You’ve spent a lot of time, effort, and money to get your company’s website working well. Your design team has made it look beautiful and function seamlessly. It’s amply stocked with brilliant content that shows everything your company can do. There’s just one thing missing: an audience.
Rather than searching for people to see your content where it is, try taking your content to a place where people are looking for it. That’s where LinkedIn comes in.
Over a year ago, LinkedIn started allowing its members to publish long-form posts to the site. Now every member has that ability, right from their profile page. That means all the articles, blog posts, white papers, PowerPoint presentations, and other media that have been languishing on your company’s website can also be posted on LinkedIn. Here are three great reasons to do it:
LinkedIn has over 380 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Those members are not just a random slice of the internet. They tend to be educated, mature, and searching for professional insight. They are an excellent target audience for your original content.
LinkedIn has published over 3 million professional posts to date, with over 130 thousand new posts added each week. On average, a post on LinkedIn is seen by professionals in nine countries and twenty-one industries. Nigel Miller, whose company was featured in a case study on LinkedIn, writes that “Publishing [on LinkedIn] creates the possibility of sharing ideas and igniting conversations with an audience you could never reach with any other channel.”
Members are not the only people who can see content you publish on LinkedIn. Anything you post there becomes a part of your profile. Because LinkedIn is a popular and heavily visited site, its pages rank highly in Google’s search results. That means when you publish your original content on LinkedIn, it is more likely to be found there by someone keyword searching the topic on Google than it would be on your own website.
Having your content on LinkedIn versus having it on your website is like the difference between advertising on a billboard as opposed to a handbill. The larger format is easier to see, more attention-getting, and better bang for your buck. Publishing on LinkedIn is free, making it an incredibly good investment in exposure for your ideas.
By publishing on LinkedIn, you are not only exposing your content to a large group of educated decision-makers and making it easier to find. The real benefit is the ability to harness the networks and interests of LinkedIn members to get your content to exactly the right people.
LinkedIn gives you several ways to put your content in front of the people you want to see it. For starters, your posts get shared with your connections and followers as soon as you post them. LinkedIn members who come across your posts and like what they see can follow you, even if they are not in your network. Your posts can also be searched from both LinkedIn and search engines. And your post might even be featured in Pulse, LinkedIn’s news service, giving it even greater exposure.
LinkedIn has produced a Corporate Publishing Playbook that explains how to use the site as a publishing platform. It is well worth reading to get a handle on this exciting and under-utilized feature of LinkedIn.
Take the content you’re dying to show the world and post it somewhere that it can start a conversation. You never know where it could lead your business.
Perhaps you’ve seen the long-form posts by “Influencers” such as Bill Gates or Richard Branson. Are you aware that LinkedIn now offers every member the opportunity to publish long-form posts?
This platform means that you can now create and publish your own content—blog posts, articles, white papers, even videos.
Perhaps you’re wondering why using LinkedIn as a publishing platform is such a great idea. Here are five reasons:
- With more than 364 million members (more than the population of the United States), LinkedIn is the internet’s largest professional network. More than two new professionals join every second. That means millions of potential clients, partners and investors are on LinkedIn searching for opportunities and hungry for insight. Having your content there is a great way to satisfy that hunger.
- Members of LinkedIn can subscribe to new content and updates based on their interests, which allows you to target the people who are looking for you, thereby putting your content in front of those who will most benefit from it. No more searching for an audience.
- LinkedIn pages and posts rank high in Google’s search results. When you post to LinkedIn, you access a huge amount of web traffic and gain enormous visibility. Wherever you’ve published content up until now, it’s almost surely not as visible as it would be on LinkedIn.
- Publishing on LinkedIn allows you to promote your company without sounding like an advertisement. According to Laura Montini, a reporter for Inc., “70% of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising.” Of course, you can run ads on LinkedIn too (see #5), but your published content can be all the more compelling by not setting off people’s ad radar.
- LinkedIn offers “sponsored updates” (formerly called “native ads”), which allow you to put your company’s advertising (and therefore, content) directly into members’ feeds. You can select the job title, LinkedIn group membership, professional connection, and other criteria of the individuals you want to target. LinkedIn’s advanced metrics allow you to track and optimize the performance of your ad campaigns. It’s a cost-effective way to get your message to the right people.
So now that you have a taste of what you’ve been missing on LinkedIn, how do you take advantage of its awesome features? You can start by looking further into whether blogging on LinkedIn would be good for your business. In my next posts, I’ll tell you how to publish on LinkedIn and how to integrate it with your marketing efforts. Stay tuned!
According to LinkedIn’s member research, four out of five LinkedIn members can impact business decisions and have two times the purchasing power of the average U.S. adult who is online. No doubt, LinkedIn is a valuable place to generate leads for your business.
Doing organic activities there can help you find prospects. But when you add the power of targeted ads, your lead generation efforts will soar.
Effective prospecting in LinkedIn takes time to gain visibility and build trust. You can’t build trust until you get your company in front of people. To make things harder, some LinkedIn Groups don’t allow contractors or vendors to join. And even when you join the right groups, your ideal prospects may not participate.
