LinkedIn is a network that, as a marketer, you may feel a bit unsure about including in your social media mix. It may be one of the slower-to-grow platforms, but LinkedIn still stands as a powerful business-building tool unlike any other available. The focus of LinkedIn is to provide a purely professional tool for both companies and individuals. While most users join with the intent of building out their public resume and developing connections for a current or future position, LinkedIn does work to generate B2B leads, as well. The platform calls itself the "World's Largest Professional Network", and rightfully so. The service has grown its user base to more than 433 million, and is continuing to grow at a steady rate as each new academic year comes to a close (1).
One of the major advantages to LinkedIn over other social media networks is that it is a strictly business-based platform. The ability to post pictures and videos is more limited than other social outlets and the unwritten guidelines as to what should and shouldn't be posted are stricter as well. This means that users actively participate, connect with others and browse published content with the intentions of growing their professional network or learning more about a particular industry, rather than trying to merely entertain themselves or others. The platform has tried to instill a level of seriousness to establish itself as a valuable resource for users to do just that. LinkedIn allows for businesses to:
Build your professional image. LinkedIn provides business individuals and companies an outlet for personal branding.
Find partnership opportunities. With millions of professional registered on the platform, a powerful strategy can allow you can bring your business production in new directions.
Build your book of clients. LinkedIn tools allow you to spark and maintain relationships with thousands of potential clients and customers from around the globe.
A complete profile is the best approach to letting others know who you are as a company, what you have to offer and the audience you intend to reach. Before we dig any deeper into LinkedIn's value, let's discuss what your complete LinkedIn Business Page should contain.
Unlike many other social platforms, to even create a LinkedIn page to represent your company you will need a personal profile first. While a personal profile lets you tell your story and ultimately make more personal connections, a Company Page will allow you to tell your business's story. Features that allow you to do so include the ability to: showcase your products and services, raise awareness surrounding launches and special events and advertise open jobs within the organization (just to name a few). Use your personal profile as an employee (and promote others to, as well!), in addition to your Company Page to reap the full benefits of what LinkedIn has to offer.
Build your personal network
Once you've established a personal profile, you'll be ready to start connecting with other users and building out your network. It's important to note that "adding friends" on LinkedIn is approached much differently than it is on most other networks. How so? As a professional-networking site, it's important to be conscious of the users you're inviting or welcoming into your network. Connect with only users that you trust and value as a professional connection. Generally, this often means individuals that you have either worked with, classmates or family and friends that can speak on behalf of your professional abilities. You'll also want to be more cautious of the way you send invitations to connect. Don't look to just grow your numbers by through out generic invites. Personalize your invite and let individual users know why you're looking to connect with them, why you value them as a professional and how you may be able to mutually benefit one another.
LinkedIn Company Page profile components
Once you've created a personal profile, you'll have the ability to build out a Company Page. If you are a business, simply use your logo as your profile photo. This is yet another opportunity to create and build brand awareness, making your logo more easily recognized by clients. When it comes to your headline and description, this is the chance to truly pack a punch with your words. In the event that you had only a few sentences to speak to potential client and tell them what you stand for, what might you say? A typical error that companies often make is using a very powerful, yet generic statement. Your goal here is to ensure that your message makes you stand apart from others, making it impossible to be connected to any other organization. Other Company Page required components include: company type, company size, website URL, main company industry and company operating status. Your overall goal with your page is to provide just enough information to users to fulfill interest to do more research on their own.
Build your business
There are a variety of LinkedIn functions that you can take advantage of to build up your business through your Company Page. While LinkedIn is obviously a great tool to establish and build connections, you can also utilize the site to find suppliers, distributors, retailers, partners or any others who may be able to help streamline your operations. Looking to grow you business with new employees? Use LinkedIn yourself! In terms of recruitment, the site really puts the ball in your court. Unique features allow for companies to easily post jobs (that will be visible on your Company Page), search for prospects and check out references and testimonials. This can save you both time and money, all the while increasing your chances of securing the perfect match. In addition to posting open positions on your Company Page, use your personal profile (as well as encourage other employees to do the same) to reach out to both your network and those outside your network. This can be done through posting updates, contacting connections directly or utilizing LinkedIn Groups and the advanced search function. Companies can also pay to post open positions on the LinkedIn Jobs page. If you have the budget to do so, this is by far the most effective resource.
