LinkedIn can count on a smaller user base compared to Facebook and Twitter, but the numbers are still relevant for bloggers and social media managers, especially if the niche or industry is B2B. According to Statista, LinkedIn boasted 450 million users in the 2nd quarter of 2016, and the platform is growing.
Besides the numbers, though, it's the community that counts. LinkedIn is more than an online resume and the wealth of user groups, messaging features and the Pulse publishing platform make it a great marketing opportunity.
Building traction to your content
As Sean Martin, content marketing manager at Directive Consulting, states:
LinkedIn is a great platform to promote your different pieces of content to a relevant audience. It's also great for advertising your services because of its ability to target interests, demographics, and job categories.
You want to make the most out of LinkedIn's targeting capabilities, as well as optimize your ads to generate the type of traffic you're looking for.
This is by itself a good motivator to give LinkedIn a try, but Oren Greenberg, digital marketer and managing director at Kurve.co.uk, adds a bit more context. He observes that “[after] all the test campaigns run by us and other digital agencies, the results are pretty much the same across the board – LinkedIn drives the most B2B sales and LinkedIn leads have a higher conversion rate.”
Also, according to Greenberg, LinkedIn performed better and gave good results when compared with Medium and Blogging (unless you already have an audience on these platforms), because LinkedIn “instantly notifies your network and, if your article is share-worthy, you will see your invites grow and [even] shares on other channels.”
The 10 essential marketing rules in this post will help you make the most out of LinkedIn in three areas:
- Build and establish a presence on the platform
- Boost traffic and engagement
- Promote and boost sales and networking opportunities
1. Put Relationships First
The basics work on LinkedIn like they do on every other social media platform – you have to spend time on LinkedIn to build a presence. And, you have to nurture connections to eventually build a network around your name and business.
I wrote a social media marketing basics guide in 2014 that you may want to read to get started, and I suggest that you also look at KeriLynn's post on 6 ways marketing is just like dating.
To be specific:
- Focus on building relationships before trying to generate traffic via promotion
- Engage with others on their content before sharing yours
- Use your expertise to help wherever you see a need
A note of caution: the fact that LinkedIn was created for professional relationships does not authorize users to think of the platform as a spamming board, and unfortunately LinkedIn still doesn't seem to have a strong policy against shady practices.
So, make a great LinkedIn experience start with you, and be very selective of the contacts you request or accept.
“Position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.”
Alayna Frankenberry, manager of content strategy for BlueSky ETO, suggests four ways that you can build a successful LinkedIn presence and make a name for yourself as one of the go-to persons in your niche or industry:
1. “Build your own presence before your client's.
It's a lot easier to get people to listen to an industry expert than it is to get them to engage with a faceless corporate account,” Frankenberry explains. “If you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, other leaders and decision makers will notice – and they'll be much more likely to check out your company, clients and posts.”
Frankenberry adds that you should still share posts and regularly update your brand's account, but that you shouldn't neglect your own profile in the process.
2. “Get active in the morning.
Schedule 20 minutes every day to check out your personal LinkedIn notifications and interact with the posts on your feed. See what's happening in your communities and visit a few profiles from others who work in your industry.” Frankenberry assures this is a small time investment, but the habit will “pay off in the long run as you build and maintain a strong presence on LinkedIn.”
3. “Be generous.”
Frankenberry encourages you to “endorse your colleagues in the skills where they're proficient,” and to “write recommendations for your employees, clients and managers, without being asked. This won't just earn you some of the same props,” but it will also improve your LinkedIn presence and “lead to more visits to your profile and clicks on your posts.”
4. “Give people what they want.
Most people are using LinkedIn because they care about things like professional development and business growth. Share posts that provide solutions to common business issues and give actionable advice on how to achieve goals.” Frankenberry reminds you to “focus on solutions instead of self-promotion,” so you'll see users “coming back again and again to interact with you and share your posts.”
2. Use Messages/Chat to Network and Promote
Use the integrated chat and messaging system LinkedIn provides to build a personal rapport with your connections before venturing out to contact other people in your niche (via InMail if you are a Premium user, or via the person's email displayed on their LinkedIn profile under the Contacts tab).
Messaging (and chatting, since it was integrated in 2015) immediately after creating a connection – and showing a genuine interest in them and what they do – can also help create a first rapport and trigger immediate trust.
It's crucial to not send any spammy-looking messages in this first, delicate phase. Concentrate on the human factor:
- Comment on anything you found interesting from the connection's profile.
- Ask questions about their latest project.
- Get them talking.
A chance for promoting your own work will come naturally as the other person develops an interest in you.
