. There can often be as much value (and sometimes even more) from listening to what others are saying. For B2B brands LinkedIn is a great example of where social media can be used as much to listen and learn as to talk and engage.

From ambassadors, to market information and even competitor research, here are three ways that LinkedIn can be a useful source for any B2B marketer.

1. Finding ambassadors for your brand

Within LinkedIn Groups and in the Questions and Answers section of the site you will find, if you look carefully, brand champions, ambassadors. People talking about your brand and recommending your product. The Questions section in particular is full of people asking for advice and information - about products and solutions. A quick search for some of your product names will uncover people who recommend you to others. A quick search for names of competitor products will uncover those who don’t recommend you but could.

Identifying these people is a first and useful step. Think next about what you can do with them and how you can build them into real Ambassadors for your brand.

2. Understanding how people talk about market issues

One useful insight for any marketer is to understand how people talk about the issues they face. Whilst they can be mixed in quality, some LinkedIn groups provide vibrant communities of people sharing links and talking about issues. Joining groups about your market and for your customers lets you see the kind of conversations they start, the language they use and how they talk to each other in a professional environment.

3. Learning about what you competitors are doing

Social media is a great way of sharing what you are doing but it is always important to think carefully about who you are sharing with. LinkedIn allows you to control who sees your connections and who you are connecting with but many people leave this as public information. This can be useful - learning who your competitors have been meeting and connecting with on LinkedIn may provide you with insight into who they are talking to and potentially even into who in the market is looking to buy similar products to the ones you have.

Of course, it’s important to think about your own privacy settings on LinkedIn as well!

Labour or Conservatives: Who’s making the best use of Facebook?

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In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been the main political rivals since the start of the 20th Century. Today they are vying to capture the hearts and minds of voters on Facebook. But how well are they doing? Here’s a nonpartisan analysis of what these two parties are doing using this social network, and what we can learn from them.

We used the  Engagement Analytics tool by Socialbakers to compare both pages. Audience size for the parties is relatively even, but the Conservatives have certainly taken a lead here.

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook statistics

However, at FreshNetworks we believe that the real indicator of success of a Facebook page isn’t its audience size but the level of engagement. More on that later…

1. Content strategies

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour seem to have developed the type of content strategy that we would always recommend for our clients.

In fact, it appears that both pages seem to be almost purely focussed on sharing links to blog posts and articles on their respective websites. We find that a rich mixture of content, including photos and albums, as well as short, punchy status updates and questions are great for engaging audiences. Our experience is that links shared direct to the newsfeed are often the least engaging of all Facebook post types.

2. Post frequency

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook post frequency

Probably the biggest difference between the parties in how they use Facebook is the frequency at which they post content, and as far as we’re concerned, neither is getting quite right.

We’d say that it’s Labour who have got it most wrong however, as they are almost certainly over-sharing. Take a look at the graph above – now, we think there’s nothing wrong with posting every day if the message is right, but 11 posts in one day? Even the most ardent fan of your brand (or in this case political supporter) is going to suffer from at least mild fatigue at all those updates. In total over the three month period we monitored, Labour posted 284 times – an average of three posts a day, seven days a week.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the Conservative party who definitely seem to have a ‘less is more’ attitude to sharing content with their Facebook fans – never posting more than once in a day, and often with several days between posts. Over the same three month period they posted just 10 times.

With a proper content plan to support their social media strategies, we think both parties could probably do with meeting somewhere in the middle on post frequencies. It’s all about putting out the right content, at the right time of day for your audience, without over-sharing, but whilst maintaining an ongoing flow of conversation with your audience.

3. Engagement

So what about the all-important engagement rate?

It seems by posting so much less than Labour, the Conservatives have won-out in terms of engaging their audience with an engagement rate of three and a half times that of that their rivals. The number of total interactions by Labour’s Facebook fans might be six times higher, but that’s not so great when you think that they’ve posted 28 times as many posts to Facebook.

So what have we learned?

Well, the Conservatives do have a better engagement rate AND more fans, but we don’t think they’ve delivered any knock-out punches with their Facebook page. They would probably benefit from posting a little bit more than they do, and Labour definitely needs to stop posting so much. Most importantly though, is the content. Content is king and neither party has got it right. Politics is an emotive topic, and over 50% of eligible voters will vote for one of these parties at the next election. There are huge issues to debate out there, and both sides could do with striking up more of a debate with their audience by asking more questions and relaying soundbites of party leaders. More photos shared into the newsfeed can really help tell more of a story, not to mention catching the eye of fans in their newsfeeds.

Majority of Britons now use Facebook or Twitter (statistics)

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night rays

Image by dobrych via Flickr

The latest data from the Office of National Statistics n the UK shows that, for the first time ever, over half of adults accessed social networking sites in 2011. The annual British Internet Habits survey showed that in 2011, 57% of over-16s in the UK are using the internet for social networking, as opposed to 43% in 2010. This is a significant landmark, and the rate of growth is impressive and it shows the importance of social networking in the lives of British adults.

