Social media enables marketers to monitor, instigate, participate in and measure audience engagement. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, hosts an array of scientific discussion Groups, offering tremendous potential for life science marketers to capture engaged audiences. Before developing a strategy, life science marketing professionals need to optimize their audience selection strategy when targeting these Groups as part of a marketing program. By not strategizing the process of audience selection, the outcome could unnecessarily result in the high cost of an un-optimized marketing program. To understand the dynamics of instigating audience engagement on LinkedIn Groups, we studied several scientific Groups of varying sizes on LinkedIn to determine whether size affects the level of group activity. We found that the level of engagement follows an asymptotic regime as the size of Groups gets larger. More interesting, however, is the significantly higher level of Group activity in smaller Groups as compared with larger Groups. This issue of Linus Report discusses the results of our investigation and offers recommendations for how science marketers should prepare to engage with LinkedIn.
At the time of this publication, LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network with more than 100 million members, representing over 200 global regions where more than half of the LinkedIn members are located outside the United States. Most people use LinkedIn to cultivate their contact lists by “linking in” with their colleagues to stay connected in the context of each other’s professional careers and look for employment opportunities. As LinkedIn gained mainstream acceptance amongst professionals, the site has started offering additional networking opportunities, including the ability for individuals to start, join, and participate in discussion groups.
LinkedIn Groups provide forums for discussion among people of similar interests. The site’s functionality allows members to quickly discover the most popular discussions within a professional group and participate in determining the top discussions by authoring, “liking” and commenting (collectively defined as engagement). With these abilities, the Group forums on LinkedIn have high potential for marketing engagement. Presently over 350,000 scientists have profiles on LinkedIn. Approximately 30,000 scientists are also affiliated with their scientific peers in over 1,800 scientific Groups.i This combined presence of research scientists and scientific executives embodies a valuable and unprecedented demographic for marketers to reach an affluent and influential membership representation. Certainly, ignoring this channel may be passing on a cost-effective way to engage very closely with audiences.
How should science marketers approach their target audience using this important channel? To answer this question, we investigated the discussion dynamics of the scientific forums on LinkedIn. The first step of our investigation is to understand whether some Groups are more active than others. In this issue of Linus Report, we present the key findings from our study of activity levels in LinkedIn scientific Groups as well as the methodology we used to conduct our study. We end the report by providing a quick method for marketers to employ for selecting their target audiences within LinkedIn scientific Groups.
Utilizing LinkedIn Groups for Marketing
The functionality of LinkedIn Groups was first introduced in 2008 and since its introduction, the company has steadily made changes to this functionality to make it more usable.ii Currently, there are over 850,000 Groups in six different categories (Alumni, Corporate, Conference, Networking, Non-profit, Professional, and Other). While 58 “life science” or “biotech” companies have created Corporate Groups, the vast majority of these groups have only a handful of members. On the other hand, there are thousands of “life science” or “biotech” Groups in the Networking, Professional, and Other categories with much larger communities, deep and relevant content, and vibrant engagement.iii
Often a key objective for science marketers is to raise awareness of specific needs or opportunities that exist within their market segments, in order to then lead their audience to the solution that they provide. On LinkedIn Groups, the higher the engagement on a particular topic, the more visibility it gains, so soliciting engagement is important. Also, engagement allows marketers to measure awareness.
Although not the only option, LinkedIn’s scientific Groups represent a critical social media channel for a scientific marketing program, and it is critical to select the optimum set of Groups with which to engage.
Marketers can qualify the audience by targeting the title of the Group that represents the scientific area of interest, and then quantify the audience by evaluating the number of members. Individual target consumers and purchase influencers are visible from the Group members’ profiles. Once relevant Groups are targeted, marketers can uncover competitive intelligence by reading and participating in the Group discussion forum. Another key variable to consider when choosing the right LinkedIn Group is the Group’s size, and how it affects the amount of engagement that occurs within it.
The purpose of this research was to investigate the engagement levels of LinkedIn scientific Groups. We wanted to determine whether size affects the level of group engagement in order to aid marketers in determining how this variable impacts Group selection.