Carole Lieberman, M.D, highlights the importance of creating a relationship over sending out a promotional message and the risk you run by ignoring the human factor:
When you [ask] to connect with someone, do not do it if your sole purpose is to try to exploit their connections to promote something. When someone does this to me, I unlink with them.
LinkedIn is indeed much more than a platform where professionals and companies trade interests. It's a place to build relationships, which will eventually turn into good opportunities for both parties.
Eric Brantner, founder of Scribblrs.com, advises to not underestimate the effectiveness of LinkedIn's own premium messaging tool (InMail), especially with blogger and influencer outreach.
The key is to make sure you have a concise, well-crafted pitch. You also need to ensure that your target is the right audience for your pitch.
I think InMail can actually have higher response rates than cold emailing, as blogger's email boxes are so often filled with spam. Going out of your way to hunt down a LinkedIn profile and send an email may be looked at as going the extra mile.
Also read Dan Virgillito's 4 Ways to Generate Leads with a Premium LinkedIn Profile for more tips and context.
3. Publish on LinkedIn Pulse
LinkedIn's own publishing platform (Pulse) can help you build your authority if you put out content that your network wants (and needs) to see.
As an example, see what copywriter and business owner Ed Gandia did in the post below:
Gandia used the platform to promote his blog, of course, but he did so by publishing quality posts that address his target audience's pain points.
So, you see, Pulse content can't afford to be shabby to be effective.
Carole Lieberman says, “When you post an article, it is important to spend some time picking out a picture and creating a headline that are attention-getting. You want people to stop their scrolling and land on your post.”
In other words, you want your Pulse posts to be as outstanding as your blog posts – just a tad shorter, maybe.
Sean Hall, owner of TekBoost, agrees that “providing industry related blog content on LinkedIn is an excellent strategy for gaining exposure from new audiences, while catering to your existing network,” and that “the goal is to provide shareable content.”
You want to publish “something that your followers would be genuinely interested in seeing, and would consider sharing to their own followers. The result is exposure that increases exponentially, particularly when a piece of content goes viral.”
Why Publishing on Pulse Is Important
Teajai Kimsey, marketing director at Crystal Structures Glazing, thinks that the secret to success on LinkedIn is to be engaged.
It's not enough to put up a well-written profile and by-line. You have to post content on a regular basis that engages the people who are connected to you; things that are out of the ordinary but business minded. When I post good content, I see more people looking at my profile, requesting connections and the likes, and comment[ing] on what I have put out there.
Engagement is where every effort you put forward on LinkedIn pays off, and Pulse is a wonderful platform to do it.
Unlike group threads and comments, you can grow an authority in your niche when you start publishing Pulse articles that bring food for thought to big and small names in your community on LinkedIn, and to platform users in general.
Promotion and Reputation
Keep in mind that your Pulse posts must exist to promote your blog's content, not just to share industry knowledge with the LinkedIn community. This is important because you want to boost engagement on both your profile and your blog, not just one of the two, so you'll want to post only content that is relevant to what you already do and write on your blog.
Kristin Viola, marketing director at TheMLS.com, noticed: “[There was] an uptick in requests when we linked to our original blog content as well as articles on which our CEO is quoted. One article we posted (CEO was quoted) received more than 1,200 views. Since we are an MLS system, we always try to post relevant real estate content which pertains to our audience.”
4. Leverage Group Discussions
It might sound trite to repeat here, but do take advantage of group discussions on LinkedIn, not just by starting your own, but by responding to as many existing threads as possible.
Henry Butler, marketing consultant at CanIRank, suggests that you get involved with relevant LinkedIn groups that can drive targeted traffic to your profile and blog:
One advantage of LinkedIn over other social media channels is you can acquire more targeted traffic by joining and promoting your content in community groups related to your industry. This allows you to get your company name in front of people who are likely to be interested in the product or service you offer.
With LinkedIn removing the Promotion tab from groups, it's now even more important to go where your audience is and avoid self-promotion until you've made a name for yourself.
Julie Graff, social content liaison at Pole Position Marketing, advises that you “find and join Groups that attract your target audience” and “engage actively, answering questions posed and providing helpful information within the conversations.”
You can also (carefully) post links to your own content, provided it is valuable to the group and not self-promotional. Using Groups in this way can help build brand awareness, establish you as an authority, and help you build true relationships with members of your target audience.
Another idea is to join promotional groups where all members are there to help promote each other's work. One example is the Blog Promotion Mastermind Group currently on LinkedIn, that you can join if your blog already gets some traffic.
