Doesn’t it just seem too obvious? LinkedIn is a network for professionals; therefore businesses should use it to build relationships with other businesses.
But there are some major problems with using LinkedIn for Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a powerful tool for developing business relationships.
To understand the key differences between their empowerment of organic (non-advertising; unpaid) B2B tactics, let’s first take a look at the tactics commonly used on LinkedIn.
Social Selling on LinkedIn: Common Tactics
The most frequently used organic B2B tactic on LinkedIn involves their proprietary gated mail service: “InMail.” InMail allows premium (paid) users to send messages to people they are not connected with. If the recipient replies, an InMail credit is used. Users receive a certain number of credits each month depending on how much they pay. Prices vary between $20 and $100 per month.
Initially this looks great. You get to send long messages, and the gated aspect should make people feel like they aren’t getting spammed, and can choose whether or not to respond.
But the problem is that it has become the social media equivalent of email spam (LinkedIn InMail and Twitter Direct Messages both share this unfortunate fate). I have heard from several C-suite execs that they hate getting InMail. At a certain point in a successful career, LinkedIn Message streams become populated with impersonal messages from recruiters and salespeople alike.
Even if you’re the guy who’s going to write a personal, thoughtful, approachable message, does it matter? Your message will be lost in the noise.
Also, it’s pretty slow: go search LinkedIn, pick a profile, read it, craft a message to that person (or copy and paste a canned message), and hope for a response.
One of the well-known workarounds to LinkedIn’s restrictiveness is that you can join a group, and then view the group users as if they were second-degree connections. Depending on their privacy settings, this allows you to check out their profile and, most importantly, view their contact info.
Salespeople notoriously employ this tactic to glean emails and phone numbers from their targets. It’s a great tactic in that it gets you qualified leads. But this means LinkedIn is part of a broader email/phone sales strategy – it’s very different from true social selling.
Long-Form Post Content Marketing
Since LinkedIn launched Pulse and Influencers and all that other fun blog stuff it does now, there has been a wave of salespeople trying to show off their knowledge and attract leads like moths to flame.
I know someone who got a lead at a major telecoms company by posting a blog on LinkedIn – talk about the ROI of a blog post!
This is a good strategy. You should do it, if you have access to a good copywriter, or are one. But it is slow, and not a guarantee.
There are also some negatives to this approach:
- You don’t know if qualified leads are reading your blog posts, and it is likely that very few will.
- It can’t be executed in a very measurable and optimizable manner, and there is no scalability to it.
- You can’t say “oh that last blog post succeeded, so here’s what made it succeed and here’s what we’ll do to replicate that and grow its effect.”
Connect with EVERYONE
This is where you request to connect with any and every apparent lead on LinkedIn. The whole time you pray LinkedIn doesn’t delete your account – because they could, and they might.
The problem with this strategy is that only people like you will be doing it. It’s true: you’ll only get traction with salespeople, young employees who can’t get you into a solid business, or startup types.
No offense to any of them, but that’s not conducive to real B2B business development.
From what I have seen myself and heard from others, the most effective of the four tactics is InMail Messages. This is unfortunate because of how slow and spammy it is.
Don’t worry…there is an alternative.
Social Selling on Twitter: Uncommon (but Effective) Tactics
Very few people conduct social sales through Twitter. But they should. Here’s why it’s so great for organic B2B marketing:
No Privacy Settings
You can see anyone’s bio, and more importantly you can talk with anyone directly. The brevity of the content on the network makes it sustainable to divulge your entire account to the entire world. Some people may use the “protected account” setting, but it is too few to matter.
Twitter thrives off of the users’ ability to talk with anyone, and meet new people who share your ideas. This makes it not that weird at all to reach out to qualified leads.
Tons of Apps
In 2011, over one million third party apps integrated with Twitter. That number has only grown. These apps facilitate best practices and reliable methods for handling your Twitter account and using it for marketing purposes.
Twitter Marketing Strategies
There are two major B2B Twitter tactics that will help you develop valuable business relationships:
Twitter Direct Engagement Strategy
This tactic involves searching for keywords in a Twitter user’s bio, and reaching out to them. It’s really simple: use Twitter’s Advanced Search (or ManageFlitter or Followerwonk) to place a business keyword related to industry (e.g. medical, finance) or role (e.g. VP, CEO) in the bio field.
Then craft an engaging Tweet (ideally with a link to a relevant whitepaper or blog) and invite them into a conversation.
Twitter List Nurturing
Once you’ve got the list(s), bookmark the link and revisit it often. Interact with Tweets from several of the users on the list each time you visit. Favorite, retweet, or reply to them with a question. Over time, you’ll become familiar to them, and eventually may be able to ask if they’d be open to emailing or talking on the phone about your services.
With these tactics, you can process hundreds of leads on Twitter; in the same time you could process only one or two dozen on LinkedIn. Also, these tactics don’t feel spammy to your leads.
And they work. I’ve used them to gain over a dozen clients for my freelancing work, and have employed these tactics to gain business relationships with mid-sized businesses (and even some embassies and political organizations).
A lot will depend on the copy you use when you Tweet to your leads, but just make sure to catch their attention without annoying them. And never use Direct Messages. Ever.
At the end of the day, Twitter’s culture, settings, and third party tools are much better than LinkedIn’s for organic B2B lead generation.