Find for me the marketer who, at a young age, proudly declared, “I want to grow up to market IT solutions for manufacturing brands at scale.” Find for me a first-year marketing major who is passionate about creating the perfect funnel to capture middle-management-level real estate developers. Show me the listicles and personality quizzes on Buzzfeed that suggest enterprise marketing as your dream career.
The trouble with B2B marketing is that, to most laypeople, it doesn’t quite seem exhilarating. That’s because, all too often, it lacks a human element. The opportunities, challenges, and excitement that this wide field of brands offers don’t always become apparent to people until they’ve dipped their toes into the space for one reason or another. Instead, those more exciting aspects of B2B brands lie hidden beneath the coat of beige paint that still covers much of B2B’s overall presentation and messaging.
So imagine your surprise if you’re a B2B marketer who logs on to LinkedIn—the proverbial ugly duckling of the social media world—only to discover something new. And it’s, well, beautiful.
LinkedIn began rolling out this new, updated interface for its business-oriented platform back in January, and it’s just hit your desktop or mobile device. First impressions are good: things seem to load faster and everything is more or less stored in a logical place. All in all, you’re excited to have something more attractive to look at while nurturing your LinkedIn communities or reaching out to influencers to help amplify your brand.
But there’s more to the update than a shiny coat of varnish. After breezing through some of LinkedIn’s new introductory material, you discover that you now have access to expanded tools for understanding the hiring landscape in your industry or for improving your skills as a marketer. You discover that LinkedIn’s doing new research and making it available. But perhaps most importantly, if not subtly, you find yourself reading more of the articles and posts coming through your news feed, simply because it isn’t an eyesore to navigate.
LinkedIn’s update both signals a new direction for the social space moving into the future and provides a fresh perspective for marketers already operating in the space. So how can it help you and your brand?
One of the reasons LinkedIn exists is because the stories B2B brands have to tell haven’t always been the most exciting. Sure, your company might offer an innovative solution that helps streamline work for other businesses, but that doesn’t mean your target audience is interested in seeing those solutions sandwiched between photos from your brother’s trip to the Caribbean and your friend’s latest Facebook political treatise. These stories make up an essential part of B2B businesses, but often they’re constructed in ways that only matter to people from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The new LinkedIn interface does a few things to defeat this.
The first is the most obvious cosmetic changes, which make your LinkedIn experience much cleaner (meaning you’re more likely to reside on the site for extended periods of time). The second change lies in the subtly tweaked systems that have made it more rewarding for users to share their thoughts and experiences. For example, tips for your profile offer quick descriptions of ways you can augment your profile (and, in some cases, explain how certain actions will help you get more views, connections, and messages), while content you share is now given a prominent counter right next to the number of visits to your profile. It’s clear that LinkedIn is interested in engaging more actively with the individuals on their platform, not just the companies they represent.
Which brings us to the third, most pervasive change: company and industry insights. LinkedIn Premium members now have access to a slew of new tools that let them look at industry trends, relevant skills, and even pay data for companies they interact with. All this, combined with what your company publishes itself, comes together to form a second story for your brand that people are more interested in interacting with in off hours. It’s the story of working for your brand, or with your brand, as opposed to the story of what work your brand does.
For B2B marketing professionals looking to revitalize their brands in 2017, LinkedIn’s transformation offers two major lessons:
LinkedIn’s new look isn’t just about quality of life; it’s about encouraging businesses (and users) to put a more human face on their experiences. After all, it is people who comprise B2B brands’ cultures, tell their stories, and spread the word about the great work they do.
As new research and features continue to be rolled out over the coming months, there will certainly be more opportunities for professionals to reach out to each other in new ways. But to take best advantage of these tools as they become available, B2B marketers need to take the spotlight off their products and focus on personality and trust, which have always been the heart of social media in the first place anyways.
Featured image attribution: Tanja Heffner (via Unsplash)