Grow Your Network
Group discussions are beneficial to growing your network. As Doug McIsaac, international marketing consultant at TheLinkedCoach.com, comments, “Size matters — when someone searches on LinkedIn, they see results from within their network first. If you want to show up in more searches, you need to work on growing your network. This is even more important if you have a solution that people search for within a specific industry.”
Sean Hall recommends interactively participating in industry-related Q&A sessions as “a powerful way to build stronger connections and put your industry expertise on display. The key is to make sure you’re adding value to the conversation, and not just blatantly pitching your company or product.”
To sum it up, create relevant discussions in your niche and involve the community, touching upon topics and angles that connect with the core of your blog or business message and content.
When you reach an audience in the hundred or thousands, you may also consider creating your own group and use it to cross-promote your posts.
5. Write a Smart Profile Headline and Summary
You want to catch the right attention from the right people and give a definite image of yourself, what you do and what drives you to do it.
The place to do that is your profile's Headline and Summary fields.
Doug McIsaac advises making your headline “say something about what product or service you deliver. ‘I help my ideal clients achieve their ideal results' or ‘I deliver ideal results for my ideal clients'.”
Your headline can also be more concise than that: Neil Patel uses ‘Co-Founder at Crazy Egg & Hello Bar' and I chose ‘Result-Oriented Freelance Blogger, Copywriter, Cartoonist' for myself.
What's important is that “you don’t [make it] seem too much like click-bait,” says Chelsea Hewitt, marketing specialist at Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty. “The text should have some substance to garner [visitors'] click and make them interested in coming back to your page or website in the future.”
For the summary, McIsaac makes it clear that:
It's not about you – your summary is your chance to sell your potential customers on why they should do business with you. It should explain who you work with, what solution you provide and how they can work with you.
At the same time, though, you also want to make your summary at least somewhat personal, because the person reading it will want to know your voice and mindset.
My summary begins with a few personal sentences to set the moods before going on with my what I can offer:
Take a person with a boundless curiosity and multiple interests.
Combine that with a kid-like personality.
You have me. :-)
Like me, Sarah Boutwell, inbound marketer at Geek Powered Studios, is of the opinion that you should use first-person if writing your own profile.
It makes you sound more human and like you actually put thought and effort into writing your profile. Your profile isn't just a resume, it's more of a personal peek into who you are as a professional. Don't forget to add what makes you a great person to work with, not just for.
Ultimately, how personal your summary will be is up to you, but remember this is a selling tool and not an autobiography.
6. Leverage the Other 4 Most Important Profile Fields
Each of these fields lets you add specific information to your profile that will help attract the right leads.
So, in addition to your headline and summary (Rule #5), you can create a better impression.
1. Profile Photo
First impressions count, so when you upload your profile photo, make sure this is friendly, clean and professional-looking.
“LinkedIn’s main demographic is 30-50 years,” says Chelsea Hewitt. “This age group often features individuals with fast-paced lives revolving around work, social activities, family events and more! The key to getting their attention during a quick scroll of their LinkedIn news feed is to have a stunning photo followed with short but interesting headline/text that makes them want to stop and learn more.”
That means your profile photo should work well together with your headline and look as lively as possible for good results.
2. Publication Links
Showcase your best blog posts, guest posts and free ebooks as Publication links on your LinkedIn profile.
This section makes for a short portfolio that your visitors can look at to “sample” your expertise and competencies.
3. File Upload Feature
The screenshot above shows how I added my illustrations done for Creative Writing Institute to the related work experience in the “resume” section of my profile.
You can upload files to your profile Summary, Experience and Education sections. These are your clips, the first-hand proof of your experience and expertise.
4. Integration with SlideShare
Since LinkedIn acquired SlideShare in 2012, the platform is easily accessible from the social network, and you can easily add your slides and presentations to your profile for everybody to read.
Why It's Important to Make it Visual
“Visuals are one of the most eye-catching things to put on a LinkedIn profile or business page,” says Sarah Boutwell. These can be videos, photos, logos, links, infographics, screenshots and slides.
LinkedIn has so many extra features that are free to add to your page or profile now. It's a shame if you don't take advantage of them.
Boutwell especially recommends that you use SlideShare, “which allows you to create information slideshows.” See Rule #6 for tips if you haven't read it already.
Finally, you can add visuals to LinkedIn's professional portfolio, “which allows you to organize and design all of your visual and interactive content.”
7. The Power of Introduction Messages
When you request a new connection, LinkedIn allows you to write a small intro message:
Many users often overlook this feature, and limit themselves to using the default message LinkedIn inserts in the field – “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” – but when used well, the feature turns into an incredibly powerful way to build trust and credibility.
The short intro should answer a fundamental question for the person receiving it:
“Who are you?”
