Getting the Most from LinkedIn
With over 131 million professional users and over 1 million groups, LinkedIn is the largest professional social network online currently. Statistics like these, along with the fact that LinkedIn is one of the big three, (Facebook and Twitter being the other two) mean online marketers and companies are ensuring their brands have a presence on three of the top networking sites. However, what marketers need to understand is that the reasons why people connect with brands on LinkedIn are not necessarily the same as why they would follow a brand on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter, for instance, are good for news regarding the latest deals and offers or casual brand-customer interaction; in the case of LinkedIn, brands' presences are mostly relegated to information about the latest jobs or recent recruitment campaigns, while the other activities are few and far-in-between. Many brands, in their enthusiasm to go 'social', jump on to the LinkedIn bandwagon and expect to see immediate results; however, just like other social networks, establishing a stronghold in the digital space requires some amount of effort, and visibility. According to a 2010 survey from Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Analytics, 47% companies with <2000 employees and 36% companies with +2000 employees have a LinkedIn presence. While, it's good to know that companies on an average have a profile on the professional networking site, we think it's time to take those necessary steps to make your brand stand out. After all, you wouldn't want prospective customers, clients and business partners wonder why your company's LinkedIn page resembles a social media ghost town, would you?
This brings us to the next question... if a brand is already rather popular on other social media channels, why is that important to be visible on LinkedIn?
- LinkedIn is a great tool to build your brand's online personality. This is especially true in case of B2B companies that want to 'get noticed' by clients and customers.
- HubSpot's 2011 State of Inbound Marketing report shows that 61% of B2B companies acquired customers through LinkedIn. Although B2C companies did not acquire as many customers as they did through Facebook (67%), 39% nevertheless, is a substantial count.
- LinkedIn is perfect for finding industry-related contacts, besides establishing and strengthening business relationships. However, for others in the industry to connect with your company, it is vital to be noticeable and show your contacts what your brand is all about.
- Customers may use Twitter to follow a company, but will turn to LinkedIn for specific, company related information such as international locations, organizational structure etc. This will greatly influence whether or not a client or a customer wants to connect with the company.
Hewlett Packard (HP) for instance, has a solid Facebook presence as well as an active Twitter account; yet, the company appears to have invested considerably towards creating a well-thought-out and highly visible LinkedIn page. Why is that? What the social media team at HP has done is very wisely created distinct social media pages for different audiences. Those looking for general updates and contests have the option of either following their Twitter or Facebook account. However, in order to stand-out in an otherwise crowded digital space, HP has smartly designed its LinkedIn page to include all the information that will interest potential clients, business partners and investors.
Although companies looking to improve their visibility on LinkedIn have much to learn from the likes of HP and Dell, getting the right kind of attention on LinkedIn is all about getting the basics right.
- First Impressions Matter
A complete, up-to-date and well-designed overview page on LinkedIn is crucial for making that important first-impression. This is particularly true in the case of new visitors. Given the significance of first-impressions, the information that brands choose to present their visitors with should not only be well-designed and organized, but must also feature all company-related news and basic information about the brand. It is simple enough to create an overview page for a brand by including what we call the 'essentials'; however, in order to create an overview page that distinguishes your brand and improves visibility, here's what we suggest:
- Including the Company Logo:
This is especially necessary for SMBs. On checking out Coca-Cola's and Nike's LinkedIn page, the first thing that catches the visitor's eye is the prominent company logo that is featured in more than one place. In fact, as we scroll down the Coca-Cola page, the creative use of the logo at regular intervals creates a positive first impression. While including as many logos may not always be possible for smaller companies, we suggest featuring it at least in one place. How does this impact visibility? Imagine an instance when a prospective client or customer is presented either with a blank space where the picture should be or is greeted with a picture of the CEO instead of the company logo. This will a) discourage time-strapped visitors from exploring further and b) not attract those highly important business connections and contacts.
- The Impact of Recommendations:
What could be better than placing your brand in the limelight than by having satisfied customers recommend your products and services? Many companies refrain from asking their customers for recommendations; this, in our opinion, is a missed opportunity. There are lots of instances where recommendations have helped companies expand their reach and get more business. Word-of-mouth referrals from happy clients published on the Products & Services page will be broadcasted to their entire LinkedIn network, thereby increasing your brand's credibility and making you look good. Take a look at Microsoft's Products page to see how recommendations can positively impact a brands image in the industry circles.
- Including the Company Logo:
- It's All About Timing & Content
It is not uncommon to be presented with outdated content and infrequent updates when browsing through a company's LinkedIn page. What social media marketers need to keep in mind when creating a LinkedIn account is that, this site functions as more than a place to find prospective employees. Although the basic information and company details are available, after the initial enthusiasm fizzles out, the news feeds and updates are fewer than before, or, in some cases, absent. In our opinion, besides affecting brands' visibility, an inactive LinkedIn account also decreases the chances of connecting with the target market. How can timely updates and relevant content make brands stand out?
- Getting Busy:
While social media is a 24/7 space, it is no secret that each networking channel witnesses a spike in activity during specific days or certain hours. Just as Facebook and Twitter are abuzz with conversations and updates towards the tail-end of the week (also on weekends) LinkedIn being a professional networking channel, is busy during business hours. For online marketers and brands looking for some recognition, the simple solution is to update their LinkedIn page(s) during business hours when their customers and business associates are most likely to be active. That said, just as important it is to get the timing right, it is equally crucial to spread out your company status updates through the day. Here's what we suggest; instead of posting all updates the moment you get on to LinkedIn, spread them over a couple of hours. This not only helps visitors assimilate the information given out in small, easy-to-understand parts, but also keeps your brand's page from going into a 'snooze' mode after initial spurts of activity.
