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. 

 

Your Single Most Important Activity On LinkedIn

What is the number one activity you should be engaging in on LinkedIn? If you only had ten minutes today on LinkedIn, what is the absolute best way you could invest that ten minutes?

Deepening your relationships with your connections.

No one is better positioned to help you accomplish your goals than your connections. They have  the knowledge and they are connected to the people that can help you. But if you are what I call a “thin” connection – for example, you connected three years ago and haven’t had contact since – then that connection may not be someone you can count on for that introduction to someone in their network.

If you have five hundred connections and your connections have an average of five hundred connections, you have a quarter million second degree connections. In that quarter million people are going to be prospective customers, suppliers, contractors, partners and resources.  

That’s a lot of doors your connections can open for you. But if you are a stranger they will be reluctant to do so. So get to know your connections. Offer your knowledge and your assistance (hint: offer to open some of your doors for them).

No other activity on LinkedIn comes close to doing what developing better relationships with your connections can do for you.

 

A Telling “Who Viewed Your Profile” Statistic

I have a premium LinkedIn account, so I get some expanded WVYP statistics. A lot of them are of questionable value, but some of these statistics are interesting. Here are two from a recent look at my own profile viewers:

Number of times in the past 90 days….

  • that someone has found me through LinkedIn Search: 15
  • that someone has found me from their Homepage: 186

Here is a chart with people who viewed my profile in the last four weeks. After several months off, I started publishing updates and articles again on LinkedIn on January 22nd.

My profile views more than tripled in two weeks.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Twelve times as many people are “finding” me through my active personna (posting, publishing and participating) on LinkedIn as through my passive personna (my profile).

People come and view my profile, but for the most part after I have done something that prompts them to.

 

 

Eight Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn In The Past Eight Years

(that you can read in 2 minutes)

I have been a sales and marketing consultant specializing in LinkedIn since January 2011. During that time, I have put in thousands of hours using LinkedIn. I have written something like 300 articles on various aspects of LinkedIn and using LinkedIn. I have seen the platform change, features come and go, and even some features come and go and then come back again (hello “Events”). This a quick list of what I have learned. The genesis for everything I do and everything I teach always seems to come back to one or more of these eight points.

1) LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people.

2) If you are not in one of these four groups, you are not so much a customer, you and your data are the product LinkedIn sells to those customers.

3) LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve their customers, not you. For example, if LinkedIn can persuade you to become more active, that is good for ad sales.

4) LinkedIn is a social network for the professions listed above and for solo consultants who need to sell their services. For most other users, LinkedIn is not a social network.

5) LinkedIn is an excellent people database with good search tools attached, though you need a Sales Navigator or Recruiter premium account to take full advantage of these tools.

6) LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know.

7) Reaching out to people you don’t know works pretty poorly. Yes, that includes InMail (see point number 4 above).

8) The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

There is a lot more to many of these statements than meets the eye, so I will talk about some of these ideas in more depth over the next couple of months, but keep these ideas in mind and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

LinkedIn User Interface Problems: Possible Causes and Fixes

In the first quarter of 2017 LinkedIn released an updated version of the desktop user interface. This caused a blizzard of user interface bugs and hiccups. After getting multiple requests every day over a two or three week period, I wrote an article on possible user interface problem causes and fixes.

For whatever reason, I am receiving an uptick in requests for help with desktop user interface issues again lately, so I thought I would dust that old article off, update it and get it out there.

A lot of these problems are fixable or can be worked around, and doing so is pretty easy. 

There are four possible reasons you may be experiencing problems with the new LinkedIn Desktop User Interface:

You may just be experiencing a “glitch”

That’s a bug or problem with the User Interface that is affecting only you in your current session on LinkedIn. In particular, these types of bugs manifest themselves as missing information or missing features on your pages. And these happen a lot.

Solution: Log off LinkedIn. Clear your browser cache and log back in. Sometimes it is necessary to reboot your computer. I use Google Chrome and I find that once I reach 300Mb of history and assorted junk in my browser cache, anomalies start showing up on LinkedIn. I was working with a client and he kept getting the “it’s not you, it’s us, try again” message when he wanted to do a LinkedIn search. It turned out he had 700Mb of odds and ends in his browser cache. Cleaning the browser cache fixed the problem.

You have a problem or problems specific to your Browser

There seem to be a lot of issues with different browsers. I am not a browser or operating system expert, but it is apparent that some of the bugs and oddities users experience are caused by browsers not working properly with LinkedIn.