Or even better:
“What made you want to connect to me in the first place?”
The intro message is your opportunity to let your connection-to-be know who you are, what you do and what made you want to get in touch – all in less than 300 characters.
An example intro message could look like this:
Hi! Luana Spinetti here. I'm an Italy-based freelance blogger with a passion for robots, like you. I'd LOVE to get into talking about our common hobby! Would you like to connect?
8. Seek (Honest) Recommendations
Recommendations are reviews, and reviews drive traffic, sales and reputation in the eyes of both prospects and fellow professionals.
Alexa Kurtz, marketing strategist at WebTek, understands very well what recommendations mean for business:
If you were ordering a product online that is offered by two companies, how would you decide which company to buy it from? Perhaps you'd compare Company A's prices to Company B's or find out how each company treats their employees, but most likely you're going to look for online reviews or ask your friends for their opinions.
Kurtz says that the same happens with a LinkedIn profile:
“To stand out from the crowd online, it is highly recommended to build yourself a sense of dependability and reliability.”
The best way to do this is to ask past clients, coworkers and bloggers you guest posted for or collaborated with to recommend you on LinkedIn.
However, recommendations only work if they're genuine (yes, someone might actually go and check if what is being said is true!). Keeping that in mind, I once offered a free illustration to my network in exchange for an honest recommendation for work done or from happy readers of my blogs.
The result? I had a few good responses and received top notch recommendations from happy readers, and one of my fellow bloggers actually claimed her free illustration (you can see it here).
9. Use @mentions and Updates
You can use @mentions in comments and threads, and they will get your network notified and involved in your content for almost no effort, like on Twitter.
Mentions are a great tool to “call” both your connections and other big or small names in the industry to participate in your threads, including influencers you wish to get feedback from.
You can “call” both profiles and company pages, so mentions actually cover a wide range of your network.
As of publication, you can't use mentions in Pulse posts, but you can definitely comment your own post and add mentions there to “call” the sources you quoted in the piece.
You can also write updates from your LinkedIn dashboard and they are quite a helpful way to get people's eyes on your content, and get rewarded with traffic, comments and likes, since they work like a combination of Facebook and Twitter.
Sean Hall extends this benefit even to employees' accounts, if you have a staff. “Make sure your employees are regularly posting industry related content on their personal accounts, which are connected to your company page,” he says. “They should also be sharing your updates to their followers to increase reach and engagement.”
10. Don't Forget the Company Page
Company pages are not less important than your profile. In the past, I thought they were and I wound up losing so much in terms of traffic and engagement back to my blogs.
It's very important to build an online presence for your business or blog and company pages are a great free tool to get your fans and people in your niche or industry involved in the specific updates concerning your blog, not just yourself. (Use @mentions to make the process easier! See Rule #9.)
As Sean Hall puts it:
Having a company page allows you to engage with your followers, share potential job opportunities, and be a trusted resource in the community. It can also be another avenue to share any new products that you release and is a great way to provide links back to your website. LinkedIn can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors, while also helping you check up on what your competition may be doing.
Indeed, taking advantage of this targeted channel – that also comes with its own analytics to monitor how effective your updates are – can only benefit your overall LinkedIn marketing strategy.
However, Swapnil Bhagwat, senior manager at Orchestrate Technologies, LLC, warns that “having a LinkedIn company page and posting content on it as and when you like might not drive the desired engagement. The competition to grab the user’s [attention] on LinkedIn feed is quite intense, and to get your content visible needs extra efforts.”
It's not enough, then, to have a company page. You have to keep it alive and kicking to involve your audience and get the most out of it. How? Bhagwat suggests:
Add your LinkedIn page to all types of social sharing such as Buffer or HootSuite. Also, [you can achieve] niche segmentation [with] the Targeting option, that allows firms to target a specific audience – based on demographics and other filters – with exclusive content.
Hall also adds that a LinkedIn company page “allows you to connect with potential customers by sharing industry related blog content, participating in Q&A sessions, or even displaying a call to action in your summary.”
That's a lot more that you can achieve than your profile!
Kelvin Jiang, CFA, founder of Buyside Focus, uses LinkedIn to market his business and generate most of his traffic. Jiang's tip is to “make your company updates clickable and conversion focused.”
Think about the topics relevant to your audience and post links to quality content on your company page. This would include relevant blog posts, infographics, videos, and round-up posts on your company website. Your followers will see links to your content directly on their LinkedIn front page, which results in high conversion. This is a great way to generate traffic to your website and to attract more followers to your company page.
