Lies, Damn Lies, and Social Selling Statistics

Today, the wonderful world of sales and social selling statistics. This article updates research, articles and posts I have written on this topic. 

Part 1: Lies

How many of you have seen this list?

Hands up everyone who has actually seen it and liked it, commented on how pithy these statistics are, or shared it with their network. I have found references to this graphic on Google going back to 2013. 

Well, sorry to say, but these “facts” come from the department of made up statistics.

If you google the “National Sales Executives Association” the one thing you won’t find is any reference to such an organization existing or ever having existed.

These statistics appear to have just been made up, but we believe them because we want to. We want to believe that these stats show that perseverance is critical to success and will be rewarded.   

A lot of social media statistics and social selling statistics are shared with very little reference as to where they came from or how they were generated. So let me suggest that if someone quotes a statistic that may contribute to you making a business decision, that you do a little investigative work before making that decision.  

I saw someone publish the graphic above last week on LinkedIn. 

Part 2: Damn Lies

How many times have you seen someone use the following to support some claim they are making about LinkedIn: 

“LinkedIn is 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter”

Sometimes it comes with this graphic: 

I kept seeing this statistic pop up from time to time, so I did some research and came up with what can best be called an investigative tribute.

Here’s where it came from: Hubspot gathered data from 5,198 businesses and it turns out that traffic from LinkedIn to the companies’ websites turned into leads more often.

The 277 stat was released by Hubspot on January 30th 2012. That’s right, this statistic will celebrate its eighth birthday this Thursday.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are very different animals than they were eight years ago. Eight years ago LinkedIn had “Answers” and “Signal” and “Polls”. Eight years ago, the idea of LinkedIn Influencers like Bill Gates was a gleam in someone’s eye, still nine months away from being announced on Oct 2, 2012. With the changes in the three companies studied, and new players rising like Instagram, you have to be pretty sceptical that this statistic is still valid.

Let me put it another way. If I wanted to use the 277 statistic honestly, I would probably have to say:  

“In a Hubspot study conducted over eight years ago, LinkedIn was 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook & Twitter”

Doesn’t sound quite so compelling anymore, does it?

The lesson here is not to beat on LinkedIn’s effectiveness now or seven years ago, or Hubspot’s research then or now. They aren’t the culprits here. It’s people who find a statistic and don’t bother to check it’s origins, and then it’s the rest of us who swallow these things whole without question and let the writers get away with it.

The day I edited this article (Monday Jan 27th, 2020) I searched LinkedIn for content containing “LinkedIn is 277%”. The search results listed multiple people posts revolving around this statistic as proof of how great LinkedIn is. 

(there is a link to the original Hubspot press release  below)

 

Part 3…and social selling statistics.

Here’s a statistic that I saw last January:

“40% of LinkedIn users log on every day.”

And I thought to myself, “Uh-oh.”

The last time LinkedIn published user figures was the third quarter of 2016, their last before becoming part of Microsoft. And the figure they published was:

“106M – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn members log in once a month or more often.” 

So in under thirty months we have gone from just under 23% a month to 40% every day? I was immediately suspicious. So I did some digging for the source of this marvellous statistic. 

And I’ll be, the source turned out to be LinkedIn! Apparently, LinkedIn put out an ebook in January 2019, and one of the stats in the e-book stated that 40% of members were logging in every day. So I found the ebook and downloaded it. And there it was. I checked the source and it was from a company called Omnicore which made me suspicious all over again. 

Because I would have thought that if LinkedIn was going to use a statistic on LinkedIn user engagement that the source of that user engagement statistic would be…LinkedIn. 

I looked up the article on Omnicore and couldn’t find the 40% statistic. I InMailed the author asking about it. The author kindly responded and said he had just taken it down “because the source where we got this statistic was no longer valid.” (Hat tip to MarkWilliams who had discovered the statistic independently in December 2018 and got Omnicore to fix it.)

I InMailed the author of the LinkedIn ebook and told him that he probably shouldn’t be stating something that people may base business decisions on – advertising on LinkedIn would be a good example – if it couldn’t be backed up. To his credit, he immediately pulled the stat. 

But by then, people had latched onto the stat. Now there are articles out there on the web stating that 40% of LinkedIn users check in every day. There was even one from Hubspot just last week (I sent a message to the author but as of Monday morning Jan 27 I had not received a reply and the 40% daily claim was still there).

Maybe I should write them and suggest they just change the attribution to the National Sales Executives Association. 

Postscript: The next day (Jan 28) I published this article on LinkedIn and I noticed that the Hubspot article had been corrected and the 40% daily stat taken down. As of this writing I have not heard back from the authour. 

Sources: here’s the original story on Hubspot

.http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30030/LinkedIn-277-More-Effective-for-Lead-Generation-Than-Facebook-Twitter-New-Data.aspx

The Hubspot article from last week claiming – in the first sentence no less – that 40% of LinkedIn members visit the platform every day;

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/linkedin-thought-leadership