Solution: try doing the same thing you are having a problem with but using a different browser. If you use Internet Explorer, try Chrome. If you use Safari, try Firefox. This will indicate if the problem is specific to the browser you use. I have had connections tell me that LinkedIn support suggested they “upgrade to the latest version of Chrome.” If you can tell it is a browser problem, but confirming that your browser is up to date, you have what should be a known bug and it is time to try LinkedIn tech support. See the bottom of this article.

You are part of some weird LinkedIn user experiment

You are minding your own business when some new feature or graphic appears that wasn’t there before. It’s pretty neat and you think “this is smart” but no announcement has been made and no one seems to be talking about it. Congratulations, you are likely a guinea pig, a test subject for a new feature. One day soon the feature will go away, with the same zero fanfare with which it showed up in the first place.

Solution: Pray. If you thought it was a good idea, pray LinkedIn makes it a regular feature. And pray that LinkedIn doesn’t think it’s so good an idea that they make it a premium pay-for feature.

LinkedIn may have changed the way something works or removed a feature

Well, there isn’t anything you can do about this except confirm that the the feature has changed or disappeared. Most LinkedIn trainers or consultants can usually set you straight on whether a feature is gone or drastically changed (we have one awesome jungle drum network set up). They will often be able to show you a workaround or alternative method of accomplishing what you want to do.

If none of these apply to you or seem to work, it is time to throw in the towel and contact LinkedIn tech support. There is a link to the LinkedIn Help Center in the pull down menu under the Me tab at the top right of any LinkedIn page. Don’t use this. For faster responses to technical problems on LinkedIn, you need to go to…Twitter. I am not kidding. It is much much faster to get help via tweeting to @LinkedInHelp on Twitter than it does using the Help function on LinkedIn itself. But that’s a whole other discussion.

 

Developing Your LinkedIn Strategy

What’s holding you back from getting the results you want out of LinkedIn?

I am going to talk here about how to figure out what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t. There are four steps, but this won’t take long.

Understand what LinkedIn is

LinkedIn is a database of 550 million people and 19 million companies. Embedded in that database is an active social network of maybe 50 to 60 million people who use it once a week or more often. Understanding these figures is critical to using LinkedIn effectively.

Understand the 7 basic “things” you can do on LinkedIn

  • Use your profile as a reference check

LinkedIn is a great place for people to reference check you. They hear your name, wonder “who is this person?” and immediately go to Linkedin to find out. In many cases, your LinkedIn profile is the first impression you make with someone else.

  • Increase your reach

Your reach is how many people are aware of you.

  • Establish or improve your credibility

Once they are aware of you, you need to establish yourself as a person to be reckoned with, someone who knows what they are talking about, and is knowledgeable in their field. Credibility gets you included when people are considering their options. You want to be on that list.  

  • Be the pointy end of a lead gen program

You can make offers on LinkedIn and generate leads. I call this the pointy end as usually you need a backend to collect the leads such as a landing page on your website.

  • Search and find people and companies

LIke I said, a searchable database of 550 million people and 19 million companies. Everyone and everything is in that database. You just need to figure out how to find what you need to find.

  • Research people and companies

Now that you have found them, you need to review the information on LinkedIn and let it help guide your tactics. There’s a lot more here than most people think.

  • Contact people and exchange messages

Well, it is a social network, isn’t it?

LinkedIn is outstanding as a reference check, and for search and research. It is good for credibility and reach. LinkedIn is completely hit and miss for lead gen and for contacting people and exchanging messages.

What do you need LinkedIn for? What are you looking to do?

Ask yourself, “Am I weak or need improvement in any of the seven areas above?”

Do you need to becoming better known? That’s reach.

People have heard of you but don’t have much more information? Credibility. Need sales leads? That’s reach + credibility.

Need prospects? Search + research + contact people.

Select the things on LinkedIn you need to do to help solve your problems.

For the areas you selected ask, “Do I know how to do these things?”

If you can’t say to yourself, “I know exactly how to do that, quickly and effectively”, get help. And it never hurts to test your knowledge and assumptions about what you can or can’t do with someone who knows their stuff. Someone who can teach you how to get better results or to use a LinkedIn feature effectively will both save you time, and help you get better results more quickly. There are lots of people out there who can help you. There are generalists and there are specialists, such as those that work with LinkedIn users on their profiles. My specialties are search, research and how to contact people.

So if you are unhappy with your LinkedIn results:

  • Figure out the gaps in the results you are getting now.
  • Figure out whether LinkedIn can actually help close those gaps.
  • Get help if you need it.

