LinkedIn: Brands and the Rules of Engagement
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That’s the unanimous sentiment regarding social media as a communication tool – and as a marketing channel. LinkedIn launched publicly before Facebook (2003 and 2006, respectively), and in these past 15 years we’ve seen an evolution, and some might say a revolution. Social media has redefined how society interacts, even at the most basic level. Social interaction has been transformed by the 6-second soundbite and the meme. More and more families keep Instagram accounts instead of family photo albums. Newspaper subscriptions are vastly reduced, and more and more news outlets are required to become more creative in delivering stories digitally. What does this mean for brands? That’s a challenging question with a multi-faceted answer.
Where do we start?
Too often, social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are daily buzzwords, and while these independently offer a great voice for your brand, a brand’s social footprint needs thoughtful and customized messaging to effectively reach a target audience.
Careful crafting takes time, and each platform should have a message catered to its unique audience.
It’s not personal, it’s business.
To avoid confusion, ask yourself if you understand the fundamental difference between LinkedIn and channels like Facebook. LinkedIn, at its most basic level, is a professional matchmaker, linking individuals who wish to connect on a professional level. That statement conveys the critical nature of LinkedIn’s purpose – connecting professionals.
How can we use LinkedIn to help our brand?
The question should be, how can we not use LinkedIn to help our brand? Like most of the social platforms out there, LinkedIn has become a very popular channel for brands to effectively spread their message – either via paid advertising or through organic reach.
How can I maximize my reach?
LinkedIn offers brands the perfect platform to do what they do best – talk about themselves! LinkedIn users often visit simply to absorb information: what colleagues have made job changes lately, are various companies hiring, what is the latest technology employed by Fortune 500 companies that users need to keep their skills updated, or just to find the hiring manager for a position for which a user is applying.
This unique position translates into an audience that is actively seeking news from a brand. How a brand can use this to their advantage is simple: post content.
Content is King
Regular content posts make a brand appear active and engaged, and improve top-of-mind recall for their audience. The primary factor in considering a LinkedIn content post is the perceived value to the LinkedIn reader. Readers want content that will inform, educate, and offer support.
Tailored messages, not templates
Don’t generalize LinkedIn as a numbers game – use each content post as an opportunity to show interest in aiding your readers, creating the opportunity for readers to want more from your brand. Remember above, when we told you careful crafting takes time? In this case, time is money – and you’re trying to find the most cost-effective way to deliver a message to the widest audience possible but in the most efficient manner. Personalizing content creates an engaged connection between your brand and your reader. Don’t waste your reader’s time and they’ll feel valued, generating a connection – and, more importantly, a brand follower.
While you can certainly use programs like Hootsuite to organize your social content, don’t fall into the trap of oversimplifying and avoid the habit of duplicating content using a “copy-and-paste” process; heed the advice above regarding carefully catering a post message to your audience within a channel.
Comedy has a place – in a nightclub, on a stage, and delivered via microphone. LinkedIn content should be polished above all else, given the professional audience. Cleverly delivered content that reaches your audience can invoke wit – and even the occasional joke or pun – so long as you reinforce the position above, to inform, educate, and offer support for your readers.
The greatest of all sins on LinkedIn is the abuse of connections. Building relationships and nurturing connections on LinkedIn is the basic goal of the social medium. Is there value in an individual having 500+ connections? Yes, and it’s this same value that leads brands to want a larger follower base. There are individuals and brands that will try to expand their connection base to include their mother’s brother’s colleague’s sister’s best friend’s supervisor. Clearly, this connection isn’t a meaningful one – and LinkedIn knows this. Did you know that if too many attempted connections click “I do not know this person”, LinkedIn will restrict your account? Value is lost, credibility is damaged, and relationships are forever severed by careless actions like this.
Also, another no-no is collecting email addresses from your connection list to use in any way. Deliver content that informs, educates, and offers support to readers in content posts, and cultivate these connections organically to achieve your goals, and you’ll build a better brand reputation.
What does all this mean for my brand?
This is a great question! The good news is, there is no singular answer, giving you and your brand seemingly endless options to use LinkedIn as a viable social medium. Here are tips to help your brand find its footing on LinkedIn, build solid connections, and engage with your audience.
You already know that publishing content on LinkedIn to be shared in the content feed is an amazing resource – but did you know that this tool was once only available to a pool of “super influencers”? Organizations like Microsoft led this groundbreaking feature, and now brands have the opportunity to post content – positioned to inform, educate, and offer support – that reinforces engagement, as well as a brand’s value proposition.
People love to be heard! Engaging with your audience doesn’t end at achieving a like, a share, or a follow. When readers leave comments, respond! Did you know that when a LinkedIn user comments on a content post, that content is then visible to their entire 1st network? Imagine the power of your response when your brand is seen giving readers the respect of a direct response.
Including rich content in your delivery increases the value of the user experience. Offering a 2-minute (or less) video delivering content instead of in paragraphs of text offers much more than just information. Video offers far more flexibility as a marketing tool, and its versatility is limitless. Video is humanizing and is capable of conveying emotion and nuance in ways text literally cannot.
Every brand must absolutely represent itself throughout social media, but take great care. LinkedIn users surpassed the 500 million count in 2017. Thus, mistakes on LinkedIn can be costly, but if a brand follows LinkedIn’s protocol for use and guidelines detailed above for etiquette, the potential for brand growth is immeasurable.