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Connecting with your Content - Europe - 2014

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How social drives business growth – and business decisions …

How social drives business growth – and business decisions

Europe’s most influential businesses have a new way of doing business following the global economic downturn. And it’s called social media.

New research from LinkedIn and Join the Dots proves that decision-makers in large and medium-sized European businesses (those with annual revenues of £4 million or €5 million) see social media as fundamental to doing business –and as a crucial driver of growth. Social is used to acquire new customers, generate leads, deliver content to a range of different audiences and generate advocacy and word of mouth; but also to inform all manner of business decisions, to listen to market trends, to source talent and to deliver customer service. And it’s rated as highly effective by over two-thirds of decision makers in all of these areas.

Since an outsized proportion of Europe’s GDP flows through businesses of this size (in the UK they represent less than 1% of all businesses but 66% of business turnover), engaging their decision-makers is essential for any would-be supplier. This engagement must happen on social – and when you look closely at specific sectors and services, it’s clear that most of it must happen on LinkedIn.

When it comes to corporate financial decision-makers, an area where 81% of decision-makers use social to guide their choices, we find that these influencers are more open to receiving financial content on LinkedIn than any other platform. And when they consume such content, they act on it: 81% had taken some form of action after engaging with financial content on LinkedIn, and 42% had gone on to complete a purchase of some kind.

To read more about how social media is powering business and directing buying choices across Europe.