Join in on the conversation
Use both your personal profile and Company Page to share interesting information or stories related to your industry. If you have any of your own content, like a blog post for example, that's even better! Sharing it throughout the platform will get this content in front of an audience that has already shown an interest in you and/or your industry. LinkedIn is certainly the strictest platform in terms of what not to share, as we mentioned before. Keep it professional and avoid sharing content such as pictures of your kids, funny jokes, reality TV news, sports updates, etc. Leave this sort of stuff to your personal profiles on Facebook or Instagram. Sharing content across LinkedIn can be done through short posts or long-form publishing via your personal or Company page, as well as within LinkedIn Groups.
Utilize status updates and posts
Status updates or posts are one of the best ways to remain in front of your audience on a consistent basis. Whenever you share an update, your message will go out to all of your network connections if pushed through our personal page or to all of your followers if pushed through the Company Page. These updates are best for sharing short bits of content such as an announcement or a quick blurb and link to an outside blog or webpage, as you're limited to only 600 characters. When used correctly, these small messages have the potential to pack a big punch, however. Every single post that you share likely won't be relevant to every member of your audience, but you should certainly take the time to identify the needs and interests of the users you're attempting to reach. Posts should always include a suggestion to take action or something for the reader to interact with.
Utilize long-form publishing
The Publisher tool within LinkedIn used to be somewhat exclusive but is now open to all members. At this time, long-form posts can't be published through a Company Page, so this is a tool that will have to be used through your personal account. What Publisher does is allows users to voice their opinions and expertise to followers in a long-form format rather than via short, 600 character posts. Utilizing this tool will allow for you to get more in-depth with your thoughts and expand your network ever further, as these published posts are searchable both on and off the LinkedIn platform. Expect for your posts to be publically available and shared. There are a lot of features to be taken advantage of here, but before distributing content via long-form publishing, it's important to first define your purpose. What do you intend to get out of the piece? Who are you writing this piece for? Narrow your focus, pick relevant topics and always include a compelling cover image to accompany your post to grab attention.
Utilize LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn Groups is another feature that can only be accessed and use from your personal account, but can still be an effective tool to help promote yourself and your business. No matter the industry you're in, there LinkedIn Groups has something to offer you as a professional. LinkedIn Groups are essentially virtual meeting rooms that allow users with similar interests to converse and share information. Groups can open the door to new people, ideas, resources and more for you as a professional and your business. Groups serve as a platform to discuss industry trends, industry news, post job openings, ask for opinions and just generally share expertise. An appealing aspect of LinkedIn Groups is that they allow you to communicate with those you aren't personally connected to. Therefore, participating in a group discussion can help attract views to your both your personal profile and Company Page. Look under the Groups tab, as LinkedIn will provide suggestions for Groups that you may like, a Group directory as well as the option to start your own Group.
Utilize LinkedIn Ads
Everyone talks about how powerful Facebook ads are, but the LinkedIn ad platform can actually serve to be even more powerful considering the audience as a whole is largely made up of decision makers. LinkedIn ads are a great way for companies to increase brand awareness, amplify a brand message and generate new followers to turn into leads. Two types of ads can be created within the platform, which include sponsored updates and text ads. The main difference between the two types of ads is where they're displayed within the network. With Sponsored Updates you have the ability to direct users to your LinkedIn company page, a LinkedIn Showcase Page (basically an extension of your Company Page to further highlight a specific area of your brand or a product) or your website. With Text Ads, users can only be directed to outside the platform to your company website. Both types of LinkedIn ads can be purchased based on a cost per click (CPC) or cost per impression (CPM) transaction.
Encourage employee advocacy
Your employees are your best resources to start growing an audience, so get them on and using LinkedIn, too. Nowadays, every social media professional is talking about employee advocacy and the power it holds to build up the reputation and presence of a brand. What is employee advocacy? Employee advocacy can broadly be defined as the act of encouraging employees to utilize the connections they have on social platforms, to increase brand visibility. This is typically achieved by engaging both parties in a fun and/or value-adding activity. Employee advocacy can be super effective, as users are more likely to relate and connect with people similar to them, rather than an organization. As a social network for professionals, this can hold a particularly unique value on LinkedIn. Provide support and training to your employees if necessary, and considering establishing a reward system to encourage them to take action. The results of employee advocacy will almost always outweigh your investment.
LinkedIn as a business-marketing tool can provide a full range of benefits throughout various levels of an organization (think HR, PR, customer service and beyond). It's serves as a social media platform that doesn't have to be overthought, and, above all, will allow you to build company credibility, create meaningful connections and gain expertise from other established experts in the industry.