LinkedIn is the world's number one social network for establishing professional connections between both businesses and individuals. As with any other social network, LinkedIn facilitates content sharing and publication, but with a more professionally oriented approach. As a platform for social media marketing (SMM), LinkedIn's main potential concerns its power to connect businesses together in business-to-business (B2B) marketing or connect businesses with the general public whether to exchange ideas, cultivate authority or seek out new employees. Although LinkedIn is not a suitable platform for every type of business to include in their SMM strategies, it serves as an invaluable resource for others, particularly those in B2B industries. This guide takes a look at the inner workings of the LinkedIn platform to see if it is suitable for your business before guiding you through the best practices for using it as a marketing resource. For more detailed information on Linked in for businesses this book by Social Media expert Lissa Duty is a great resource: Your LinkedIn Professional Network
LinkedIn was launched to the general public in May, 2003, making it almost a year older than Facebook. While that social networking giant still dominates in terms of numbers with over 1.2 billion active user accounts, LinkedIn has around 300 million user accounts. However, LinkedIn is not like the other major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Whereas these social networks are popular among individuals and for personal interaction as well as tools for online marketing, LinkedIn is primarily a professional networking site.
LinkedIn is available in twenty languages, and it is used in around 200 countries and regions around the world. Being the professional-orientated network that it is, by far the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn includes graduates, and the site accepts an average of two new registrations every second. In addition, around 3 million companies have established LinkedIn company pages for marketing their businesses and reaching out to other businesses, individuals and potential job applicants. The network's popularity is also growing rapidly on the small screen as well, with over a third of its unique visitors coming from mobile apps.
How People and Businesses Use LinkedIn
Individuals use LinkedIn to create professional profiles rather like online CVs. They use these profiles to detail their professional experiences, including job experience, education and any other relevant information. At the same time, people can use their profiles to get in contact with previous professional connections as well as potential ones, such as employers, employees or potential leads (particularly in B2B marketing). For these reasons, LinkedIn is one of the most popular online platforms for people seeking jobs, particularly those in professional spheres.
Companies use LinkedIn both for marketing and recruitment. Being an online job advertising board as well as a virtual water cooler, the platform is ideal for building authority and exposure for many businesses as well as exchanging professional ideas. LinkedIn provides its company pages feature for businesses and organizations to create profiles for their businesses for a different kind of audience to those expected on Facebook and other major social networks. Where LinkedIn is strongest is establishing professional connections between businesses in B2B marketing.
For both companies and individuals, LinkedIn provides groups for specific professional interests, facilitating job recruitment and other professional connections.
How LinkedIn Can Help Your SMM Campaign
Although any business, regardless of its size and industry, can use LinkedIn for its recruiting efforts, businesses in certain industries will also find it to be an invaluable tool to include in their social marketing strategies. The various social activities which you can conduct using the platform for the benefit of your business include the following:
- LinkedIn is by far the most popular online platform for establishing B2B marketing leads, and any industry which is concerned in generating leads from other businesses can expect to see around three times the conversion rates from using this platform than they can with Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Of course, your levels of success will vary depending on a number of factors, but some sure-fire ways to increase your chances include keeping your company page up-to-date, promoting relevant products and services regularly and seeking professional recommendations for them.
- As a professional platform, LinkedIn is one of the most valuable resources for building up brand authority through thought leadership. In the highly competitive online world, building trust among your professional connections is key to building trust with your current and prospective consumers as well. The platform provides an invaluable set of features which help brands to provide important updates, share news about their companies' performance, achievements and new products and services as well as establish a more professional side to their businesses' online presence.
- Businesses can use LinkedIn for positive engagement to reach out to potential customers including both businesses and individuals. Just like any other social network, it allows brands to engage their customers directly and build relationships based on these interactions. Customer engagement via LinkedIn can also be personalized, as with any other social network albeit with a more professional tone and approach. However, as is the case with any SMM platform, LinkedIn is not a place for blatant self-promotion and one-sided conversation.
Where LinkedIn really wins over the other social networks is that it offers business value due to the fact that it is based on the professional interests of both businesses and individuals. These characteristics make it the obvious go-to place for sharing important news and information about your brand in order to raise awareness, drive more traffic to your website and increase conversions. However, while LinkedIn does serve a more specific and unique purpose, this is not to say that the other social networks shouldn't also form a major part of your SMM strategy.
Best Practices for Success with LinkedIn
For the most part, all of the best practices which apply to SMM using any other social network also apply to LinkedIn albeit with a more professional and business-orientated approach. As is the case with any social network, marketing on LinkedIn means becoming part of a conversation and engaging your intended audience in the process. As is often the case with SMM, it is easy to convey an insincere approach by way of using blatant promotion and sales pitches, and this is not what social media marketing is all about. In order to succeed, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the general tips and guidelines for good social media etiquette by paying close attention to social stimuli and current trends. The following details the best practices for using LinkedIn as a marketing platform:
- The first thing to do is set up your company page. Ensure that your company page and profile are complete, and keep all of the details up-to-date and consistent with your other online profiles at all times. Keeping your content up-to-date is essential for keeping your LinkedIn profile alive and conveying a professional image. Updates will also be displayed in the newsfeeds of your followers. You should also provide regular news updates on important company-related events, achievements, changes and product or service launches.
- Keep a close eye on any responses to your posts, customer and business reviews and any questions which your followers may have. Social media is just as much about responding and answering questions as it is about posting. Be sure to address concerns and complaints and thank people for leaving positive feedback. In doing so, be transparent so that you can build up trust and authority in the eyes of your audience.
- Follow your competitors' profiles on LinkedIn to see what they are doing. As a professionally orientated network, LinkedIn can provide invaluable insights by way of competitive intelligence while opening up a wealth of new B2B leads and marketing possibilities.
- Follow up potential leads in a personal rather than promotional manner. If you find someone on LinkedIn who you believe may be a promising lead, do not think of that individual as someone you are trying to sell something to. Instead, personalize the way in which you contact them by addressing them directly and telling them what you have to offer and how you may be able to help them. Using personalized greetings rather than generic ones will greatly increase your chances of generating leads.
- Use recommendations wisely, and do not go about soliciting them en-masse from people who you have not already established a high degree of trust with through two-way conversation. Recommendations are basically comments written by members to commend a business, professional partner, colleague or student. Genuine recommendations come from those who value your business and what it has to offer, not those which are obtained in a pushy manner.
- Be wary of the type of content you share. The content you share on LinkedIn reflects your professional reputation far more than it does on other social network.
Once you have set up your LinkedIn company page and started gathering followers and getting involved in the community that you have established for yourself, you should start seeing results fairly quickly. However, from the very beginning, be sure to track your performance to determine which factors are driving you forward and which ones are holding you back.