LinkedIn is the premier business platform and a key platform for any B2B marketing strategy. There are over 225m registered members including 77m in the US and 50m in Europe. It is also a grown up network in that the average age of a user is 41, and 50% of members are business decision makers. In essence there may be less users on LinkedIn but they are potentially higher value customers, especially for B2B companies.
The particular nature of LinkedIn means it can deliver more B2B customers. For example, HubSpot undertook a study of their customer base and found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%, almost 3 times higher (277%) than both Twitter and Facebook. An earlier Hubspot research study found that more companies had acquired a customer through LinkedIn than other channels.
LinkedIn has recently acquired both Slideshare and Pulse. Slideshare is already a leading content platform and Pulse will help LinkedIn become a news aggregator enabling professionals to stay up to date. We will see the platform grow in terms of news and content updates. LinkedIn will increase viewing time from industry professionals as content grows and through its ability to provide specific industry insights and networking through its many groups.
I have been running the Elearning Professionals LinkedIn group for a couple of years now, which is a group of 7,000 plus professionals, and I set out below some practical ways you can improve your use of LinkedIn as a key platform in your marketing strategy.
1. Optimise your company page
The first and most obvious tip is to optimise your company page. I would suggest you involve someone from your team that is already active on LinkedIn and understands the platform well. I have learnt a lot from other members of our team who often reveal new insights. Visually you can use banners and videos to enhance your page and create a consistent brand image that fits with other platforms such as your website. The company page though is much more than this, the company page allows you to:
- build an audience of followers
- produce targeted status updates
- display slide presentation content
- promote your services and products
- create brand ambassadors from your employees
- customise your company page for specific audiences
Here are ten top tips from LinkedIn themselves on how to create a good company page on LinkedIn.
2. Join Groups
Where do your potential customers hang out? Research the groups where they are present and target the groups that are most likely to work for you. Whilst you may join many groups to keep abreast of industry news I would suggest you focus on being active in just a few groups where your customers are most likely to hang out. In these few groups actively contribute both by posting new content and commenting on existing content. I find it useful to share the latest reports and news, which I gather from my many news feeds. I find this is often appreciated by group members, especially if accompanied by a commentary. Most importantly try to be a helpful member of the group and respond to questions. This takes time so don’t spread yourself too thin.
3. Share content that adds value
As with all of your content marketing think about what will be of interest to your audience and what will add value. The key is to share all forms of interesting content and not just promote your own content. Before you share any content make sure it will be valuable to people in your industry. When you share third party content explain why you think it is interesting and why people should view it. When you share your own content, ensure it is unique and don’t just post the same content to multiple groups which quickly takes the appearance of spam. Share content regularly and vary your content such as pictures, videos and links.
4. Encourage your friends and colleagues to share and like content
One simple way to gain traction quickly with your content is encourage your friends and colleagues to share your content and to comment on it. In my experience people can be reluctant to be the first to comment in a discussion but once you have a discussion going it can be hard to stop people. So get friends and work colleagues to engage and share content to get your discussions started. Another way to engage your audience is to ask questions when you post content. A number of studies have found more interaction when the post starts with a question.
5. Listen and participate
What is particularly important is to listen and participate in the groups you have decide to focus on. This is essential if it is your own group, see next item, but it also important if you want to actively participate in other groups. Monitor posts, share and reply as appropriate.
6. Set up and manage your own Group
There are many benefits to setting up your own group as it can:
- help establish you as a thought leader in your industry
- enable you as moderator to develop a very focused group without the spam that can afflict many groups on LinkedIn
- highlight and showcase your own content as you wish
- be a more select group as you can control membership
- develop relationships through interactions
- potentially generate interest and enquiries about your services
I personally think it is very useful to set up your own LinkedIn group even if it starts very small. It might initially just be your friends and colleagues but this can be a useful forum for sharing and discussing issues relevant to your industry. It can also be a place to curate content and share useful content with your Group members. Once you feel you have enough useful content and discussion, invite your connections and others to join the Group.
When setting up a group think about:
- the group name – you have 48 characters for the title that will show up in searches for groups so target your keywords
- the group description – why will people want to join your group. The first 140 characters also tend to show in search results.
- pre-approving members – this takes time but is essential in building a quality group in my view. If profiles don’t have pictures or connections I generally don’t let them in. By screening members before they join your group you will encounter less moderation issues later. In my experience I also have second thoughts on letting in anyone with recruitment responsibilities role. I want people to share good content and contribute to discussions. I find recruitment people like to trawl your group for other reasons.
- group rules and moderation – even though you have clear rules such as no spam, advertising, jobs etc., people will still post. You can set moderation rules requiring posts to be approved but this does require very active management of your group.
- open or closed groups – this depends on how you want to use your group. Do you want to share news and have conversations you would rather competitors not see or be part of. People also like to feel special and you can create a more select group with a closed group.
- announcements – you can send one group announcement a week but do this sparingly for important items
- lead your group – you are the leader so take that responsibility. Post regular content, encourage discussions and comment on discussions. It is hard work and takes time but it is your responsibility
7. Ask for recommendations
It may seem obvious but make sure you ask people to recommend you or your company on LinkedIn. Recommendations are still one of the most powerful ways to establish credibility.
8. Use LinkedIn Services
I have found the LinkedIn sales solutions team a mine of useful information and advice. Yes, they will try to sell you various services but they will also explain them in detail and identify where you may be able to derive value. If you haven’t talked to them about how you can improve your performance on LinkedIn give them a call. There are many paid services from premium membership to ads. Many people use Google Ads but LinkedIn ads can be equally as effective as LinkedIn allows you to focus on people rather than keywords. You can decide the level of executive you want to target in the industries and sectors you are targeting, you can place an ad directly on their pages. It is much easier to be laser like with LinkedIn ads than Google ads.
9. Monitor your performance
As part of your LinkedIn strategy you should set yourself performance targets. This will give you a benchmark to assess how well you are doing and the return on your investment. The targets to monitor might include:
- number of followers of your company
- number of people joining your group
- how often your posts are shared
- the level of engagement through comments, discussions and polls
- number of click throughs to your website or landing pages from LinkedIn
- number of leads, track where your leads come from and be sure to have a lead category for LinkedIn in your CRM
- conversions achieved
Overall, it is difficult to overstate the importance of LinkedIn as a platform in your marketing strategy. Hopefully these thoughts will provide some assistance in improving your LinkedIn performance. I would be really keen to hear any additional suggestions you have.
By Steve Rayson