I’m sure that most people in our industry are aware of LinkedIn and its ability to connect people across the globe on a professional level. However, are we all utilising the full capabilities of the network to leverage not only our personal skills and experience, but also to market the commercial benefits offered by our companies?
The business platform
There are a plethora of social media platforms out there, all with their own niche audience in terms of targeted marketing. However, in specialist academic arenas such as the sciences, especially when targeting senior decision-makers, LinkedIn is often our ‘go-to’ network of choice. There are thousands of relevant people on LinkedIn; to capture their attention, the aim is to generate relevant content and ensure that it reaches as many of these people as possible. As a people-led network, it is therefore essential that all of your employees understand the potential gains of the correct use of LinkedIn; in many cases it is definitely worth the investment in time to ensure that all of your employees are happy with what they should be doing, how to do it and importantly, why they’re doing it.
LinkedIn does not allow you to create a company profile from which to post, only a company page. The important difference is that, as an individual, you can reach out to connect with fellow professionals directly (e.g. with a direct message) and the benefits to the recipient of doing so are obvious (they probably know you personally and will want to ‘Link In’ with you). Conversely, when building up the audience for your company page you have to attract ‘followers’ instead, something that can be much more difficult to do.
For these reasons, we recommend dedicating as much effort as possible to both pursuits. However, as you’ll have far more employees than companies (after all, you usually only have one company page), your team provides a great opportunity to amplify the reach of your content to relevant people. They can either craft new posts to add to their timeline, or simply share a current company post to their own profile (often quicker and easier), placing your company’s content in front of their connections.
In order to ensure that this is occurring in as effective manner as possible, all employees should maintain an up-to-date profile, which is linked to the company page (this should happen automatically when you update your current work information).
Why should your team do this?
Employee profiles are of course personal, and should be! This is their space to share interesting news and stories as they see fit. However, when it comes to professional networking your team should be aware that they are also often perceived as brand ambassadors for your company; this is just as true online as it would be at a conference or trade show. As such, LinkedIn offers a great opportunity to share interesting and relevant content from the company blog and/or news feed (all of which should be posted on the company LinkedIn page, so it can be easily and rapidly shared via your employees).
In doing so, each employee will raise awareness of the capabilities and expertise of both themselves and the company. This helps to strengthen the core messages of your commercial brand and position you as thought leaders within your field of expertise. In turn, this should also drive more traffic to the company page (and, ideally, the company website).
As you can hopefully see, a successful company presence on LinkedIn is highly dependent upon the employees’ activities.
So, your employees are doing their bit and sharing lots of interesting relevant content from the company’s news feed, but in order for this to work its magic in the best possible way, your company page also needs to be regularly updated. The company page is essentially a news feed, so every time a new blog is posted on the website, or a new press release is distributed, or there is an interesting piece of company news, it needs to go on the LinkedIn company page as well as your company website.
Once you have updated your company page, make sure you tell your colleagues! If they don’t know about it, then they can’t ‘like’ and share it. It’s all about maximising your employees’ connections, and the best way to reach them is for your colleagues to engage them via their personal profiles.
Don’t forget the art of conversation!
As with any method of communicating, LinkedIn marketing should be a two-way conversation. Engaging in a normal conversation comes naturally to most of us when we are face-to-face but understandably becomes slightly more challenging across a virtual environment. A lot of companies view networks such as LinkedIn as simply another channel to broadcast their news, and you need to change this perception. Successful LinkedIn marketing is dependent on gaining a balance between broadcasting and interacting/engaging with your connections.
A key aspect of maximising the potential of LinkedIn is to monitor what your connections are talking about, look at what conversations are taking place in various groups and for you (and your employees) to contribute to these conversations in a meaningful way. By building relationships in this manner, you will position yourself (and by association your company) as someone who takes the time to listen and cares about what other people within the industry are concerned with. Take the time to be friendly, offer advice and help where needed; not every communication needs to be a sell. Never forget that old adage ‘people buy from people they like’, so don’t forget to inject a bit of personality into your conversations and make yourself memorable!
None of this is to say that you cannot send out some news items, but try to make sure that all the content you share has some value for the audiences you are connecting with; where possible, use this content to try and stimulate some engagement (e.g. by asking questions) and promptly respond to any comments to keep the conversation going.
A note on the power of groups
Successfully amplifying the reach of your ideas and expertise on social media is all about putting your content and opinions in front of as many relevant people as possible. Leveraging your employees’ connections is certainly a great way to do so. However, you’re still limited to influencing only those people that are connected directly to your team.
Taking part in group discussions is another way in which to truly maximise your reach, as there may be highly relevant people in these groups that none of your colleagues are personally connected with.
There are a vast number of groups on LinkedIn, some of which are quite broad and some are extremely niche. Searching using key words will bring up a list of these groups, from which you can pick and choose the most relevant ones to join. Again, these can only be joined via personal profiles (not company pages), so gaining buy-in from your colleagues is still important here.
There are a number of ways in which you can fully take advantage of these opportunities:
- Once you have joined some relevant groups, start monitoring the discussions to see what the hot topics currently are. If you can add any value, then don’t be afraid to contribute. This is not necessarily the place to ‘sell’, but more a place to discuss ideas and network/build relationships. Sales will naturally fall out of these relationships once you are perceived as a source of knowledge.
- Once you are confident to do so, start a relevant discussion (as long as the topic will be interesting to the group and not overtly ‘salesy’).
- You can also start a new group, which can be affiliated with your company page (note, this process still needs to be managed via a personal profile). Again, in order to be successful this will require the dedication of time in order to ensure that the group recruits members, posts are monitored and only the best quality content goes live. We recommend only starting your own group if you have the resources and time to make it a success.
All you need is time
Essentially, there are a host of relevant people on LinkedIn who you can reach through a variety of tactics. Whether you employ all of these or just certain elements is up to you, however as a ‘free’ to use marketing tool, LinkedIn can be an extremely effective channel for raising awareness of your company, its capabilities and the expertise inherent within your team. All you need is the time to dedicate to it (although we realise that’s not always as simple as it sounds!).