That number in and of itself is very impressive. However, it still looks like the primary function of LinkedIn is to get a quick ‘background check’ on a particular individual. In other words, if you want to find out about someone in general you Google them. If you want to find out about their professional life, you look them up on LinkedIn.
The service has added a number of new features over the past year or so, including direct feeds from Twitter and WordPress blogs. And it’s important to remember that LinkedIn generates revenue by charging you to contact other members. So if you’re using it to grow your business (or find a job), that’s when LinkedIn makes money.
I think there’s a social business tool even more important than LinkedIn, and that’s Twitter. Each time someone asks me ‘Why do you want to know what someone had for breakfast?’, I think about the remarkable b2b functionality of tweets. Twitter allows you to specialize in any business category – to find experts (and expert advice), as well as to build your own customized network. It’s the specialization that Twitter provides that makes it so powerful. And it also allows consumer brands to keep vast numbers of evangelists informed on a real-time basis.
Another powerful social tool in the b2b arena is YouTube. A well-produced video with a ‘big idea’ is still very much the exception in this category. So if your brand is smart enough to hire an experienced creative team – and to give them enough of a budget to work with – you could wind up with a video that puts your company on the map.
But the mother-of-all-social-sites is still an odd fit in the b2b category. Facebook, by its very nature, has an incredibly broad and diverse audience. And the nature of business-to-business is that there are many, distinct categories and target groups with entirely different needs. Some large b2b brands have created their own Facebook pages – and these are ‘liked’ by those in the same business categories. But in effect, these pages are individual ‘silos’, and it’s hard to see how they will scale beyond that.
So what is the state of social marketing for b2b? It’s evolving. It has some very useful elements. But it also works entirely differently than social marketing for consumer brands. The social world is their oyster because consumers live on social networks. The target for your b2b brand, however, is just a tiny segment of that audience. For further reading, check out sociamediab2b.com.