If Facebook is the primary social media platform for business-to-consumer marketing, then LinkedIn is the same for business-to-business marketing. That being said, building a base of LinkedIn Followers remains a challenge for companies and economic development agencies. Followers are ultimately members of the target audience that will be engaged with in a business-to-business context. In order to understand why it is easy for some companies to have a large base of followers and why it is difficult to build a critical mass for some, it is important to remember the motivations of members on the business social networking website.
Here are four possible reasons why people follow companies on LinkedIn:
1. It is makes good strategic intelligence sense
At its core, the “Follow” function on LinkedIn is a tool for strategic or competitive intelligence gatherers use to track changes and developments of a company. Some of the individuals who select to perform this type of monitoring may not be interested in engaging with a company and thus cannot be considered a part of a target audience for a social media initiative.
2. They are job hunting
Members on LinkedIn at times use the follow function as a part of their job hunting process. On a primary level, these individuals do not have an initial interest in engaging in the hopes of buying however; they might become future prospects to purchase or to partner. As a result, companies may include these job hunters as a part of the audience however; it may take awhile for individuals to have their interest piqued after they have dealt with their initial preoccupation which is finding a job.
3. To generate leads
As a natural extension of what was mentioned in point #1 (i.e., strategic intelligence), individuals that follow a company is a part of the leads generation process. This allows individuals to track personnel movement, news and the capacity to network with key and new contacts. These individuals are clearly the core of the target audience and should be included in the network of sales representatives and engaged with accordingly.
4. Brand Affinity
In a business-to-business content, a follow on LinkedIn can be a sign of brand affinity. Based on prior experiences, individuals may select to follow a company based on what their brand represents to them and to a larger audience. As one of the companies that I follow, the market research firm, eMarketer is on my list. I have come to associate the brand, “eMarketer” as a source of dependable information regarding digital marketing, media and commerce. With this in mind, I can say that I am a part of the firm’s target audience and I am interested in the content made available via its company profile page which includes a listing of some of their products as seen in Figure 1.
Although LinkedIn provides business-to-business marketers with a platform to engage with individuals that have selected to follow companies, an analysis of the followers must done. Not all followers should be treated the same in the lead generation dynamic. Followers have their own motivations when it comes to selecting firm to follow and should be qualified as true leads based on their affiliation with a company or a position.
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