The need for a converged marketing strategy
So how do you gain visibility and begin building trust?
The answer is LinkedIn Sponsored Updates and Ads. They let you do precise targeting to get your company in front of the right people.
Before moving forward, know that there are three types of media:
- Paid: Advertising.
- Owned: Digital properties that company owns and controls such as website, blogs, and apps.
- Earned: Content and reviews that are shared, liked, and commented on by fans.
Nielsen’s Global Advertising Survey lists “recommendations from people I know” as the No. 1 trusted form of advertising. It’s no surprise that earned is the most trusted of the three. Still, prospects need to notice your company before it receives any earned media.
You start with owned media to get your company out there and attract search engines. You’ll also set up landing pages and other content people will want once they learn about your company. Next, add paid media targeted to your market to build branding and name recognition. These ads need to have a call to action that sends prospects to your owned media. Thus, a converged marketing strategy with all three types sees the most success.
You have two options for paid media on LinkedIn: Sponsored Updates and Ads. There are other advertising options such as Lead Accelerator, sponsored InMails, and sponsored Groups but Sponsored Updates and Ads are the ideal starting points because they’re affordable and work on a smaller scale.
Companies that have a LinkedIn Company Page can post updates that share resources and report news. These updates can reach a greater audience when you opt for Sponsored Updates because they extend your reach across devices (desktop, smartphones, and tablets) and to non-followers.
Sponsored Updates appear on the home page where you see updates from your contacts and companies. Notice that some of these updates say “Sponsored” as the following screenshot shows.
It would’ve been easy to miss the update from Unilever had it not been for the sponsored update. Something in this profile matched up with the company’s targeted audience.
In creating a Sponsored Update, your targeting options include companies, job titles, job functions, seniority, education, geography and more. You set the budget and choose either cost per click or cost per impression.
Direct Sponsored Content can help you test your messaging as you can target different content to different audiences without publishing the content on your company or showcase page. The downside is that it has a 160-character limit and uses text only. Direct Sponsored Content resembles a Sponsored Update except it appears in the homepage newsfeeds of members who meet your targeting options.
It’s easy to sponsor an existing update. Go to your company’s page and select “Sponsor update” or visit https://www.linkedin.com/ads/. For current ads, you won’t be able to change the content of the update.
The nice thing about Sponsored Updates is that it can lead to earned media because prospects can Like, Comment, Share, or Follow the update. When you play your cards right in creating high quality content like LinkedIn blog posts, it compels people to share your update.
The trick is to write posts that educate prospects on the need for your company’s solution, identify the problems it solves, and answer commonly asked questions. Another effective blog post is one that hits on hot topics in your industry.
To make the most of the blog post, add a call to action that sends prospects to a landing page on your website. This helps move them into the next step of the buying cycle. You can review analytics to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
Options for LinkedIn Ads include text, images, or a video. You can create 15 variations of an ad that contains different images, URLs, calls to action, and copy. LinkedIn Ads appear in the column next to the homepage newsfeed as shown in the image.
Text ads work well for branding because click rates are low. It requires constant tweaking to keep the impressions up. Or you could swap in paying per impression from time to time.
Beware that if users have an ad blocker, they may see a blank spot instead of ads. Compared to Sponsored Updates, ads are smaller and look — as its name implies — like an advertisement. Copy is also limited and the image is smaller.
We like to use these ads for branding – they give you a way to keep your photo, logo and marketing message in front of the people you are targeting.
Relying only on owned media will make your job harder and take longer to achieve results. To optimize LinkedIn for your company, you’ll want to ensure you have owned media in place ready to receive prospects who find their way there. Then you’ll want to invest in paid media for eyes landing on that content. Owned and paid media together will boost your chance of getting earned media.
LinkedIn just opened the Social Selling Index (SSI) Dashboard to all LinkedIn members. This is a benchmark to help you understand how effectively you are executing social sales on LinkedIn.
Take a quick look and see how you are doing. You can get your SSI number by logging into your profile, then going to: http://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi.
Now that you have your number, let’s talk about why your SSI matters and what to do with this information.
Why your SSI matters
If you’re in sales, you’re probably being encouraged to do more social selling. But if your company is one of those that says “Do more on LinkedIn” and doesn’t give you additional support or guidance, it might not be clear what exactly you should be doing. For you, your SSI points you in the direction of specific actions you can take.
According to LinkedIn, salespeople who excel at social selling are 51 percent more likely to reach their quota. So your SSI can help you improve your capabilities in social sales – and it gives you a way to measure your progress.
What if you’re not in sales?
First, everyone sells. Even if you don’t sell a product, you are selling your ideas. Your LinkedIn profile is always working for you to promote your expertise and accomplishments. It helps you build trust and gain credibility.
Here’s a non-selling statistic from LinkedIn… Directors with high SSI scores get promoted 17 months faster than VPs with low SSI.
What your SSI measures
What does social selling mean? In “The Rise of Social Selling,” Koka Sexton defines it as “leveraging your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships.”
