Surina Sayal

Click Asia Summit 2011: 'Highly recommending' social media

LinkedIn India's Sandeep Suvarna shed light on the hidden power of B2B social media.

The Click Asia Summit 2011, which commenced on January 20 in Mumbai, saw a multitude of thought provoking discussions on digital advertising and marketing.

One of the discussions had Sandeep Suvarna, head, marketing, LinkedIn India, sharing insights on the hidden power of B2B social media. He kicked off his discussion with LinkedIn's mission statement -- Connecting the world's professionals to make them more productive and more successful.

Click Asia Summit 2011: 'Highly recommending' social media
He shared some facts and figures from a recent study by the US based firm eMarketer, which looks into research and trend analysis on digital marketing, that said that $8 billion was spent on B2B marketing in 2010 and this is growing at 23 per cent CAGR.

The study also showed that 60 per cent of B2B marketers plan to increase their spends on social media in 2011. Social media featured as the third most important, following spends on the company website (at No. 1) and email marketing (at No. 2). Thus, social media was ahead of search engine marketing and display ads, which were essential online marketing solutions till recently.

Suvarna said that the two pillars of B2B marketing are context is king and relevance of information.

Click Asia Summit 2011: 'Highly recommending' social media
"Context is undoubtedly king when it comes to B2B or even B2C marketing. For example, when I'm relaxing with family or friends and someone comes up to me and asks whether I'm looking for an SEM (search engine marketing) agency, I'm going to tell him not to disturb me. Similarly, on a space like a social networking site, people do not want their space to be intruded."

Discussing relevance of information, he shared the example of how LinkedIn can inform a member about which of their connections moved jobs recently. Here, they are on a site that they have logged onto for work or business connectivity purposes, and this sort of information makes sense to them here.

Talking about LinkedIn's 'Recommendations' option, he shared that a Nielsen survey done in 2010 showed that of all the kinds of advertising, trusted recommendations from known people was the best sort of advertising.

He also talked about LinkedIn's Company Pages, launched last month, where companies can set up their own page for free. These pages allow members to join in, discuss and offer recommendations. One of the first companies to set up a Company Page was Volkswagen. This worked for it as it was learnt that professionals discuss car buying decisions while in office and prefer taking suggestions from friends and co-workers who are at their level, since they would understand their spending power.

Also, the Volkswagen page has been built innovatively, where, depending on the visitor, it displays a specific brand of car after scanning the member's profile. Therefore, while it may show a Beetle to a woman executive (since women are more inclined to buy it), a Polo may appear on the page for a male mid-level manager. The Volkswagen company page also has a small box where an interested customer can write in to the company, which will in turn, get back to them in order to complete the sales cycle.

Suvarna said that B2B companies are also effectively using Company Pages. A firm called Digital Vidya, which offers digital marketing training to companies by way of practical and hands-on digital marketing bootcamps, has received many recommendations for its work from top-level personnel.

The site also offers LinkedIn Polls that power professional insights. A poll was conducted on 'Which type of marketing will see the largest percentage increase in 2011?'

Interestingly, social media received the highest votes, followed by mobile marketing. The Polls page also gives a demographic break-up of the people who've voted and thus allows people to gauge the kind of audience response to the specific poll.

Suvarna added that the metrics for social media are not the same as that for regular online advertising (such as clicks), but instead are softer metrics and can be gauged by factors such as the number of followers, recommendations and the kind of discussions taking place about a brand.

He went on to discuss LinkedIn Groups, which power professional conversations with more than 6,00,000 already formed groups. An example of this group is the one moderated by Ashok Lalla, president, digital, Euro RSCG, called 'The Future of Digital for Brands'. The group has more than 1000 members engaging in multiple discussions on the subject.

Suvarna concluded by saying, "The discussions are all happening here online. I urge you to take a seat at this table."

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