UPS has over 1.5M likes on their Facebook page. It’s not out of the ordinary for them to receives thousands of likes, comments and shares on content they post. But, according to Brian Pember, Director of Customer Communications for UPS, the company can get more meaningful engagement from their LinkedIn activities – even though their following there is only a fifth of what it is on Facebook.
Brian shares how the company uses LinkedIn to narrowcast messages to targeted audiences, rather than broadcast to people who haven’t shown interest in a particular subject. He also discusses how, through a mix of thought leadership, organic optimization, and ad placement, UPS has found higher return on investment (ROI) and return on engagement (ROE) through LinkedIn.
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Small Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?
Brian Pember: I’ve been with the organization for about three and a half years now. So still somewhat new to this large organization, but prior to that, my background was in small business. And I actually ran an agency called Vista as the Managing Partner there for about 12 years. And so I know the challenges, the insides and the out, and the game – the small business game that exists.
I know that there are many different hats these folks wear, and you’re looking for the most effective and efficient ways to communicate with your constituents as well. And I think social media has become that platform for small business, and while Twitter and Facebook get a lot of the credit and they get a lot of the sound bytes, LinkedIn is really perhaps the most understated of the big three in terms of actually being able to enable business and develop business conversations.
Small Business Trends: So you came from a small business background into a not-so-small business here at UPS. Talk about the role LinkedIn could play in a small business for helping them to connect with the right audience.
Brian Pember: Frankly, it’s not much different than a big business. Business is business at the end of the day and whether you’re UPS or you’re a group of five to seven folks, you’re still trying to influence the right people at the right time at the right place. And I think every one of our customers undergo a customer journey to get to the conversation, or get to the table. To sit down and talk business with my company or with yours, and you need to understand what that journey looks like and where they’re getting their information.
More and more, research shows people are leveraging social media – not only to reach out to their colleagues for advice and direction and who they trust and who they want to talk to, but for content that companies big and small are sharing on the issues of the day, the issues that matter in one’s own industry. That content is really becoming the currency of business and business conversation. And the people that control the language through great content, they control the debate when it gets to the selling table and sitting down and talking about who you’re going to transact with.
Small Business Trends: How is interacting on LinkedIn different from Facebook and Twitter, from a business perspective?
Brian Pember: Interacting through LinkedIn from the publisher’s standpoint, from a business’s standpoint, is uniquely different in that I can speak to a very specific audience. With Facebook, with Twitter, while both of those platforms are getting better at identifying specific audiences, often it’s around what they’re interested in. Or it’s around very generic areas in terms of what they like, who they follow, what they’re talking about.
With LinkedIn, I can get very specific. So if I want to target CEOs in the healthcare industry in the Eastern portion of the United States with revenue over $100 million, I can do that very specifically with LinkedIn. And I can do that through organic posts to people that are already following me. So I can go in and I can analyze my following by specific criteria and I can push information out that I know is valuable only to them, and make sure that they have a higher likelihood of seeing it.
Or I can do that through a paid strategy. LinkedIn is very good about getting a return on investment for an advertising spend. And if I’m investing that dollar in radio or television, or even digital media, I only know vaguely what my audience is. And I know that probably within that broadcast mechanism that somewhere in there, there’s somebody that’s relevant to me. And what I like about LinkedIn is, it’s not about broadcasting. It’s about narrow-casting. And it’s finding that very small and specific pool of individuals that I know what I have to say – if I can reach them – will resonate and be relevant. And hopefully, I’ll get that return on my investment when they reach back out to me and ask for more.
Small Business Trends: How do you marry that narrowed targeting, either through organic or through ads, with the thought leadership aspects of what LinkedIn has to offer?
Brian Pember: Well, that’s precisely it, right? So my job as an influencer, as a business that has something to say and something to sell, is to provide something of value. And it is that content, that thought leadership content, the things that I have access to that maybe somebody else doesn’t. The insight, the tools, the resources that I can bring to bear that would have impact on their industry.
If I can package that and present that to them in a compelling way, an original way, a creative way through these channels – and more and more, LinkedIn is allowing you to package your content in just about any way you want whether it’s traditional short-form content that you see every day on social media, or video content that becomes very compelling. Or even long-form content.
I can use LinkedIn as my blog on a regular basis. I can use it as my own publication platform, and publish white papers. I can publish thought leadership pieces. I can publish essays, things that matter to my constituents. That is what really drives value in terms of conversation. That value creates trust. It creates engagement and involvement, and that involvement leads to relationships and commitment over time.
Small Business Trends: So if you look at the importance of LinkedIn versus some of the other social channels, do you see a higher engagement rate when it comes to LinkedIn? Does it give you more opportunities for engagement compared to the other ones? Or is it kind of along the same lines of having a better audience to target to?
Brian Pember: What I don’t see is a higher engagement. In fact, I see a lower engagement rate on LinkedIn, significantly, from what I post on Facebook where a brand like UPS could post something and get 30,000 or 40,000 likes, 1,000 comments and reach a significant number of people through that engagement and sharing.
What I find on LinkedIn is that we get only a small fraction of that. But those comments, those shares, those likes, those acknowledgements are often more meaningful for two reasons. One, I’m usually fishing in a smaller pool right? I’ve got a million and a half followers on Facebook. I’ve got 300,000 on LinkedIn. But if I’ve got a white paper on automotive logistics. I’m not going to serve that up to 330,000 followers on LinkedIn. I’m going to serve it up to 3,000 followers that are all interested in automotive logistics, right?
I’m not going to waste anybody else’s time because I know they’re not going to read it anyway. So I may have an audience of 330,000. I may only be targeting one percent of that, and I may only get an engagement rate of one percent of that. But if I get 30 people talking about that specific piece of information, that is actually really powerful because usually those 30 people are very well qualified. They’re in the industry, and they want to learn more. And I’ll take quality over quantity all day long.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what you guys are doing on LinkedIn.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.