LinkedIn Data Append: The Critical Need for Innovation and Disruption

LinkedIn is massively scaling its reach and engagement to power the social and identity layers of Microsoft’s ecosystem of over one billion customers

 Marketers today are flooded with data. Gleaned through form-fills on their own landing pages, bought from third-party vendors, or scraped from various web platforms, they have found a way of targeting prospects with personalized messages. With so much of data floating around, where they really need expert help is to make meaning out of those data. In short, they need Data Intelligence. And there lies some real money for data vendors and appending businesses.

Started off in around the early 90s, data sale has evolved a lot from paper, through spreadsheets, to IT-enabled extraction, listing, validation, and verification. However, we do not see much of innovation happening in the recent decades, in alignment with the technological advancement in most other segments. Currently, data companies serve lists segmented by industry, geography, demographics, etc.

How About the Psychographics?

In this age when data mining and extraction technologies are apace, why do data companies fail to make the best use of them? There isn’t a need to completely reinvent the cycle. There are a lot of tools already around in both open source and proprietary domains. Data companies need the agility to weave smart tools out of them and intelligently deploy them to extract the right insights.

Here we are looking at the potentials of using LinkedIn Data Append for effective psychographic targeting and personalization of marketing messages. I cannot emphasize enough the value of LinkedIn data for marketers, especially for those in the B2B segment.

How to Decode Big Data?

We all know the power of Big Data. We experience it in multiple ways in our daily lives. The semantic web and social media data extraction technologies open up huge potential to make more sense out of LinkedIn profiles. Analyze the profile, segment the people accordingly. Give insights about their role in making or influencing purchase decisions within their company. Give insights about their reading habits, behavioral patterns, hobbies, activities, likes, and dislikes… More insights help better personalization.

Here is an illustrative sample. In the table below, I’m listing some of the sections on a LinkedIn profile, and mapping it to the kind of data that can be extracted, and how it can be made useful to the marketer. I hope data appending geeks and savvy marketers will think over, innovate and help the industry leap forward.

  1. Look at the Dashboard

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A quick look at the Dashboard section on a LinkedIn Profile furnishes information like the name of the current company, exact geographical location, and the professional designation, which gives a basic idea and helps in demographically segmenting them.

    2. Understand the Experiences

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Further, into the profile, you can view a person’s current and past professional experience and understand their skill set and capabilities in detail along with the various roles played throughout their professional career.

3.Recommendations & Endorsements Make the Difference

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Next, on the profile come the Recommendation and Endorsement sections.  Here, you can see all the recommendations that one has received on his profile. These recommendations, which are displayed on the profile, show the name of the person who has recommended, their professional designation, and in what capacity did they work with each other. Similarly, the recommendations one has given to other LinkedIn users are also visible on his LinkedIn profile. While these recommendations are more in the form of written testimony, there’s also something called Endorsement on a profile where a user can endorse another user for a particular skill set with just one click. The endorsements section shows the number of endorsements and the skill set for which the LinkedIn user has been endorsed.  The next section on the profile talks about one’s Accomplishments. Here, you can find all the awards, recognitions, publications, etc. that he might have acquired in the course of his career.

Analyzing the aforementioned sections can throw light on an individual’s area of expertise, the kind of power a person has in making or influencing decisions within the company, and the respect he commands among the industry cohort. And by presenting these sections on a scale of 1 to 10 for each person, marketers will find it immensely helpful to target the decision makers.

4. Observe Their Education and Languages

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The LinkedIn profile also highlights one’s Education which gives valuable insights into one’s field of studies and the various schools, colleges, and universities that one has attended. With this information, marketers can target the subjects that are of interest to the user, and it also helps them target alumni influences.

It must also be noted how the Languages section on a LinkedIn profile can help marketers to create content that weaves cultural, linguistic and folklore nuances specific to that language and community, giving them a deeper personal connect.

5. Sieve Through Articles & Activity

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A LinkedIn profile can be rightly called the absolute profile of an individual for it explicitly shows the user’s Interests and the Groups, Companies, and People he is Following on LinkedIn. By looking into the LinkedIn Groups he is part of, it can be determined whether he’s actively involved in discussions and what are the kinds or topics of discussions that interest him. Further, the Articles & Activity section on the profile, which shows an individual’s LinkedIn activity e.g. shares, likes, articles, perspectives, etc., gives insights to the interest areas, thoughts, behavioral patterns, decision-making habits and preferences of the individual. Hence, such data becomes crucial to marketers.

