March 3, 2014: This past month LinkedIn announced they will be opening up the ability for every user to publish their own content on LinkedIn, through individual profiles. This functionality had only been open to a select group of “Influencers”, of which an initial 150 were selected to pilot the program and several more were added throughout the past year or so.
According to the LinkedIn blog post, influencer posts have been very successful, averaging more than 31,000 views and receiving more than 250 likes and 80 comments per post.
These type of metrics, combined with the fact that LinkedIn already is one of the top platforms for publishing B2B content, lead to a potentially tremendous content development opportunity for B2B marketers and the organizations they represent.
Given the opportunity, I would recommend B2B marketers shift part of their focus to LinkedIn publishing immediately because of the affinity of B2B professionals for using the platform and the amount of potential customization available. From our initial vantage point, it appears users will have a full suite of publishing functionality at their disposal, providing significant opportunity for well-written and well-outlined content marketing assets to stand out in a highly targeted social network.
The B2B buyer controls the marketing message
But there is a bigger story here; the one that speaks to the fact that the B2B vendor is losing more and more control of the message they want to try to convey to their potential buying audiences. Buyers no longer need to rely on vendor information. They can research and explore vendor information across a range of platforms and social networks. And the platforms B2B buyers leverage for discovery are taking advantage of the situation.
As detailed in Forrester’s 2012 post on B2B buyer behavior, B2B buyers are anywhere between two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey BEFORE they reach out to the vendor.
Even when the buyer gets to the vendor site, there is still a significant period of time between evaluation and validation.
In our soon-to-be-launched B2B buyer survey report (check out Casie’s pre-launch announcement here), 50% of survey respondents indicated they visit a vendor’s website three to five times before contacting a vendor. Over half of buyers (53%) indicated they’ll leave a website to research third-party references and information in their buyer decision making process.
Platforms and publishers like Linkedin realize (or are realizing) the influence they have in buyer markets. The more tools they can provide to enable potential buying audiences, the more value they can command from vendors and advertisers. Consider these examples:
- Twitter Cards make it possible for marketers to attach media experiences to the Tweets that link to organizational content.
- Facebook’s new page tagging functionality enabling one page to tag another page, where Facebook may show the post to some of the people who like or follow the tagged Page.
- Google’s increasing takeover of the search result landscape, from shopping results to Google-specific local listings to creating an additional click in image based search results (for getting to the third party destination).
And these tools are obviously not vendor controlled. There is no reason your competitors, distributors, or even your satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers won’t use these tools to their own benefit and objective.
To this end, the buyer wins because they have the ability to consume information in an environment more closely tailored to their individual preferences and trust; instead of relying solely on brand-driven communication, which we already know lacks faith from the buyer.
So what should B2B marketer’s consider in their LinkedIn marketing initiatives?
As you begin the process of shifting priorities and re-organizing budgets, here are a few things to consider in leveraging LinkedIn’s new publishing platform.
- LinkedIn publishing has to be a new action item in the editorial calendar. B2B marketers need to think beyond the traditional editorial calendar surrounding “owned media” assets and into the production of content marketing assets (primary and supporting) across all platforms; owned, earned, and paid.
- Tidy up your profile and company page first. LinkedIn created a simple submission form for users requesting early access and while profile completeness is not a requirement, it is a point of review in submission. Check out our post a few months ago on LinkedIn for B2B SEO as well as LinkedIn’s own resources for company page development.
- Connect content marketing assets but don’t short change them. In other words, don’t just copy and paste the same content from one source to another. Marketers need to consider value beyond SEO. Remember that publishing capabilities impact your personal brand as well as organizational affiliations (and LinkedIn does require two examples of written work as reference).
The most unique aspect of LinkedIn Publishing is in the fact that users will have a more comprehensive platform for developing content marketing assets. If you’ve already been building a strong network of trusted colleagues, access to LinkedIn Publishing is almost like a reward for your hard work and effort along the way.
For B2B vendors, the opportunities for buyers to access information continue to evolve; both in where buyers might consume and in how they access it. We need to think about content marketing and distribution across a greater range of platforms and buyer experiences. You can expect that if LinkedIn Publishes is a success for this social network, more will follow in competitive endeavors.