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  • 1. Priming the Economic Engine How social drives business growth and business decisions COMMISSIONED STUDY CONDUCTED BY
  • 2. Social Media Europe’s engine of business growth New research from LinkedIn and Join the Dots reveals the huge role social media is playing in restarting economies across a large part of Europe. More than half of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK, France and The Netherlands credit social platforms with a big part in their success. And as social becomes more fundamental to all areas of business activity, an effective presence on social platforms will be essential for you to gain your share of Europe’s recovery. Our in-depth survey of decision-makers for UK businesses with revenues of £4 million+, and more than €5 million for The Netherlands and France, reveals that social is now seen as an essential, all- round business tool. Business leaders rate it as highly effective for everything from brand awareness and generating advocacy, to researching buying decisions, sourcing information, learning from experts and listening to feedback. And well over three-quarters of businesses trust social when it comes to informing their financial decisions and guiding their choice of financial providers. Amongst the key findings of the study are: 64% of Europe’s large and medium-sized businesses increased their revenues in the last year, and more than half of the fastest-growing businesses say that social media is crucial to their success Businesses that have increased their spend on social are more likely to be growing quickly, and half of all growing businesses say they will increase their social spend next year 81% of business decision-makers use social media to guide their financial choices and strategy 55% are open to receiving financial information on LinkedIn, more than for any other social platform 81% of all business decision-makers have taken action after exploring financial content on LinkedIn About this Study LinkedIn partnered with research agency Join the Dots, which spoke to 300 business decision- makers in the UK, 263 in France and 144 in The Netherlands, generating a sample size of 707 across Europe as a whole. We asked each respondent about the performance of their business during the last year, their use of social media for business purposes, and their view of the effectiveness of social media for different tasks. We also asked in detail about each respondent’s use of social to guide their business’s financial decisions, and how financial content on social media influenced their choice of providers.
  • 3. Connecting with your Content 2 The role of large and medium-sized businesses in Europe Large and medium-sized businesses such as those in our study exert a huge influence over European economies. Prior to the global economic downturn, they employed more than half of all Europeans, despite representing only around 1.3% of companies. This immense clout has continued during the region’s growing recovery. A report from the UK’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills shows that businesses employing 50 people or more contribute just over 66% of all business turnover in the country. With so much of European countries’ GDP flowing through large and medium-sized businesses, the ability to engage decision-makers in these companies is critical to success. It is clear from this report that effective use of social media will vastly increase that ability. This is particularly true of the financial services sector, an area in which business leaders are particularly accustomed to seeking guidance from social before making decisions. How social became the essential growth tool As Europe recovers from the economic downturn, social media has taken on a hugely important role in driving business growth. Broad, varied and effective use of social has emerged as the key characteristic of the fastest-growing large and medium-sized businesses in the region: 77% 52% 54% of large and medium- sized businesses use social media for business purposes, and a further 8% plan to do so in the future of the fastest growing businesses reported that social made a direct contribution to that growth of those reporting revenue growth had increased their spend on social in the past year LinkedIn is the most frequently used social network for business decision- makers in Europe, accessed regularly by 61% overall and 56% of those working in the fastest-growing businesses. In the UK, 67% of the fastest-growing businesses currently use LinkedIn
  • 4. Highly versatile and highly effective Business leaders are keen to increase their spend on social because they recognise it as one of the hardest-working investments that they make. Outbound communications are an important aspect of social’s role (72% say it is important for marketing their company and 61% agree that it is important for gaining and retaining customers) but its contribution goes far beyond this: from informing decisions to gathering feedback and improving business performance, social is one of the first places decision- makers turn when looking to drive growth. Business leaders have a clear appetite for learning and listening through social, and for using feedback from social platforms to optimise their operations and meet customer needs more effectively. Learning from industry experts, understanding what others are saying about their business and delivering customer service are all hugely valued social media roles, as is sourcing the right talent to keep their businesses growing. 81% for delivering content 65% for lead generation 77% for advertising 75% for delivering customer service 72% for generating word of mouth 66% for gaining learnings, insights or best practices 75% for finding new talent. 74% for understanding what others are saying about their company rate social media as effective 3
  • 5. Connecting with your Content 4 In the Netherlands, 80%rate social as an effective tool for learning from experts in their industry, 70% say it is effective for driving leads, and 82% rate it an effective customer service channel. Connecting with your Content 4
  • 6. A key component in future growth plans 66% of business decision makers agree that social media is essential to their company’s future, and 51% of those reporting revenue growth say that they will increase their spend on social media advertising in the future. However, the agenda that they have compiled for social incorporates different priorities in different markets: • In the UK, delivering content (49%), advertising (48%) and maintaining a company identity (48%) top the list • In the Netherlands, company identity (44%), generating leads (39%) and driving word of mouth (38%) are most important • In France, word of mouth (38%), sales-focused advertising (37%) and building awareness (36%) are the key drivers Fuelling financial strategy for business Of all the business purposes that social media is directed towards, driving financial strategy and informing financial choices are amongst the most valued. In all, 81% of business decision-makers in Europe use social media for corporate financial purposes, and across all three countries in the survey, LinkedIn is the social platform where decision-makers are most open to receiving financial information: 82% of decision-makers in Europe list driving growth amongst their key motivations for using social media. 55% are open to receiving financial information on LinkedIn, more than for any other social platform 41% 34% 27% 23% 25% use social to keep up-to-date on financial trends use social to gather preliminary information for financial decisions use social to seek advice on financial decisions use it to evaluate or re-think their previous financial decisions use it to recommend products and services to others 5
  • 7. Connecting with your Content 6 The top five financial uses of social media by country: Business leaders in France and the Netherlands are the most likely to use social for recommending financial products and services to their fellow decision-makers. France Gather preliminary information for financial decisions Recommend products and services to others Actively seek advice on financial decisions Evaluate or re- think previous financial decisions 1 31%1 3 4 52 39% 37% 34% 32% 27% Keep up- to-date on financial trends Netherlands Recommend products and services to others Gather preliminary information for financial decisions Actively seek advice on financial decisions Evaluate or re- think previous financial decisions 1 31%1 3 4 52 41% 28% 26% 25% 24% Keep up- to-date on financial trends United Kingdom Gather preliminary information for financial decisions Actively seek advice on financial decisions Evaluate or re- think previous financial decisions Recommend products and services to others 1 31%1 3 4 52 42% 35% 23% 18% 15% Keep up- to-date on financial trends
  • 8. Influencing financial decisions throughout the consideration process LinkedIn exerts the greatest influence of all social networks over financial decision-making, and maintains its influence all the way from initial discovery through to consideration and action: • During the Discovery phase, 33% use LinkedIn for learning about companies or institutions, 26% for learning about specific products or policies and 26% for sharing this information with others • During Consideration, 26% use it for conducting additional research, 25% for asking a financial professional for more information and 27% for contacting a financial representative • As a result, 19% opened a new account, 15% purchased an investment product and 15% purchased an insurance policy • In all, 81% of those using LinkedIn for Discovery and Consideration went on to take some action, and 42% went on to complete a purchase (64% in the Netherlands). 81% of all business decision- makers have taken action after exploring financial content on LinkedIn 77
  • 9. Connecting with your Content 8 The top five actions taken by business leaders after accessing financial content on LinkedIn: After accessing content on LinkedIn, decision-makers in the UK are most likely to research further and discuss with others, before making contact with a representative; business leaders in France and the Netherlands are more likely to get in touch with the company as their next step. 01 01 01 Learned about a financial company not previously aware of Learned about a financial company not previously aware of Contacted a financial representative 31% 37% 38% 04 04 Conducted additional research on a financial product Conducted additional research on a financial product 23% 31% 03 03 Learned of a financial product not previously aware of Discussed a financial product with a colleague, friend or family member 23% 33% 02 02 02 Shared information about financial trends, products or companies Contacted a financial representative Learned about a financial company not previously aware of 24% 34% 31% 05 05 05+ Asked a financial professional for more information Learned of a financial product not previously aware of Asked a financial professional for more information 20% 30% 30% 03 Shared information about financial trends, products or companies 28% 04 Asked a financial professional for more information 28% 05 Learned of a financial product not previously aware of 27% France Netherlands United Kingdom
  • 10. 1 Key considerations for B2B marketers Successful businesses invest in social not just because it helps to drive awareness and engagement, but because they trust it to support all forms of business decisions. Fewer and fewer choices are made without the use of insight, information and content sourced from social platforms. This has major implications for all B2B marketers, and especially for those working in finance, where social is at its most influential. 4 things that financial marketers must do to engage large and medium-sized businesses Key learnings for marketers The most successful large and medium-sized businesses use social as an information exchange, hugely valued both for outbound communication and as a source of insight to guide decision-making As successful businesses’ investment in social grows, social media will become increasingly integrated into decision-making and will exert greater influence over buying choices 61% of Europe’s business decision makers are using LinkedIn for business, making it the most influential social network amongst this audience. Prioritise financial content that is current and timely: keeping up with trends is the most frequent use of social for financial purposes, and will earn you attention and awareness Vary your follow-up strategy according to local market priorities, because the socially driven purchase cycle varies between countries: follow-up research is the next step in the UK; decision-makers in The Netherlands and France need contact information to talk to your people directly Ensure content is easily shareable – and encourage your audience to share it: many decision-makers are actively seeking to recommend financial companies and products to their peers, and sharing information with colleagues extends influence across buying committees Make sure you are using decision-makers favoured social platforms; 55% of decision- makers access financial content on LinkedIn, and 81% of these have taken action after doing so. 2 2 3 3 4 1 9
  • 11. Connecting with your Content 10Connecting with your Content 10
  • 12. Build relationships on LinkedIn If you would like to receive more information on how to tap into the growing audience through social media, please visit: http://emea.marketing.linkedin.com/contact-us