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Delivering On Expectations In A Professional Network #FFWDadweek

Guest Post:  Lisa Gervais has 14 years experience in Digital Marketing, over the course of her career, she has lead online campaigns for IBM Canada, Rogers Communications and Fidelity Investments Canada as well as project managed campaigns on behalf of Warner Bros, Dyson, Mattel and Spin Master to name but a few. You can connect with Lisa on Linkedin or Twitter.

Social networks have redefined the way professionals look for new career opportunities. But what’s more, networks such as LinkedIn, have become an invaluable tool for collaborating with peers, obtaining guidance and keeping abreast of industry news and events. Understanding what individuals expect from a professional network is key for marketers according to Alison Lange Engel, Global Marketing Director, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. At FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week 2013, she presented results of The Mindset Divide, a global study of 6000 social media users. The study looked at both personal and professional social networks and uncovered some key differences. ”Understanding hoAlison_Lange_Engel_AdWeekw your audience’s mindset differs will enable you to drive more engaging relationships” she offered to the crowd of marketing and agency professionals.

She began by sharing a visual representation of her professional network to give the audience a sense of how small and connected the world has become over time. “If you were to map out your professional network, you would tend to see large circular concentrations around the big shifts in your life from College to various positions held over the course of your career” says Engel. What the map demonstrates is that there is likely some overlap between school and work life and some distinct geographical concentrations but also some distant global offshoots. The connections map illustrates the tight-knit and continually evolving nature of the professional network.

Engel continued by describing how LinkedIn has shifted from a digital Rolodex to a much more powerful professional tool. “The world of work is transforming. Professional pressure is heightened. As a result, the professional network has become a collective power of decision-making.” More than simply making connections, LinkedIn has become a professional destination to consult with peers, find information and stay on top of the most relevant news and information in a member’s profession or industry.

As the pace of work life increases, the need to make professional decisions quickens. LinkedIn serves as a tool for making the most informed decision by virtue of its peer-to-peer facilitation. “The professional audience is professionally social” Engel declares. Context and mindset are more important than ever as the power of a social network is in the dialogue and conversation. Professional networks help people make better, peer-informed decisions. For example, 86% of professionals who participated in the study, who make technical decisions, consult their social media networks beforehand to aid in the decision-making process.

At the center of the findings, LinkedIn uncovered that it’s really about emotion. “People are starved for emotional connections now more than ever” Engel revealed. The ability to tap into that emotional connection is what brands and marketers should be focused on since emotion plays a critical role in marketing. Furthermore, the research revealed the role of emotion in professional decision-making. “Perhaps one of the biggest myths in B2B branding is that the nature of the decision process is so rational that emotions do not really play a role.” Emotion plays a key role in both personal and professional social platforms.

Marketers need to understand what is driving people and what they want and expect from their social networks. On personal networks, there is information regarding friends, personal interests and entertainment updates. It’s about reminiscing and the activity revolves around the notion of filling time.

Professional network users are focused on the future. Their goals for using the network are tied to personal aspirations and future achievement and progress. Emotion, however, lies just below the surface. It’s not all ego-driven. It’s more about family. “I’m progressing so that I can pay for a nice house for my family and send my talented child to a good school.”

As social media has become a dominant force, brand relationships have evolved. There are several differences between the way in which personal and professional networks interact with brands. On personal networks, it is about spending time socializing and interacting with brands that help the individual express his or her personality.

Alternately, on professional networks, it is about investing time. “LinkedIn members are looking for ROI for the time they are investing.” The number one objective is to maintain a professional record. It’s about making useful contacts, searching for opportunities, staying in touch and sharing content with peers. On professional networks there is career information, updates on brands (26% higher than on personal networks) and current affairs. Professional network users want to see brands that improve the individual professionally, help make better business decisions and gain advice and recommendations. Professionals follow brands for competitive intelligence.

In order to connect emotionally with professionals, Marketers need to create advocacy back to their brand. When asked, 61% of survey respondents said that they consider themselves likely to share knowledge with others and 39% want to be the first to know. Brands will be regarded highly by professionals if they help member position themselves highly informed vis-à-vis their peers. Marketers need to frame how their brand helps members gain knowledge and success. In doing so it enables the brand to be more relevant.

Finally, a must for marketers is to engage members who are influencers and build meaningful relationships within the community. The LinkedIn study revealed that influencers are six times more likely to share updates with their network. Furthermore, they are six times more likely to follow companies and nine times more likely to create content within groups. As marketers, the way you tap into the influencer audience is by building community through content and initiating and facilitating a conversation.