Do you think LinkedIn is at all useful to the B2C Market?

By: Viveka Tuesday June 14, 2011 comments Tags: LinkedInExpert, LinkedIn Tips, Viveka von Rosen, LinkedIn Advice, #LinkedInChat, LinkedIn Chat, LinkedIn help, LinkChat

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This week’s questions are:
Q1. Are you a B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer) business?
Q2. As a B2B, do you also connect to people as a consumer?
Q3. As a B2C, are you connecting with individuals to help you with your business or buy your product – or both?
Q4. As a B2B or B2C - are you finding the right clients on LinkedIn?
Q5. What kind of B2C products “work” on LinkedIn?
Q6. What kind of B2C products “don’t work” on LinkedIn?
Q7. s there ever a time when you can use LinkedIn as a platform to sell your consumer product?
Q8 What, in your opinion, is the best thing for a B2C to do on LinkedIn to avoid what might be considered spam?

Here are some other LinkedIn user’s opinions to get your juices flowing. Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your opinions with us tonight on the LinkedInChat.

From LinkedIn Answers:

Gloria Katrina Bea
My personal take on this issue is that LinkedIn caters to another market. It has been branded and marketed as a "professional network", primarily for business professionals looking for people in the same field. This is most probably the reason why this network has been limited to business owners and professionals only. Though I would say that there is always a chance to find a customer amongst our colleagues.

Peter Pudaite
I echo Katrina's comments. 

The key thing is what segment of your market do LinkedIn users represent given they are mostly professionals? I think for those selling Blackberries it would be a very high percentage and it would make absolute sense to use LinkedIn as a marketing channel. For someone selling Disney products maybe less so. 

I think it is too easy to compare Linkedin vs FB and say 100 vs 500 millions users and other broad comparisons. You need to step back and look at the basics, what are your marketing objectives, what segment do these users represent, is this an effective way to reach/engage them, what stage of the purchase stage are they, etc.... Then make your decision based on the congruence or lack of.

Ed Han
I think it *can* be but it's a bit harder to see the relevance. That, coupled with the often-encountered difficulty in quantifying social media ROI, may be making people skeptical. 

I think it also depends considerably on the business in question. Some businesses (e.g., a toy manufacturer) will have a much harder row to hoe in leveraging LinkedIn to connect with consumers, while others (e.g., a bookseller) will enjoy a much easier path.

Miles Austin
I believe it can be. As Gloria and Peter pointed out, the majority of LinkedIn users are professionals. A foundation of successful sales and marketing is to "fish where the fish are". Hang out where your customers are! Wouldn't you want to do business with professionals?

If I am a carpet cleaner, aren't my potential customers "professionals" that spilled wine on their carpet this weekend? I believe the biggest strength of LInkedIn is it's ability to foster relationships. If you have a strong, "professional" presence on LinkedIn, communicate within the Groups and channels where your prospects are hanging out such as regional or city focused groups you have an opportunity. 

Or try out an advertisement on LinkedIn that is targeted at the industries/titles that might need your services. Maybe hotels and property managers-they need to hire carpet cleaning services all the time. 

Include LinkedIn in your marketing activities, build a strong foundation of your own professionalism, and you will be surprised at your results. Let the competition continue to think that LinkedIn is only for B2B!

John Fawkes
Only for certain types of product. There are certain things which are business-y, but are sold to consumers. Sales books, professional development stuff, and the like. These are useful on LinkedIn, particularly if they help people land jobs, as the unemployed tend to be on LinkedIn more often, to prospect for jobs. For most B2C products I'd say no.

Steve Cassady
I think Linkedin can be a useful tool for business to consumer business. As several have pointed out, the majority of LinkedIn users are professionals. But even as professionals, we buy consumer products even though we may not be in that mindset on LinkedIn. How a company and an individual are represented on Linkedin adds to their brand reputation. 

As Miles Austin, states participation in groups is a great way to do this. For example, in several of my Kansas City local groups, there is a strong presence of B2C individuals. While they are not directly marketing their services (Roof Building, Carpet Cleaning, Jewelry Store, etc.) they are building a brand reputation discussing how they are addressing business issues in our Kansas City Business owners group. When I need those types of services, I will already have a brand awareness and affinity for them. 

Now I wouldn't use LinkedIn as my sole or even primary Social Media presence for B2C marketing, it is a tool that should be in the portfolio and can actually be a two way benefit. Active engagement in Linkedin provides education and connections for all to benefit from. While I do not expect to see an ad for Coke products in Linkedin Ads, my overall brand feeling towards Coke is influenced by group participation, company news, etc.

Devin Pringle
As someone as mentioned, Linkedin is focused on an entirely different segment 'working professionals'. However, I will say that I will follow a company that I have interest in as a consumer, where this platform becomes viable to confirm whether or not a company may be credible. For B2C, I would focus mostly on other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter - blogs if you are working on syndication and other content.

Kim Saldanha
The way i look at social media in general is as a geography. Linked in, is the hangout joint for professionals and therefore this is a consolidated group of consumers for a given set of products. While, smart marketers will use this channel, enjoy a first movers advantage in a truly uncluttered environment. The environment itself has not been set up to be able to truly market in the 'B2C' sense of the word.

David Zuckerman
Generally not for developing consumer base, but yes for developing sales channels, vendors, and recruiting. Most users don't want to be solicited on LinkedIn. FaceBook gives you fan pages, blogging allows consumers to provide feedback, Twitter gives you ability to get frequent updates out there. LinkedIn isn't the place for frivolity.

About the Author: Viveka

Viveka is author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and is known internationally as the “LinkedIn Expert”.
CEO of Linked Into Business, she also hosts the biggest LinkedIn chat on Twitter.  Forbes has listed her as a top social media influencer for three years running, and she has been cited in Ragan, CNN, Forbes, Mashable, Simple Living, Bloomberg, LinkedIn's Small Business Site and "The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to LinkedIn, The Miami Herald, Social Media Today and The Social Media Examiner!

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