This isn’t rocket surgery.*

(* a combination of rocket science and brain surgery. Very difficult.)

Getting Better Outreach Response on LinkedIn: Dial Back The Call To Action

I have sent thousands of InMails and outreach messages of all kinds on LinkedIn. I have advised any number of LinkedIn users on their outreach program and specific messages they use.

And today I am here to tell you that one of the biggest factors for lousy response rates is asking for too much in your call to action.

Note I didn’t say what you are asking for but how much. As in how much of a commitment are you asking the other person to make?

In general, the more you ask for, the harder it is going to be to get a positive  response.

If you are asking for a sales call, you are asking for a lot in that outreach message. You typically need to establish your credibility or to establish that you have such a powerful offer that a sales call is a logical next step. It can be done, but you are asking for an awful lot in the outreach message.

On the other hand, if you ask for too little, like an opinion, the other person may not think it is worthwhile responding at all.

I have an approach that works reliably for me. Just start a conversation. My call to action is a question that isn’t easily responded to with a closed answer. I am looking for a response that I can respond right back to. And there is more information on most people’s profiles to work with between their summary, current job, work history and their activity on LinkedIn than you would think. Conversations can build credibility and lead to connecting.

The less risk there is in your CTA versus the possible reward in your CTA – as perceived by the other person – the more successful you will be.

Capitalizing On LinkedIn Publishing

Last week I talked about my LinkedIn publishing. This week: what I do once I have published.

Okay, so I have written an article or post, published it on LinkedIn, and received some views and engagement. So what do I do now? Four things…

  • I ignore the views. They are nice, good for the ego (or bruising for the ego), but as I cannot identify the individual viewers, I can’t do anything with my views.
  • I review everyone who engages with me and my content.
  • I reach out to anyone who looks interesting
  • And I do it right away

Let’s look at the latter three a little further.

I review everyone who engages with me and my content

When I login to LinkedIn, I check my notifications. This will tell me if I have new likes, comments, and followers. I check my most recent article and post statistics for people who shared, and check for new people who have viewed my profile.

I try and respond, acknowledge or thank people who have commented or shared my content, in particular my connections. I usually can’t get to everyone, but I want these people to know I appreciate them.

I reach out to anyone who looks interesting

There are lots of interesting people on LinkedIn. Here are a the two types I look for.
Someone who is a long term prospect. Because there are no short term prospects. While they may fit my target demographic, I don’t really know anything about them, their situation, their problems, or their needs. I may have some credibility with them from my writing, but no personal relationship, and they probably don’t have spare budget lying around.
Someone who is not a prospect but is active on LinkedIn with a half decent network. This is a person who can introduce me to someone in their network.
I play a long game. It makes me look good compared to all the yahoos who go out and pitch people they have just met. Don’t get me wrong, I do get people who find me and want to retain me right away, but they had already made up their minds, and I didn’t need to sell them on the idea.

And I do it right away

I follow up and reach out to these interesting people right away, because if I don’t, people will forget the context of my article or post. I want to reach out when their engagement with me or my content is still fresh in their mind, and they can still remember why they did so. Reaching out to someone who followed you or commented on your post last week doesn’t work very well.

But this is all the necessary boring process stuff. You have heard enough about the labor pains, you just want to see the baby. Here you go.

The results

For those who didn’t read last week’s article (and shame on you) I talked about my publishing the week of April 23 and April 30. Over that two week period I:

  • Published 2 articles
  • Posted 4 updates (which most of us still call posts)
  • Which got 45,000 views
  • And over that two week period just over 1,000 people liked, commented, and shared my content, or followed me, or viewed my profile

Here’s the good stuff: out of those 1,000 people,

  • I found 56 that looked interesting. I reached out to them and
  • 44 of them replied and
  • 9 of them wound up scheduling phone or Zoom calls with me

I like an outreach method that gets a 78.5% response rate (to be fair and in full disclosure, I usually get a response rate between 70 and 75%, so this two week sample was a bit better than usual).

I am pretty good with InMail and can get a response rate in the low twenties reaching out to cold prospects, but why would I waste InMail like that when I can send InMail that gets a response rate more than three times as high? Why wouldn’t I send outreach messages to people who are predisposed to reply?

So in my case, publishing works, but only if I have content people find valuable, I follow up and engage with those who engage with me, and I do so quickly.

That leaves just one last piece of the puzzle: what’s in those messages I sent that prompted so many of them to respond? That’s next week.