Mining deeper into the profiles and giving smarter recommendations will increase the value of the data provider. That will ease the job and ensure better ROMI (return on marketing investment) for the marketer.  The improvement and excitement your customer’s experience will keep them loyal to you for more data in the coming years!

There are smart and simple hacks like browser extensions that allow extracting public data indexed and stored by search engines. Such data is then appended to existing databases or enriched with data from other sources. LinkedIn APIs, as well as third party tools, comes handy for such enrichment of data. Make sure that your game of innovation stays within the limits of ethical business so that you are not served ‘cease and desist’ notices and end up paying penalties.

How an Acquisition is Changing the Game

In June 2016 LinkedIn [NYSE: LNKD] was acquired by Microsoft [NASDAQ: MSFT]. LinkedIn has more than 433 million members worldwide, among them 105 million unique visiting members per month. With the acquisition, they are thinking of “massively scaling the reach and engagement of LinkedIn by using the network to power the social and identity layers of Microsoft’s ecosystem of over one billion customers”.

So now, LinkedIn has a massive user base of about 1.5 billion professionals. Or, soon it will have. What does that mean to the marketer? What does that mean to the data appending businesses that make the marketers’ job easier?

As targetmarketingmag puts it, Outlook and LinkedIn users may no longer have to toggle between platforms; rather their Outlook meeting reminders can inform about the other participants’ titles, job responsibilities and whether they have common interests such as following the same influencers.

Unleash the Power of LinkedIn

All the members of LinkedIn have shared their Email addresses are not just for email marketing – 2 other ways you can use it with the platform. Most of them divulge a lot more of information about themselves—education, career history, etc. They share updates that reveal their perspectives and reading/browsing habits. They write articles that talk a lot about their likes, dislikes, ways of doing business, challenges they encounter, their professional relations, pieces of advice given and taken, and a lot more.

The members become part of groups that discuss topics of common professional interest and support each other. They give recommendations—to colleagues, business partners, and vendors; and take recommendations from them too. All of these talk volumes about these people.

So, how can a marketer make use of such information? The short answer is, by getting the right insights in their database.

How?

By appending LinkdedIn data into the database.

Who does that?

A professional data appending company.

So, how do data appending companies help marketers? In the current manner of data appending, they add the URL to the LinkedIn profiles of each contact.

Now, email marketers can customize their messages based on the LinkedIn profile; LinkedIn marketers can directly address targeted people through InMails. Many market studies vouch that InMails have much higher response rates than most other direct marketing approaches. So, this data append is a clear win for the marketer.

Is it? Really?

Yes, it is. I do agree. That helps the marketer to reach out to targeted people on an authentic platform which assures higher response rates. But my concern is about quite a few lost opportunities.

What Can Smart Appending Do?

The current mode of social media appending involves lost opportunities to marketers as well as data sellers. To data sellers, because they miss the opportunity to stand out for the quality of service they CAN provide. Data appending should be able to give smarter solutions. Consider the profusion of deeper insights that data mining can provide. Segment the accounts based on key insights that help to make more focused targeting.

To marketers, because addressing the huge database by manually verifying each profile is time-and-resource–intensive; and addressing randomly without any verification is like a wild-goose chase.

For email marketers who blast emails to thousands of contacts at one go, those LinkedIn URLs doesn’t add any practical value. For, how do they open each profile, understand the personality and create a personalized mail for each individual? Humanly impossible.

For LinkedIn marketers, it adds some value. Like we saw above, they can target these individuals on InMail. But they suffer huge losses due to untapped potentials.

  • Many of those accounts will be dormant
  • Many will be active occasionally only
  • Many of them won’t have the right decision-making powers
  • Many of them won’t be interested in the offer being made

Consider this against the fact that LinkedIn allows the marketer to send only 50 Sponsored InMails a day. See how much of their efforts go unseen and wasted because segmentation and insights are missing! While response rate is high on LinkedIn, so is the cost too.

Consider how much of money, effort and time is wasted on targeting inactive and irrelevant accounts.

Consider how much more effective targeting they can do if you can group together the accounts that are most active, those with the most decision-making powers. You, of course, can classify them based on their experience levels, interest areas, skill sets, languages were spoken, subjects studied, organizations, where they worked and, studied, LinkedIn groups they have joined, and people and companies they follow.

Looking forward to disruptive innovations in the field of data appending. Happy appending, happy marketing.

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