The report, authored by Forrester senior analyst Kim Celestre, claims that despite its 300 million members LinkedIn has not gained traction as a tool for “social relationship objectives” that drive customer engagement such as loyalty or customer service.
The research found that 21 per cent of US online adults visit LinkedIn monthly, a significantly lower figure than for Facebook. Plus LinkedIn members are much less likely to engage with brands on the social network, with less than half doing so on LinkedIn compared to more than 70 per cent on Facebook.
“When compared with Facebook and Google+, LinkedIn’s engagement rate does not stack up. This is because LinkedIn members don’t go to the social network to follow brands after they’ve purchased a product and don’t participate in the site often enough to deepen relationships with brands,” says Celestre.
However, Forrester believes marketers should not give up on LinkedIn, using it for brand awareness. When used in this way, says Celestre, LinkedIn has the potential to help “meet or exceed” social reach objectives, so long as a brand’s offering is relevant to professionals.
Brands can make sure they are relevant by using the site to solve a professional challenge, deliver a professional opportunity or help users develop their personal brands. Celestre cites examples such as Procter & Gamble’s Secret deodorant campaign, Citi’s sponsorship of a LinkedIn group called “Connect: Professional Women’s Network” and Microsoft’s custom API that analyses users profiles to provide job title recommendations as examples of how to market successfully on the social network.
LinkedIn has previously batted away criticism of its engagement rates, citing strong engagement following its move to open its publishing platform to any user in its latest quarterly results. Its marketing solutions revenues are also on the up, increasing by 36 per cent to $101.8m in the three months to the end of May and accounting for 22 per cent of its total revenue.
LinkedIn declined to provide a comment.
Communicating to a B2B audience
Tim Pritchard, head of social media at Manning Gottlieb OMD, questions comparing LinkedIn to Facebook, calling it an “unfair measurement”. This is because Facebook is used for more traditional brand metrics such as consideration and purchase while LinkedIn should be used more for metrics such as brand trust and respect, he adds.
“Communications are going out to a B2B audience which has completely different KPIs like trust, respect and share price rather than traditional brand metrics like consideration,” he adds.
However, he does believe that brands have struggled with LinkedIn, in part because their presence on the social network is often run by a recruitment team, rather than the marketing division, meaning communications can be off brand. He believes marketers need to take more control of their LinkedIn presence and use it as a way to promote company culture and drive brand value.
Adam Rubins, chief executive at Way To Blue agrees, saying that brands must realise LinkedIn isn’t a social platform for everyone and that because it targets professionals, consumer engagement will be limited to specific demographics.
“This means brands have to be equally specific about how they use this platform within their overall social ecosystem. Sounds simple but it’s important to communicate the right messages in the right environment maximising reach and influence,” he adds.
Brands should also be using LinkedIn as a tool to learn about their customers. Pritchard says companies must look at what their customers are doing on the platform, get user information on what people are up to in their sector and find out who else they are following to build up a picture of their audience.
“Engaging with [customers] is incredibly important but so is listening. That allows you to shape your product, modify your message and work towards ‘making things better’,” says Rubins.