Anne 🐝 Thornley-Brown, MBA in LinkedIn, Social Media, Marketing President and Founder • Executive Oasis International Dec 1, 2017 · 2 min read · 1.3K

Is LinkedIn a Glorified Yellow Pages? Does it matter?

Is LinkedIn a Glorified Yellow Pages? Does it matter?I have been working on a series about B2B social media marketing. Success stories have been hard to come by. In fact, it took me over 7 years to uncover any. 

One thing is clear. For B2B marketing and lead generation, social media platforms are not "post it and they will come" channels.

Many social media experts have conveyed the impression that social media would replace tedious, traditional B2B marketing. They were wrong. Without exception, every success story I have unearthed has had one thing in common. Outreach. 

When I first realized this I remarked, "So, you are using LinkedIn like a gloried Yellow Pages." This offended many people. (I have never been one to let the fact that it upsets some people stop me from speaking the truth.) Let's face it, no one appreciates it when one takes aim at their sacred cows.

Some who have experienced success were honest enough to admit that I had a point. They agreed. "Yes, but with a twist. You can't initiate a conversation directly from the Yellow Pages". You had to pick up the phone or send a letter. (People even used to do cold calls in person. Hardly anyone does this anymore.)

These exchanges got me thinking about the Yellow Pages and I remembered my own Yellow Pages success story. It was a handy tool for both buyers and sellers. Job hunters too.

It was the summer I turned 19. As usual, it was hard to find a summer job.

Scenario: We were Jamaican immigrants so my parents were not entrenched in any old boys network. My Dad was a teacher at John Rennie High School on Montreal's West Island. So, there was no way that I could get a summer job where daddy worked.

The summer started and I had used the traditional route to finding employment. I filled in applications at many stores and businesses in downtown Montreal. I  came up empty

I was discouraged but, just like I am today, persistent. I took out a pad of paper and brainstormed. I wrote down every type of business that might hire summer students.

I don't recall how many categories I identified but, eventually, I hit on movie theatres. I took out the Yellow Pages and identified every English theatre within easy access of downtown Montreal. I don't know why but I decided to hand deliver my applications.

I did not target any French theatres but I got a phone call from a manager at a French theatre in the east end. I went for the interview, which was in French. I was offered the job as a cashier. I spent the summer selling the ticket and practicing my French and Spanish. (The assistant manager was from Latin America.)

When the summer was halfway over, the manager's girlfriend came by to fill in for the candy girl. It turned out that she was the candy girl at one of the theatres where I had dropped off my resume. The manager of her theatre was going to throw my resume in the garbage as he had nothing for me. She asked for it and passed it to her boyfriend.

So between the Yellow Pages and the kindness of a stranger. I spent a fabulous summer.

I thought that The Yellow Pages was out of business. After all, they no longer deliver those familiar Yellow directories door-to-door. I discovered that, like every other business, the Yellow Pages have been re-invented. 

They are now primarily an online resource. They offer a number of services for business including website analysis and SEO. There is a great Yellow Pages blog. They work in tandem with Google and Facebook. That is why, as soon as I started dropping comments about The Yellow Pages, their site and web analysis tool began showing up in ads.  Hadi Cherfane of Yellow Pages / Pages Jaunes – Canada called me the day after I used their website analysis tool. He is the one who filled me in.  (They even have their own app.)

  • What can we learn from this experience? 
  • Is LinkedIn a glorified Yellow Pages?
  • Is that a bad thing? 

If it is making money for those who are willing to invest time in outreach, just like traditional B2B marketing perhaps it isn't.

Time will tell and the numbers will speak for themselves. One thing is certain,  many of us will have to modify our strategy from the expectation of inbound lead generation to outbound marketing. 


Anne Thornley-Brown, MBA, is the President of Executive Oasis International. She is a designer and facilitator for team building, executive retreats, and meetings. She has blogged for a number of portals including Plan Your Meetings by MPI, Cvent Blog, EventMobi Blog, Event Manager Blog, Elite Meetings, Meetings.net, and The Huffington Post.

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#7 I agree with you Patrick. I have devoted a lot of time and energy in social media No one is more disappointed than me that it didn't work out.

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Aleta Curry Dec 4, 2017 · #10

I totally agree with your take on B2B marketing and acquisition.

I do know one person who told me he got 7 or 8 new customers via LinkedIn, with a lot of hard work. That may not sound like much, but he's an auctioneer, so that's quite significant.

That's it from my personal acquaintances. One.

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Aleta Curry Dec 4, 2017 · #9

#1 Go, you!

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#7 So far, they haeven't paid off. That is why I significantly scaled back earlier this year.

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Patrick Duffek Dec 2, 2017 · #7

Anne, I'm hoping that your hours and hours on LinkedIn will pay off in the future, even with mere name recognition. I did spend plenty of time on social media marketing and pre-marketing my app, and am now planning a different strategy in some fashion.

Having been in the software / web development world for a few years now, I do see how that apps, software and platforms are ever-changing animals. They easily become something that was not envisioned. Ie. Facebook is not what it was several years ago.

Especially in the Silicon Valley, small businesses and B2B have been in the worst conditions, and many are now a dying breed. I see less and less small business people that I was acquainted with in the past. The event planning world has changed drastically. We can only hope that things will get better. It's horrible how LinkedIn has not really been a help in these cases.

I know myself. I am not one to do full-time work in a corporate setting. My parents were entrepreneurs. Long live small business!

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You're seeing what I am seeing Patrick. Other than blogging, I have received 1 piece of business from LinkedIn and 1 from a network called Ryze which pre-dated LinkedIn. The Ryze business was much more lucrative.

I am bombarded daily by suppliers pitching their wares at me. They email, phone and message me on every platform. Other than opportunities to blog which have been incredible, I really get no inbound requests from any social media channels. The outbound approach is the only way to go to get value out of LinkedIn and other social media problems.

I don't have a problem with that. As I asked "Does it matter?" No. Business is business. I just wish the "experts" had been honest instead of positioning LInkedIn and other channels as inbound lead generation platforms. That is not LinkedIn's fault but it has set us all up for unrealistic expectations and, ultimately, disappointment.

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Patrick Duffek Dec 1, 2017 · #5

I can't say good things and advantages of daily participation on LinkedIn these days. Having rubbed shoulders with Silicon Valley professionals and colleagues over several years here in my area, I haven't heard them excited about its use. The conversation in a biz development meeting this week with a few colleagues concluded that none of us actually profited by any connections ever on LinkedIn. One of my colleagues has several thousand connections. We were drawing parallels with Chamber of Commerce meetings, where non-relevant contacts badger you for life insurance, legal services, networking opps, etc etc etc for years after you meet them. I have experienced that myself over the years. I strongly believe in bringing in leads and prospects via marketing segmentation. The LinkedIn feed has no segmentation, and the de-emphasis on the Groups is depressing. Segmentation helps small business people focus their marketing efforts on the right kind of leads. We are not really helped at all if all of our "new LinkedIn connections" are factories in India and China, etc etc looking for contacts here.

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@Javier 🐝 beBee and @Juan Imaz and @Matt 🐝 Sweetwood LinkedIn has picked this post for its newsfeed.

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