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Is Facebook Replacing LinkedIn as the New Professional Network?

New insight from HubSpot suggests that there is a radical shift in the way that people are using social media for professional reasons. In their latest State of Inbound report, which was released today, they found that 74% of participants said they use Facebook for professional reasons, which is just a bit less than the 78% who use LinkedIn professionally. In light of these new numbers, you may be asking yourself a question: is Facebook replacing LinkedIn as the new professional social network?

In this blog, we’ll take a look at what this means for Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers and what steps B2Bs need to take to improve their social media campaigns in response to this new data.

HubSpot’s Methodology

HubSpot’s State of Inbound is an annual report that every inbound marketer looks forward to each year. Like most things in the business world, inbound marketing is constantly evolving as consumer needs and habits grow and shift. HubSpot’s State of Inbound report helps marketers stay on top of these changes in consumer behavior and industry trends by providing the most recent data on inbound marketing strategies and tactics. This information provides valuable guidance on how marketers across industries can adjust their campaigns to align with current trends and maximize their inbound marketing efforts.

For this year’s report, HubSpot collected data through a large global online survey that they distributed from December 2016 through February 2017. HubSpot’s inbound marketing experts collected survey responses through email invitations, blog promotions, and social sharing. The surveys were offered in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. None of the respondents were paid or offered any incentive for their participation. The resulting State of Inbound report provides an enormous amount of information for inbound marketers, helping them to understand the way their customers consume information and navigate the buyer’s journey.

A Shift in B2B Social Media Marketing

Though State of Inbound 2017 provides a wealth of insights on many different areas of inbound marketing, one finding was particularly interesting, especially for B2B marketers. In fact, this data supports a trend that the team at SevenAtoms has noticed over the past year: that more professionals are turning to Facebook for information on how to grow their business and connect with other brands.

Here are just a few key findings from the report that might be interesting for companies in the B2B space:

  • As mentioned previously, 74% of people surveyed are using Facebook for professional purposes as compared to 78% of participants using LinkedIn for professional reasons.
  • When it comes to social network use by region, the report found that a significant amount of respondents across continents were using Facebook for professional reasons: 77% of survey respondents in North America, 72% in Australia, 66% in Asia, 77% in Latin America, and 72% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
  • In Latin America, professionals are using Facebook for business purposes more often than they are using LinkedIn, with 77% of respondents reporting that they use Facebook and only 71% reporting that they use LinkedIn.
  • The survey also showed that respondents across the company from the highest leadership to the average employee are using Facebook for professional reasons: 80% of C-level executives, 72% of VP or directors, 72% of managers, and 69% of individual contributors said that they used the social network for professional purposes.
  • Yet another interesting observation from the report is that C-level executives use Facebook for professional reasons almost as often as they use LinkedIn, with 81% of survey respondents who were C-level executives saying they utilize LinkedIn, and 80% of C-level executive survey participants reporting the use of Facebook.
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Source

Overall, the report showed that, contrary to popular belief in the B2B marketing space, more and more individuals are using Facebook for professional purposes, across regions and throughout leadership. This can have an impact on how B2B companies reach their target customers through social media. We’ll dive a little deeper into what these implications are and how they affect B2B social media strategy in the sections below.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

The data clearly suggests that individuals are increasingly using Facebook for professional purposes. Now, it’s time to talk about what this means for B2B businesses.

B2B marketers will need to adjust their social media strategies to include Facebook if they haven’t already. This means that B2B marketers that have not been developing Facebook ads will need to start allocating more budget and creating a strategic plan for more advertising on Facebook.

Depending on which area of the globe you are trying to target, you may even want to focus more on Facebook than LinkedIn to connect with other businesses. For example, the survey shows that more professionals in Latin America are using Facebook than LinkedIn for professional reasons. This suggests markers who are targeting professionals in Latin America may find a higher ROI with B2B advertising on Facebook than their LinkedIn promotions.

Similarly, it is important to consider who your brand is targeting within the organization and adjust your strategy accordingly. Interestingly, HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 shows that the higher up an individual is in an organization, the more professional use on Facebook and LinkedIn start to level out. If your brand is targeting C-level executives, take into consideration that there is only a 1% difference between social network use, with 81% of C-level executives reporting the use of LinkedIn for professional purposes and 80% saying they use Facebook. For VP and directors, the gap is also small, with 77% reporting the use of LinkedIn and 72% saying they use Facebook.

How Should You Change Your Social Media Strategy?

For years, many marketers believed that Facebook was not a viable marketing option for B2Bs. Some brands may even have tried to launch Facebook ad campaigns aimed at B2B audiences in the past with little to no success. This has caused many B2B marketers to steer clear of Facebook and opt for implementing campaigns on LinkedIn, which was developed specifically as a social network built for professionals.

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However, as Facebook has improved their marketing tools and enhanced their ad targeting options, this social network has become just as good as LinkedIn when it comes to reaching and engaging business professionals. More professionals are now responding to the ads and content they see being posted and shared on Facebook.

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As you begin to launch your B2B Facebook ads, it’s important to remember that just having the ad out there isn’t going to drive instant results. The ads themselves need to be compelling and offer something of value to your target audience. In general, people are not going on Facebook specifically to seek out ways to improve their business. However, they do go to Facebook for interesting and relevant content that can offer educational and entertainment value. That is precisely what you need to provide with your B2B advertising on Facebook.

Facebook Video Ad Content

Videos are a great way to get your audience’s attention and keep them engaged on Facebook. If you decide to use video content, you need to ensure that it is professional (but not stuffy) and relevant to your business, but still compelling. You can do this by creating video content that highlights your brand story – who you are and what value you can provide to your customers. Rather than just listing off your product or service features, tell a story that helps your audience make a connection and become interested in what you have to say.

If you do not have a dedicated multi-media person on your staff to produce video content, you may want to consider outsourcing video ad creation to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your video content.

Long-Form Content Offers

Yet another way to attract more B2B customers through Facebook advertising is by providing a valuable content offer. Many of your B2B leads on Facebook may not yet be ready to sign up right away. Instead, they are looking for well-written, informative content that will help them better understand their greatest business challenges and how your company can help solve them.

As a B2B brand, you can create data-driven, long-form content like e-books and whitepapers that speak to your audiences’ pain points. Then, your brand can advertise these content offerings through Facebook ads. The ad can take users to a tailored landing page with a lead form that asks for the visitor’s contact information. Your team can then use this information to follow up with your leads and ensure that they are getting everything they need to move on to the next step in their buyer’s journey.

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Final Takeaways for B2B Marketers

After seeing HubSpot’s data, one thing is clear – B2Bs just can’t ignore Facebook anymore. As more professionals start using this social media channel to connect, Facebook will start to become a vital part of marketing campaigns for brands that are targeting other businesses. With this in mind, B2B companies need to adjust both their paid and organic social media campaigns to account for the surge in individuals utilizing Facebook for professional reasons.

It’s also important to recognize that while B2Bs should start investing more into Facebook, this doesn’t mean that LinkedIn should be ignored. As the data shows, there is still a significant amount of opportunity for reaching professionals on LinkedIn. By developing an integrated social media strategy that utilizes both channels for reach their target audiences, B2B businesses can maximize their reach and drive more potential leads back to their site.

If you want to learn more about the latest in inbound marketing trends and review some of the other valuable data that HubSpot has put together in their latest annual report, you can download HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 here.

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