Digging deeper into these statistics we can start to understand more about use of social networking in the UK:

  • Women are more likely than men to have used social networks, with 60% of them using such sites in 2011 (compared with 54% of men)
  • Social networks are all but ubiquitous for the 16-24 year olds, with 91% of this age range using them. Usage is high for the 25-34 year old (76%) and 35-44 year olds (58%).
  • Almost one in five of those aged 65+ use social networks (18%)

Alongside this marked increase in the use of social networks in the last year, the survey data reveals more about how British adults are using the internet:

  • The most popular activity online is, unsurprisingly, to find information about good or services that people want to buy - this reinforces the importance of his channel in the education and buying process
  • Men are more likely than women to consume news online (57% compared with 47%)
  • Almost one in three UK adults (31%) have sold their own goods online
  • Professional networking (such as LinkedIn) is most popular with those aged 25-34 and 25-44
  • The use of internet for phone calls is increasing - with 29% of UK adults making a call over the Internet in 2011
  • Internet access from mobile devices is increasing dramatically - with 45% of UK adults accessing the Internet from these devices, up from 31% in 2010.

However, this data also highlights the 23% of the UK population who have no access to the Internet at home, with half of these people saying that they have no need for the Internet at all.

What the role of Twitter is, and isn’t, during #londonriots

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Image by hozinja via Flickr

Certain sections of the UK media have been ascribing some blame for the riots in London to Twitter. Aside from denying that riots such as this happened long before the invention of such social media tools, such statements also show a lack of real understanding of how social media tools like Twitter are used by people, and when they are less useful.

There are many things that Twitter can and is doing during the riots, but there are also many things that it can’t and isn’t.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to get a clear view of what is really happening

Twitter is flooded with conversations about the riots in London and across the UK. Most of these are accurate (at least as far as the original author is concerned) but many are rumour and speculation. Just because it is on Twitter does not make it true and there can be a danger to judge accuracy on the basis of the number of retweets. Over the last few days we have seen rumours of riots and looting on streets that were actually calm. It is difficult to separate truth from rumour on Twitter and this makes is a difficult place to understand what is really happening across London.

Twitter IS a good place to find people in your neighbourhood

Twitter is a great place to find like minded people. And during the London Riots we have seen it used as a real tool for people to find others in their community. Whilst it is not great for getting a view on what is happening across London it can be good for finding like minded people in your area. Rather than looking for people talking about #LondonRiots, many Twitter users have taken the opportunity to find people talking about the area they live or work in and then follow those they begin to trust. Messaging them to find out what the situation is nearby and sharing information and advice for your local community.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to get rational, reasoned argument

Twitter does not suit rational, balanced argument. It is short-form communication that typically comments (briefly) on an event or describes what is happening. It is actually quite difficult to present a rounded viewpoint or to expand on what you say. This can make it both a difficult place to explain what you say, but also it attracts simple statements that can often be inflammatory (even if they weren’t intended to be so). For real evaluation and discussion about what it is happening, it is best to look elsewhere - blogs, forums, Google+. Twitter is suited to short-form statements about what is happening.

Twitter IS a good place to find evidence and testimony

This does, however, make Twitter a great place for potential intelligence, evidence and reporting about what happened. The pictures people take and share. The comments people leave (and where they are when they leave them). These statements about what is happening from ‘spectators’ of the events could be a useful source of information for the Police and others. The number of people capturing and describing events is a potentially positive role that Twitter can play - recording events and storing evidence.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to organise a riot

There has been some discussion that Twitter caused the riots and that they were planned there. This seems unlikely. Twitter is a public social network where (except for the minority with locked accounts) anybody can see what you say even if they don’t follow you. Your contacts on Twitter tend to be quite weak social links - people you may share one interest with, or who may have said something you found useful once in the past. This is not the place to plan and organise riots with groups of other people you know and trust. You are more likely to do that elsewhere - in a private place (where nobody can look at what you are saying) and in a network with strong social links. This is why group messaging services, notably Blackberry’s BBM, are more likely to have been used. Closed private networks with people you have stronger social links with are much more useful for organising any kind of secret get together, including a riot.

Twitter IS a good place to organise a cleanup

But what about where you do want everybody to know what you’re doing? And you do want even your weak social links to see and potentially share what you are saying. In this case, Twitter is useful and we’ve seen that most notably with the @riotcleanup Twitter account and others that have encouraged people to descend on parts of London to help clean up the morning after rioting. Whilst some events (ones you want to organise in private) are best kept to closed networks, others (those you want everybody to know about) are best in public ones. Twitter is great for organising a cleanup and for letting people know that this is happening. Less good for organising a riot.

Facebook the peacemaker

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A great deal has been written about social media’s role in the recent Middle East uprisings. This week Mark Zuckerberg alluded to a second, equally-important, role as a bridge that connects people accross political or religous divides.

The chart below comes from peace.facebook.com. Launched in 2009, Peace on Facebook hopes to play a part in “promoting peace by building technology that helps people better understand each other”.

Connecting friends accross borders has proven to be one of the most effecitve grassroots methods of changing perceptions. There are many Arab-Israeli projects working for peace in this way. It can only be a good thing that Facebook is helping thousands on both sides of the divide to connect every day.