When Becky Carlson, a head coach of a small town female rugby team, wrote a passionate article called “An Open Letter To The Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting” on her LinkedIn page, she couldn’t have known it would surpass Ban-Ki moon’s to be the best-performing LinkedIn post of the day.
It’s the extraordinary example that Jaime Pham, Content Marketing Evangelist at LinkedIn, used to illustrate the platform’s democracy at PR Fest 2016 at Edinburgh creative agency Whitespace last year. Carlson’s comments struck a note with her peers and also with journalists, Pham explained, because it wasn’t just a marketing exercise; it was from the heart.
It’s not just high-profile influencers like Adriana Huffington and Bill Gates that gain traction on LinkedIn – every professional and businesses can.
Acquired by Microsoft in a $20 billion plus deal last year, LinkedIn is the go-to professional networking tool for professionals with over 100 million active users worldwide and 500 million users overall. The platform was described at the time of the acquisition as "the connective tissue for enterprises" by leading venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.
Like its social media cousin Twitter, LinkedIn has become an integral part of corporate life – building connections, followers and networks as well as supporting business, sales and marketing strategies. But it would be a mistake to see it as a platform on which you merely need to be present or “net neutral”; instead, you need to engage and have the right content.
Like all social media platforms, LinkedIn needs to be underpinned by strategy and be fed by a combination of planned and reactive content, whether it’s a personal profile or an organisation’s. It has become a competitive advantage for businesses that do it well, investing the time and resources required and importantly, hitting the right tone.
LinkedIn isn't only a message board; increasingly it's a forum for on-going discussion and narratives and used to emphasis your brand values like Carlton’s impassioned plea for college athletes to take a less entitled attitude to college. Like more traditional media coverage, it helps to build an organisation's or professional’s story and becomes a key branding exercise; in many ways it has become the new press release.
We have been advising the Scottish Business Network on social media strategy at an important time for the networking group as it embarks on international expansion. While networking in person is imperative to any business, translating those skills to digital often involves a different approach to marketing. Social media is less dry than a corporate website, but you need to toe the line between alienating customers with whimsical humour and boring them with clichéd buzzwords.
Business LinkedIn profiles should not only feature news and achievements, but also position the brand as a position of authority in its industry. Op-eds, thought pieces and comments on trending news create variety and are of interest to the two new users who join LinkedIn every second.
Encouraging your employees to post and write articles on their personal LinkedIn pages is important, too. Combined, your employees have on average ten times the connections than your company has followers. And crucially, the posts about positive experiences in the workplace give your organisation social validation with the stamp of authenticity; content by individuals has twice the number of click-throughs as content shared by companies. The engagement rate is much higher because it is more meaningful on a personal level and reads less like a PR exercise.
It’s also a platform where you can directly and openly address concerns that your company has, like when US retailer Target wrote an article called “The Truth Hurts” on the back of its employees complaining to now defunct online blog news site Gawker about bad treatment in 2014. The transparency displayed won back naysayers; a sincere and brilliant crisis communications success.
Don’t be afraid to get personal – as long as it’s relevant to your brand. If corporate responsibility, for example, is important to your work, and you have an interesting story to tell then what are you waiting for? Just keep it PG and stay away from memes – keep that for Facebook.