LinkedIn. It’s the king of digital business-to-business connections. Unlike other popular social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is more about networking than socializing. It tends to be seen as a networking tool for the businessman rather than the everyman. Does this white-collar stigma leave any room for business owners to use LinkedIn to connect with potential customers?
Marketing vs. CRM
From a business standpoint, it’s easy to think of Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools. That’s because as a consumer, all I need to receive Nike’s marketing message is an internet connection, a Facebook account, and the ability to click “Like.” That’s it.
But LinkedIn isn’t so easy. Sure, I can follow Nike on LinkedIn, but that basically sends me links to their blogs, tweets, and other non-LinkedIn information that I’ve already found on my own anyway. If I want to use LinkedIn to its full potential, as a peer-to-peer communications tool to really connect with the company, I need to know someone on the inside. I need to be a colleague of, or have done business with, or have gone to school with, or be a friend of, or have the email address of a Nike employee.
But I don’t know anyone at Nike. I’m just a potential customer interested in their products.
This poses a bit of a puzzle for Nike (and every company on LinkedIn). How are they going to market to me if I can’t connect directly with them? LinkedIn is booming in popularity, thanks in part to its recent IPO, and it currently boasts more than 100 million users. That’s a large pool of potential for any company that can successfully tap into it. But doing so means finding a way to break the connection barrier.