How To Become A Content Master On LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers several tools for engaging with customers. Here, the professional networking site’s small business expert explains how to optimize each one.

LinkedIn isn’t just an excellent way to stalk hiring managers anymore.

Over the years, the social networking site has transitioned from a virtual Rolodex and resume to the mothership of all things professional.

By rolling out a number of features for businesses, LinkedIn has paved the way for companies to start engaging their customers better by providing compelling content.

Lana Khavinson, Small Business Segment Marketing Lead at LinkedIn, says most people who come to LinkedIn already have a professional mindset, and they are looking for all kinds of content--from articles and blog posts to infographics and charts--that will help them with their current role or that will help them further their career.

So it’s important to consider what information you can provide that will help them with their current or future endeavors and will keep you at the top of their minds when they are at a point of need. This can include content like best practices, tips, trends, and industry thought leadership pieces.

But it's not enough to simply create great content. To get potential customers to notice you, you need to promote it the right way. Here are four insider tips to bring your content to the masses:

1. Build Out Your Profile Pages

It all starts with building out a robust profile, Khavinson says. Engage your personal network of professional connections with targeted updates and shoot for viral distribution.

Similarly, you can make the most of your company page by creating a dialogue with your followers through content and updates. Khavinson says it’s also important to think beyond your immediate network and follower base.

“It’s not just about who you know, but who they know,” she says.

To reach beyond your own network, focus on posting thoughtful content relevant to your industry and business. And remember that the updates you post are going to come through users’ feeds with all kinds of other updates.

Think about how you can stand out from the crowd. Make your update engaging, use descriptive imagery, give it that spin that will draw people in, and make sure your images are visually compelling and clear.

“You should experiment and test what gets the best engagement,” Khavinson says, “but tried and true is a powerful image, a short description, and a url link.”

For example, AmeriFirst Home Mortgage successfully harnessed their company page when they created a full profile, built up their follower base, and began posting content full of advice and tips for people in the market for a home. Their content ranges from relevant industry news to thought leadership pieces.

By becoming a helpful resource for its followers, AmeriFirst maintained a consistent presence in online conversations and positioned itself at the top of mind for potential customers, thereby generating more leads.

It has since seen visits to the company website more than 25 times what it saw in 2011.

2. Join and Become Active in LinkedIn Groups

There are many uses for LinkedIn Groups, but top among them is its ability to get your voice out there and help you build relationships and engage with not only like-minded individuals, but with potential customers.

You can use groups a few ways: Become part of an already existing rich dialogue, start your own discussion, or form your own group.

Wanting to connect with Balihoo’s target audience, Shane Vaughan, the marketing automation startup’s former CMO, tapped into LinkedIn Groups by creating his own.

By forming his own local marketing automation group, Vaughan was able to build out a rich audience with potential customers interested in their solutions, generate leads, and identify potential partners, who would in turn build out an even broader audience.

“I was able to speak to a very specific audience, instead of having to go wider with a generic message,” Vaughan told LinkedIn.

3. Apply For LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

You can join the ranks of thought leaders like Richard Branson and President Barack Obama, who began publishing blog posts on LinkedIn in the fall of 2012.

This past February, LinkedIn announced that it is opening its publishing platform to LinkedIn members who want to post their own blog-style content.

Currently, you have to apply for access to the publishing platform, and you can do so here. Also, when filling out the form, you will need to provide two examples of professional content you’ve written.

With access to the publishing platform, you can post longer form pieces directly to your network, which help with viral distribution.

Once you are granted access, simply go to the “Share an update” box on your LinkedIn homepage and click the “Edit” icon. This will take you to the writing tool, where you can write your post and include visuals (by clicking the camera icon in the tools panel on the right). Once you are finished, you can publish, save, or preview your blog.

The content will appear in your followers’ news feed, and it could be featured in LinkedIn channels if the content meets certain criteria.

“It really gets you out there in terms of someone who is on the cutting edge,” Khavinson says.

LinkedIn even provides access to the stats for each post. You can access these by clicking “Profile” at the top of your homepage, scrolling down to your “Posts” section, and then clicking on a specific post. Click “See your posts” and stats on the right to reach your dashboard page.

4. Consider Buying Into Sponsored Updates

While most content engagement happens through LinkedIn’s free services detailed above, Khavinson believes that Sponsored Updates, LinkedIn's paid-for marketing tool allows entrepreneurs to get their content noticed across the network and target specific audiences.

Sponsored Updates appear in members’ homepage feeds alongside organic posts from their network and the companies they follow. Unlike content you post yourself for free however, they will be marked “sponsored.”

From May to June last year, PC company Lenovo targeted audiences with Sponsored Updates that fell into four theme categories: brand, thought leadership, products, and external trends. They then optimized the content based on the reactions they got from different audiences.

Lenovo’s Director of Digital and Social Center for Excellence Rod Strother told LinkedIn that its Sponsored Updates drove a 17% increase in brand favorability and quadrupled its engagement rates compared to display ad averages.

“That’s going to be important for us,” he says, “because we’re going to be able to take a lot of the verbatims and comments that were made into some research that we’re doing in the future around touch products.”

[Image: Flickr user Nan Palmero]

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