Can LinkedIn be an effective tool for local government marketing, as it is for other B2G (and B2B) marketing? The short answer is “yes.” But the more helpful answer is “YES, BUT . . . be aware of some unique limitations, and tactics for overcoming those.”
LinkedIn is arguably the most effective channel for B2B marketing:
- 500 million members & 61 million senior-level influencers
- Used by 97% of B2B content marketers
- 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook & Twitter.
It’s also well suited for marketing to the federal and state levels of government, where the vast majority of agencies and their employees have a strong LinkedIn presence.
But local government marketing presents unique challenges. To help assess the likely reach and effectiveness of LinkedIn for this purpose, we set out to understand the extent to which local governments – and their senior officials (the decision makers) – are using LinkedIn.
To estimate the use of LinkedIn by these governments and their senior officials, we analyzed a random sample of 520 decision makers from our database of 250,000 decision makers at 21,000 cities, counties, and towns/townships– forty from each of the senior official roles we track. We then searched LinkedIn to answer two questions:
- Do the government entities have a LinkedIn presence?
- Do the officials in each of the key roles have their profiles on LinkedIn?
Our findings – and sales and marketing implications – follow.
Local Government Entity Presence
Overall, we found that 38% of local government entities have an valid, actively managed LinkedIn presence. 35% had no presence at all, and 27% had a listing that was “automatically created” – and misclassified – by LinkedIn. (The city of Flat Rock Michigan, for example, is listed as a manufacturing company. LinkedIn creates such listings automatically when a member adds an unlisted organization to their profile.)
For comparison, we looked up 50 federal and 50 state agencies (selected at random) on LinkedIn, and found listings for 46 of 50 (92%) federal agencies and for 31 of 50 (62%) state agencies.
The likelihood of having a LinkedIn listing varies by type of entity, with counties most likely to have listings, and towns/townships/villages least likely.
The most powerful predictor of whether a local government has a LinkedIn listing is its population, with populations above 30,000 far more likely to be represented with an actively managed listing.
Local governments in the West are somewhat more likely to have LinkedIn listing than those in the Midwest and Northeast, which tend to have more and smaller local governments.
Presence of Local Government Decision Makers
We searched for the LinkedIn profiles for senior officials in different decision-maker roles: top elected official, top appointed executive, governing board members, and the department/function heads for IT, finance, purchasing, clerk’s office, public works, police, fire, buildings, communications, and HR.
As one might expect, senior-level local government officials are more diligent about getting their profiles on LinkedIn than the agencies that they work for. But unexpectedly, not by a huge amount. In our sample, 53% of officials had an active and discoverable profile, vs. 38% of local governments. Consider that result. Nearly half of local government decision-makers do NOT have a LinkedIn profile.
Senior officials working for county governments were most likely to be found on LinkedIn, followed by those working for cities and then towns/townships/villages.
Senior officials working for local governments with smaller populations were much less likely to have LinkedIn profiles that those at their larger counterparts.
While our sample size was too limited to draw definitive conclusions about the likelihood of LinkedIn presence across the roles we measured, we did find some statistically significant differences.
The roles most likely to have a presence on LinkedIn were the Top Appointed Executive (e.g. city managers) and the Head of Human Resources at 73% each. The former makes sense as this is generally a well-compensated position even for small governments. HR directors are likely to pay attention to LinkedIn due to the nature of their professions, which often involve connecting and networking with others. As a result, we believe LinkedIn outreach efforts to these two roles are particularly likely to be effective.
The least likely to be found on Linked In was the Top Elected Official (e.g. mayors). While at first blush this may come as a surprise, these positions are part time and unsalaried or lightly compensated for most local governments. As such, the roles may not have been added to the officials’ profiles. As a result, these officials are going to be harder to find on this platform than those in other roles.
For whatever reason, only about a third of Fire Chiefs had LinkedIn profiles. Other roles somewhat less likely to have discoverable profiles: The Heads of Finance and Police, and Governing Board Members (e.g. council members).
An Important Note about “Discoverability”
In looking for the LinkedIn profiles of these senior local government officials, we had a big advantage over most local government marketers – we knew the names and titles IN ADVANCE. (We have this information in our contacts database of more than 250,000 local government officials, which is information we gathered NOT online, but rather by placing phone calls to 21,000 agencies every six months.)
Here’s why that matters:
- The IT decision maker might have the title of “CIO” at one local government, “IT Director” at another and “Systems Administrator” at a third. If a marketer happens to search the right title, she’s much more likely to find the official’s LinkedIn profile than if she doesn’t. And while guessing right with three title possibilities might not seem too difficult, most local government decision-maker roles (such as the head of IT) have hundreds of titles, so the odds of a correct guess are not good.
- Knowing the name of an official significantly increases the odds of finding his or her profile, but for common names (e.g., “Steve Brown”) a search might produce hundreds of individual profiles to sift through, a daunting task.
To find officials’ profiles for our research, our search terms always included both the name of the local government entity PLUS the name and/or title of the official. And still, many searches we conducted yielded no profiles at all, or just a handful and none with the right entity and title, in which case we concluded the official’s profile was not on LinkedIn.
Most marketers, without the benefit of knowing names and titles in advance, would likely “discover” a far smaller percentage of these profiles.
We believe that LinkedIn marketing should be an integral part of sales and marketing programs to local governments. Many of the strengths that make it so powerful for B2B, federal, and state marketing – such as the ability to target by employer, job function, job tile, geography and interest areas – also apply to local government marketing.
At the same time, LinkedIn has some limitations for local government marketing. Unlike state and federal agencies, most local government entities do not maintain an active LinkedIn presence, and only about half of the senior officials do. Individuals representing entities of populations less than 10,000 are going to be especially hard to reach on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that these represent well over half of local governments in the US, and collectively spend tens of billions of dollars annually.
The bewildering array of possible titles for many important roles makes finding local government decision makers and prospecting for leads more difficult than it might be for other markets.
To overcome the gaps in LinkedIn presence, and difficulty of finding the right decision makers, consider supplementing your LinkedIn sales and marketing programs with:
- A contact database that provides names, tiles, roles, and contact information. Power Almanac provides the most comprehensive and accurate list in the industry. Leverage such a database with email, direct mail and telemarketing programs.
- Marketing programs that will reach those many local government decision makers who are not on LinkedIn, including email, government focused professional organizations (e.g., the NIPG: The Institute of Public Procurement) and market intelligence services (e.g., CJIS Group).