As branding and lead generation remain top priorities for marketing B2B, the business-based social California-based company LinkedIn has stepped up its game. With a stated goal of becoming a true media company and a business hub, LinkedIn may become the benchmark B2B marketers need as it continues to grow in its appeal and proven track record. To date, LinkedIn remains the "only platform that the majority of B2B marketers consider to be effective," according to the Content Marketing Institute, quoted in a report entitled "The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to LinkedIn."
One area that is gaining ground for B2B users is the ability to expand ones network of influencers with 500 of the most influential thought leaders, including Bill Gates, as part of the conversation. The report notes that businesses can join in rich commentary and see what topics are driving the most interest. Additionally, the ability for LinkedIn members to like and share influential content enables businesses to find out what the people in your network are reading and reacting to.
"I've heard some grumblings from early LinkedIn fans that the company and site are losing the singular focus it started with, but I see it differently,” noted Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media in the report. “A business education hub of the sort LinkedIn is building can only increase the value of the ecosystem."
LinkedIn and other applications like LinkedIn Pulse focus on relevant news tailored to professional interests. LinkedIn Pulse is a key way for marketers to stay current, according to the report.
"It thrills me to see LinkedIn gaining ground as an interesting place to hang out,” said Ann Handley, author of Content Rules and chief content officer at Marketing Profs. “I've long held that LinkedIn is the dark horse of the social media platforms - or, at least, it's the workhorse of the bunch. If Twitter is where you go to meet people you don't know and Facebook is where you go to talk with people you already know, then LinkedIn is where all of you can meet up to get stuff done together.”
For most companies that sell into the business market, the specific way LinkedIn is used depends on the company, industry and product mix. Lee Odden, CEO at TopRank Online Marketing recommends at the minimum that marketers in B2B ensure that their clients polish and fine tune their executive profiles and ensure that the company page is current and fresh.
"Whether it's targeted advertising or curating a mix of industry and company news on the brand page, companies that want to attract and engage other businesses need to be on LinkedIn," said Odden.
With the growing demand for "native content" and good story telling reaching B2B marketers, there is an opportunity to use the data you have and tailor the content you deliver, the report adds. Further, LinkedIn offers a platform for the expansion and illustration of content to specific interest groups from your target customers to the influencers that inspire them to take action.
As LinkedIn continues to be the number one channel to distribute B2B content outpacing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google Plus according to the report, native content 'marketing' is also an area of great potential.
“There’s an opportunity with native content to be a bit more surgical with the data you have, and the kind of content you deliver— the holy grail of the audience and the content equation together,” said Nate Stricker, agency lead, Independents at AOL. “I think that’s definitely an area where there is opportunity because no one network is especially nailing it right now.”
Publishing ‘long form’ content is an area of interest for B2B marketers. Businesses can publish long form content which becomes a part of your LinkedIn profile and positions you as an expert and thought leader.
"Any organization that needs to do a better job of getting the brand in front of the right professional people, LinkedIn is a great platform for targeting this type of audience, noted Chris D'Alessandro, chief digital officer at LegalShield Official.