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.
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