Social media is often evaluated in terms of brand engagement, which – according to Wikipedia – is “the process of forming an emotional or rational attachment between a person and a brand”. That makes sense for many social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, where members do like to associate with a brand.

But let’s keep in mind that not all social media networks exist as a conduit from brand to buyer – and LinkedIn is one of those.

Not too long ago, Forrester Research published a report proclaiming, among other things, that “LinkedIn falls flat on consumer engagement” and suggested that marketers should use LinkedIn for brand awareness and not for customer engagement.

I think Forrester (and others) are missing the point. On LinkedIn it’s not about engaging with brands. It’s about engaging on a more personal level with peers and subject matter experts. It’s about getting help in solving critical business problems. Not about liking the latest ad campaign.

Forrester itself, in a study commissioned by LinkedIn in late 2012, found that IT decision makers use social media to help them in all stages of the buying process; and that LinkedIn is the preferred network for them. The top four reasons these decision makers use social for business are:

 

.        Trust: 58% want to learn from trustworthy peers and 39% want to learn from experts

.        Efficiency: 40% want to quickly find info

.        Relevance: 37% want relevant context to connect 
with vendors

.        Access: 49% want access to a broader network

 

I see nothing about engaging with brands on this list.

 

LinkedIn as a sales and marketing tool

 

In my world, LinkedIn is for engaging with prospective buyers, helping them solve problems, establishing trust, and ultimately generating leads and sales opportunities.

To succeed on LinkedIn you must go beyond the brand awareness and maintenance activities that most companies (and apparently Forrester) call a LinkedIn program.

On LinkedIn, personal profiles, one-on-one messages and group interactions are far more important than company pages and status updates. For our clients, lead generation, website traffic, prospect connections and sales call opportunities are more relevant than likes, shares and followers.

If brand engagement is one of your primary objectives and you’re using LinkedIn to achieve that, you’re on the wrong network. On the other hand, if generating leads and nurturing prospects for a complex B2B product is high on your list, LinkedIn is the place to be. Read more about how to generate leads on LinkedIn here: Why Brand Maintenance Does Not Generate Leads on LinkedIn.)

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