As for the updates, Sarah Boutwell recommends you keep a “consistency with posting on your business page. If my social media community manager experience taught me anything, it's that timing and consistency are two of the most important things to keep in mind when using social platforms.
LinkedIn is a more professional atmosphere for sure, but that doesn't mean you can't be social and tag members in your network if you think something you posted will be relevant to them. And posting often is great for engagement and just getting your brand out there. However, don't spam everyone. Make sure to include variety, like mixing in a photo or a SlideShare presentation every now and then.
The bottom line for LinkedIn company pages, as Jiang puts it, is to:
Post relevant updates. Make them clickable and conversion focused. This generates traffic to your website and attracts more followers to your LinkedIn company page.
BONUS #1 – Advertise on LinkedIn
If you can't allocate too much time and resources to inbound marketing, you can always advertise on LinkedIn.
Sean Martin recommends to “fine tune your targeted campaigns [and] try uploading a lead list or an email list to LinkedIn, so you can narrow your advertising audience even further. You can then use LinkedIn to send direct retargeting ads to these users as well as create similar audiences to replicate the demographics of users you have already been able to generate leads from. It's sort of a recipe for repeating previous success in lead generation.”
You can also “use sponsored posts linked to landing pages instead of content pieces” and Martin explains how:
There are two types of LinkedIn ads you can use for your content or pages. The first is ordinary text ads, the second is sponsored ads. The second are larger and use images to advertise instead of just static ad text. They see a much higher click through rate than ordinary text ads, which makes sense.
Usually, people use these more successful sponsored ads to promote their new pieces of content. While this is a great way to promote your newer pieces, you could be spending that high click through rate on more optimal opportunities. For example, you can create specific landing pages and link to those with your sponsored ads to generate conversions instead of just leads. You want to capitalize on the most potent traffic you can where it matters most.
BONUS #2 – Two LinkedIn Strategies
Generic tips and advice can only take you so far, and nothing beats the credibility of detailed strategies that originate from the experience of marketing managers.
Carey Dodd, marketing manager at Siren Group, and Oren Greenberg, both shared their step-by-step strategies to get the most out of LinkedIn. You'll find most of the advice given in the previous rules, plus some unique insight coming from their direct experience.
“The key to getting your content discovered is by going niche.”
Carey Dodd says that “the key to getting your content discovered is by going niche”, and to do that:
1. Define your company's core verticals and create unique content for each
For example, Siren Group verticals include prospecting Life Insurance brokers, Fashion E-Commerce companies and Social Online Games developers.
2. Set up a LinkedIn showcase page for each of your verticals
Share related industry news – always creating an image for each post to get better engagement.
3. Share your company's blog articles within this vertical to the showcase page
Using a small budget, use LinkedIn Ads to sponsor your blog posts to the showcase page (set up audience targeting for best results). This helps to grow your showcase page followers.
4. Publish unique, helpful LinkedIn Pulse articles
“Be sure to share [them] to your showcase page.
5. Send a Twitter message to @LinkedInPulse with a link to your Pulse article
Make sure your Pulse article gets shared, liked and people comment within the first 48 hours of publishing (ask friends/family/colleagues). This will give it a greater chance of getting featured by LinkedIn.
6. Set up a LinkedIn group for each vertical
Invite key prospects to take part in this group, share helpful and relatable articles. By setting up a group, you are then able to make contact and send a direct message to the group members.
Targeted Posts: A Step-by-Step Strategy
The second strategy, by Oren Greenberg, guides you step-by-step to find a target audience on LinkedIn and write a great post that is tailored to their needs:
1. Build a skyscraper post. Add visuals (images, videos, etc.) and even an element of entertainment, because “being funny and human adds a whole new level to the white collar network.
2. Find your targets – get a list of 50-100 people you want in your network (think post first – who is it relevant to, would they read it, is the information valuable to them?).
3. Send a personalized request to connect — tell them a bit about yourself in the connection message: it goes a long way to the other individual if they see you took some time with them. (See Rule#2)
4. Figure out 10-20 groups that are highly targeted and relevant to the article and, after you get at least 10 of your targeted new connections on your network, publish the post and also share it in those groups. You can even run a newsletter telling your audience you just published an article, and you don’t want to sell anything – if you prove your worth, people will come to you and you can build a relationship and maybe earn a customer for life.
“This may seem like a lot of work,” Greenberg says, “but the results speak for themselves – sometimes even 5k+ views on those articles and over 100 shares. Engage with your audience and finish with a question – ‘this was my insight on the matter, would love to hear yours' – comments have a lot of power as they show up in people’s feeds, gathering, and amplifying views.”
On to you – what's your secret recipe to effective LinkedIn marketing? Let us know on our social channels.