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

 

How I Generated Hundreds Of Sales Leads Using Content On LinkedIn

This works, but it takes a lot of work. If you are looking for something easy, this isn’t the place. 

It starts with engagement on LinkedIn. Commenting on other people’s posts will work, as will sharing other people’s and company’s posts, but publishing your own content works best. 

In my case, I published articles and posts almost every week on LinkedIn for several years. I would send messages thanking people who shared or commented on my articles. Almost invariably, an online conversation ensued. After a few months of this it dawned on me that the percentage of people who responded to my outreach was very high. 

The key seemed to be that the other person had expressed an interest in something I had written. So I wondered if I could systemize this idea and methodically reach out to possible prospects that liked, shared or commented on my articles. I had a Sales Navigator account, so I could send them InMails (I will talk about free LinkedIn accounts in a bit). Whenever I found someone I was interested in, I sent them an InMail and started tracking my results (full disclosure: I sent InMails to all kinds of people, but I only tracked the ones that looked like future prospects). And I also started sending messages to possible prospects who had viewed my profile or had started following me. 

A year later, 268 of these people had responded to my 444 outreach messages. A response rate of 60%. 

I figured there were a couple factors behind this response rate: 

  • The person I was reaching out to was aware of me before I reached out to them. I think it is a fair assumption that this made them much more receptive to reading and responding to my message. 
  • When one of these five trigger events occurred, I was the only one responding to it. I was  not competing with everyone else. For example, I was not one of dozens of people congratulating them on their new job. 
  • I did not pitch them. They may fit the demographic of people I work with, but I don’t know anything about them or if they have problems I can help them with. People are a lot more receptive when, you know, you don’t bludgeon them over the head with a sales pitch.

If there is a downside, it’s this: it is time consuming. I don’t do boilerplate. Boilerplate is death. I hyper personalize everything. I make an effort. This approach eats minutes. While I have a framework for what I include in my messages, it can take me fifteen minutes to write a message I am happy with. 

If you don’t have Sales Navigator? Send connection invites. I tried it and it works, though not as well. The acceptance rate is about the same, but I have found that adding that connection step makes it harder than just responding to their first interest in me. So I think connecting works, but I still prefer InMail. 

I am not advocating you take the four or five hours a week I did to write and publish content, parse through the people who engage with you and reach out to them. You can do this on a small scale, even just to people who view your profile. Just be consistent, and keep at it. 

I suppose if there is a lesson in here it is: Build it and they will come, but you had better have a plan for going after them when they do.

Postscript: if you are interested in following me on LinkedIn, don’t. When you want to see someone’s content on LinkedIn, following them is a sure way to miss almost all of it. Get my newsletter instead. Every week you will receive ideas like this one on how you can be using LinkedIn for sales and marketing. Here’s the signup page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

To the 60 or 6,000 people that will see this post on my blog

When I write something and publish it, I have no clue how it will do. I don’t think any of us do.  

I have published observations and research into how LinkedIn works, and how people use it that I thought was really important. Stuff that I thought would really help sales and marketing people use LinkedIn more effectively. The response? Tepid. 

Then I write something that I am actually reluctant to publish, because it seems kind of obvious…and I get a huge response. 

Sometimes I post something that people find compelling and sometimes I post something that people don’t care about at all. But I won’t know which one it is until after I post it. I have seen variations on this from most people who publish on LinkedIn. I looked at thirty or so of the recent articles that Bill Gates published. The number of comments he got ranged from 400 to 3600. Bill probably didn’t know how his articles would do either, he just went ahead and published them.

After writing and publishing hundreds of my own posts and articles on LinkedIn and on this blog, the best advice I can offer is this: enjoy the engagement and interaction that results from your posting and publishing, regardless of whether it is with a couple people or a couple hundred.