If you only view LinkedIn as the site where you keep your digital resume and virtual business card collection, you won’t see how it really can help grow your business, expand your content’s audience, and build valuable connections.
LinkedIn is the definitive professional publishing platform and one of the largest business publishers in the world, according to Todd Wheatland, Head of Content Strategy at King Content.
In his presentation at Content Marketing World 2014, Wheatland noted that LinkedIn is often cited as the No. 1 source for new business. He pointed to content marketing phenoms Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, and Lee Odden, all of whom have named LinkedIn as their top source for new business as they built their multi-million-dollar companies in the last five years. It’s not just for entrepreneurs either. Wheatland’s previous employer, Kelly Services Inc., also cites LinkedIn as the top generator for new business.
What’s in a LinkedIn Group?
By now, we’ve all learned that the vast majority of LinkedIn Groups offer disappointing experiences. They are not administered well and often become filled with self-promotion that doesn’t give thought to relevance or context. However, when used correctly, Groups can be a great opportunity for content marketers. “There is huge potential if you are willing to invest the resources and time,” Wheatland said.
His keys to a successful LinkedIn Group include consistent management, dismissal of self-promoters and irrelevant content, and use of the weekly email option to Group members. Take a look at some specific recommendations and examples he offered:
1. Get rid of the garbage content
Wheatland shared some of his experience with successfully working with Groups. For example, Kelly Services Inc. once created the LinkedIn Group, HR Manager, but very quickly, it started to abandon its oversight of the Group. “It was terrible,” Wheatland said, explaining how it became filled with posts on weight-loss solutions, entries that were shared multiple times by the same members, and even a member who shared seven posts in the course of one day. “If you have more posts than comments, it’s not a good sign,” Wheatland said.
Instead of shutting down the HR Manager Group, Kelly Services opted to spend 10 to 15 minutes a day moderating the cacophony of voices. If a post wasn’t on target with the professional interests of HR managers, it was killed, and the poster was removed from the group. Remaining members started to see that the group was being moderated and began to embrace it as a trusted resource for relevant information. Without any promotion, HR Manager soon grew to 55,000 members, with 500 or more members joining each week.
In addition, the HR Manager moderator continues to send a weekly email to members. “It’s an extremely powerful way to pull people back to your site or target,” Wheatland said. Notably from a content marketing perspective, these emails include links to Kelly Services’ content, as well as messages that encourage additional participation from Group members. The weekly HR Manager email also incorporates features like a Top 3 Posts of the Week list, and re-shares some of the questions posed in the Group to drive additional contributions to the discussion. The goal is to promote the insight of contributing members and encourage greater engagement within the Group environment.
2. Go off brand
Don’t be afraid to create a Group that might be a bit “off brand” for your business — as long as you identify it with a name that resonates with the interests of your targeted members. “It’s not about the company but about the audience,” Wheatland said. Be transparent, though, and make sure the connection to your company is readily apparent.
Kapost and HubSpot serve as good examples of how this can be a useful strategy. Kapost created Content Marketing Academy, which serves as a learning experience for content marketers looking for advice from their peers. The Group now has more than 14,000 members, while Kapost’s own company-focused LinkedIn page only has slightly more than 1,000 followers. Similarly, HubSpot manages the Inbound Marketers Group, which boasts more than 113,000 members, compared to HubSpot’s company page, which has 70,000-plus followers.
3. Showcase your brand benefits
Late in 2013, LinkedIn re-engineered its Company pages and debuted Showcase Pages, in part to improve the foundation for its fastest growing revenue stream — sponsored posts and content, according to Wheatland.
Nested under a Company page, users can create as few or as many Showcase Pages as they want, though LinkedIn recommends a maximum of 10. Just like a Company Page, users are encouraged to be “followers” of Showcase Pages.
Wheatland says these pages can be developed for diverse purposes — not just product promotion. While you can create a Showcase for a product, you also can create one for customer service, another for a customer industry interest, and several more for geographic-specific content. The potential topics are virtually limitless, though Wheatland recommends that companies use them to Showcase only those topics that help them meet their business and operational goals.
4. Get Connected to the LinkedIn app
One of Wheatland’s favorite components of LinkedIn is its Connected app, which can function as a personalized researcher, boss, assistant, and marketer. Connected delves into users’ LinkedIn profile and activity, and can be synced with their calendar and contacts. Its features can come in handy for marketers in a variety of ways.
For example, each weekday it creates a personalized list of “15 updates you can do to engage with your connections on LinkedIn.” How can this help your business? Consider this scenario:
You schedule a meeting with a new client prospect, Mary Smith at XYZ Company, for 2 p.m. Thursday.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, you receive an alert from Connected to view Mary’s profile. You show up at the meeting and ace the presentation because you were able to get background info on Mary that allowed you to tailor your discussion to her interests.
On Friday morning, Connected sends a message to alert you that Mary has a connection who works for one of your competitors. It encourages you to connect with Mary through LinkedIn to stay on her radar.
Connected also can send push-type messages and help you reach out to your connections with relevant messaging and content. For example, on weekends, Connected shares a special edition: “Five connections who were mentioned or shared content in the news over the past week.” Just click on “reach out” and you can then send a personalized message to compliment those connections on their news items.
Connected also can be synced with other apps. For example, Wheatland connected it to his TripIt app. Connected now knows when Wheatland is headed to Melbourne, Australia, and can suggest that he meet with a particular connection. Connected even pre-populates an outreach message, so that he would only need to click to send a request to meet up with his connection while he’s in town.
5. Don’t forget the tried and true
Your LinkedIn connections are valuable because they serve as more than just digital business networking tools. They are part of your LinkedIn algorithm, which can help you find new connections, valuable content, and more to help you in business.
By taking a few extra steps, you can add even more value to your LinkedIn experience. For example, at CMW, Wheatland described LinkedIn as “CRM lite,” advising users to take 20 seconds when they add a connection to detail what is known about the person or the relationship.
To do this, use the relationship tab for each connection. Detail how you met or know the person, and add notes and tags. Wheatland said adding keywords to the tag section better facilitates your ongoing relationships. For example, say you tag a connection with “supply chain.” Two months later, you read an interesting article that’s relevant to the supply chain industry. You can then search for all your connections that you’ve tagged with this keyword and LinkedIn will compile a clickable list you can use to select the ones you would like to share the article with — all without having to leave the LinkedIn environment.
Todd Wheatland’s practical tips helped Content Marketing World attendees improve their LinkedIn activity. Didn’t attend the presentation or couldn’t make it to Content Marketing World this year? You can still catch up on the biggest issues, ideas, and innovations in Content Marketing. Check out our Video on Demand portal for more info.
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