- Content Makes All the Difference:
When it comes to creating content for a company's LinkedIn page, there are two things that online marketers need to keep in mind; a) LinkedIn followers have different expectations from a brand when compared to Facebook or Twitter audiences and b) The nature of content posted and the tonality on Facebook and Twitter can be casual and informal, while it is crucial to keep it crisp, precise and professional on LinkedIn. This is predominantly true in case of B2B companies. B2B marketers, for obvious reasons, prioritize LinkedIn over other networking channels; this makes it all the more necessary for them to carefully plan their content and keep in mind the fact that they are targeting industry-specific audiences. Precise and professional content doesn't mean it should be dull; it just means leaving out the fluff, including information that is meaningful to target audiences and featuring content that adds value to the business. The IBM LinkedIn page, for instance, features content that is regularly updated, precise and significant to the company's target audience. In order to be visible and gain that much-needed edge over competitors, we recommend getting the content right...it makes all the difference.
- No Auto Updates Please:
If improving visibility on LinkedIn is your aim, then it would be wise to stay away from automated updates. Auto updates and messages may be a tempting option for time-strapped marketers, but contribute little towards a improving a brand's visibility. Too many auto updates give out the impression that a) your social media team is too busy to post relevant, informative content b) your company has nothing much to say to its clients and customers and c) you are more concerned with posting your messages without giving much thought about who is actually reading them. Our advice? Don't overwhelm your LinkedIn followers with too many auto updates...this may annoy them and will give them a good reason to check out what the competition is doing.
- Getting Busy:
- Joining Groups
According to a poll conducted by Steve Tylock, author of 'The Revised LinkedIn Personal Trainer', nearly one-third of the people surveyed were part of anywhere between to 26-50 groups on LinkedIn. Tylock further added that if groups didn't work, then people wouldn't spend so much time on it. What does this mean for brands and how does this impact visibility? For online marketers, the fact that people are willing to join various groups on LinkedIn is definitely good news. People joining industry-specific groups will not only respond to marketing messages that are precisely designed keeping their interests in mind, but will also contribute towards strengthening business relationships by engaging with the brand. Sites like LinkedIn are great for keeping your brand alive in minds of people who are interested in what your company does; therefore creating and joining groups is the perfect answer for brands looking to get 'noticed' in the right circles and building truly influential relationships online. Let us look at how belonging to industry-specific LinkedIn communities improves visibility and what are the things brands need to keep in mind:
- Starting Small:
Although groups are a great way to remain visible in your target markets, being a part of one too many can make it unmanageable. When it comes to LinkedIn groups, it is not so much about 'how many do I join' as much as it is about 'how can I add value to the groups I belong to'. Here's what we suggest; start small, evaluate groups that are relevant to your business and target market, gradually build up, and then trim it down depending on the value of conversations and information exchanged.
- Promoting your Group(s):
Online marketers sometimes create groups, only to abandon them after the initial excitement fizzles out. For brands looking to gain visibility, this isn't exactly the best approach. Creating a group is only the first step. The next, and the most crucial step, involves promoting it. After all, how would prospective customers, clients and business contacts learn about your industry and join the relevant groups if you don't promote them online?
- What's in a Name?
Though selecting a relevant name for a group is simple enough, many marketers don't give it as much thought as they ideally should. In order to be easily found by the people interested in your brand or industry, the name of your group should feature all the relevant keywords. Let's take the fashion industry and an example. By including 'fashion & lifestyle' as keywords while naming your group, the probability of your group showing up in the top five places on LinkedIn search is more likely.
- Following Other Groups: Brands need to keep in mind that it is not simply enough to create their own groups and participate in discussions. As an online marketer with an active LinkedIn presence, joining other groups that are similar to your industry is a good way to keep track of what your competition is doing. Additionally, monitoring your competitor's presence on the professional networking channel will help you analyze how you could improve your own page and make it stand out.
- Starting Small:
The growing use of LinkedIn, by both B2B as well as B2C companies, is an indication that the networking site is much more than a horde of resumes. This professional networking treasure chest presents brands with innumerable opportunities to strengthen business relationships, meet others in their industry, and add value to their target markets. Brands, however, sometimes expect to achieve all of this by simply creating a LinkedIn page and waiting for the leads to follow or business contacts to approach them. Although LinkedIn's professionally focused environment offers endless opportunities to marketers, in order see results, it is crucial to be visible in the industry circles in the first place. Also, the fact that 36.5 million people visit LinkedIn every month and LinkedIn results appear in search, is all the more reason why companies should ramp up their efforts to be visible. When compared to other social networks, marketing on LinkedIn may not appear as inviting, but offers innumerable advantages, especially for B2B marketers. Getting your business noticed in a competitive and crowded digital space starts with something as simple as connecting with the right people to something that requires a little more time and effort like creating compelling content and timing your LinkedIn activities.
While improving brands' visibility on LinkedIn is simply a matter of getting the basics right, many companies are yet to exploit its full potential. As discussed, by asking for recommendations and joining industry-specific groups, online marketers can do wonders to their brand's image. This, along with a solid promotional strategy and a well-designed and visible company logo, is the recipe of LinkedIn marketing success.