Your SSI dashboard tells you how you’re doing on the four pillars of social selling:
- Establishing your professional brand.
- Finding the right people.
- Engaging with insights.
- Building relationships.
Each of those four components is scored from 1 to 25, with a perfect score being 100.
Look at your own profile – is one of those areas much lower than the others? Let’s look at how to improve your score.
The following sections describe each pillar, what it means, and what you can do to enhance its score.
Establish your professional brand
Ensure you’ve created a complete profile with your target audience in mind. A customer-oriented profile demonstrates how you add value to your clients.
A complete profile has the following:
- Your industry and location.
- Up-to-date current position with a description.
- Two past positions.
- Minimum of three skills.
- Profile photo.
- More than 50 connections.
To increase this score, post status updates and publish insightful blog posts. In doing this, you improve your chances of engaging with buyers by a whopping 81 percent. Targeting B2B buyers? This climbs to 92 percent.
Receiving endorsements from clients, partners, and colleagues also expands your professional brand. Endorse other people’s skills and they’ll most likely do the same for you.
Find the right people
Who you connect with matters as it can affect your selling quota. That’s why knowing your ideal prospect is key. Once you’ve pinpointed your target audience, use LinkedIn’s search to find them.
Keep an eye on who has reviewed your profile. Something about your background brought these people to your profile. Studying their profiles gives you clues into the kind of people who might be ideal prospects. Connect with those who are a fit.
Engage with insights
Researching and connecting with people is only half of the battle. You can power up your SSI score and, in turn, your odds of making the sale by engaging on LinkedIn. Accomplish this by joining and participating in LinkedIn Groups, publishing blog posts, and sharing knowledge.
The secret is to share insights that aren’t self-serving. When you make the effort to curate valuable content and dole out general advice in Group discussions, prospects trust you more because you show that you care about their success.
Most B2B buyers prefer to connect with people when they’re referred by someone they know. It also makes you more likely to be viewed as favorable when a B2B buyer meets you through someone from the buyer’s network. With buying decisions now involving an average of more than five decision makers, you need all the help you can get.
Don’t forget your own company’s network. Your colleagues can be a stepping stone to reaching more decision makers. Because buying decisions often involve multiple decision makers, you want to reach as many as you can in each company — not just one. And the way to do that is to nurture relationships through a consistent stream of beneficial content and insights.
Put your SSI score to work
Now you have a way to measure your SSI capabilities to check your progress. It looks like LinkedIn is updating this daily – and maybe continuously. My score was 79 yesterday morning, but I was able to get it up to 80 by the afternoon by sharing a few more status updates and touching base with a few connections.
While I’m pleased with my score overall, I see that I can work on engaging with insights. To bring that part of my score up, I will be doing more status updates and bump up my participation in groups.
How about you? What will you be doing to bring up your score?
Yet it’s a struggle to get your brand in front of people who don’t know your solution exists.
It’s especially a challenge because many people who would be great prospects don’t even realize they have a problem. When they don’t know they have a problem, they aren’t looking for a solution.
Which means you can invest heavily in search engine optimization, Google AdWords campaigns, inbound marketing, and content marketing, and you won’t ever reach the biggest part of your market.
So what is the answer for building brand awareness and growing your audience?
What you need is outbound marketing – telemarketing, direct mail, direct sales, and email marketing.
All of which work, but not as well as they used to, and not anywhere near as effectively as one outbound marketing option you might have overlooked: LinkedIn.
- Reach ideal prospects.
- Grow your audience.
- Boost credibility.
Reach ideal prospects
You probably know how to search LinkedIn to find the people you want to contact. Perhaps, you’re a pro with LinkedIn’s advance search tools. Start there to build your list of prospects. Search for people who are likely to need your solution.
Before you introduce yourself through LinkedIn, take a gander at their profile for things you have in common. Did you go to the same university? Have you lived in the same city? Use that as a guide in writing your message. You may have a mutual connection. In this case, request an introduction from this person.
In both cases, because the email comes from LinkedIn, it’s a more trusted source than a cold email. Thus, it’s more likely to get read.
Remember that many of your prospects don’t yet realize they have a problem. Ask about that problem, describe what it looks like, and offer your assistance in resolving it.
Grow your audience
When you need to educate your market, both so they recognize that they have a problem and see the value in the solution you have to offer, educational materials have a lot of value.
Since you’re at the top of the sales funnel, begin with materials that help them recognize the situation and identify whether they are a fit for your product.
You can use the sponsored content ads on LinkedIn to give your blog post greater exposure, putting it directly in front of your ideal targets.
There are a few ways to build credibility – something that’s particularly important if you are competing against larger firms.
First, you want to ensure your LinkedIn profile tells your company story in a compelling way.
Is your LinkedIn profile 10 years old? If your profile dates from the last time you were looking for a new job, you will want to update it. Refocus the content from a “job seeker” profile to a “lead gen” profile. Make sure you are talking to prospects rather than employers, and sharing information that shows you understand their issues and have a solution that can help.
Secondly, the same activities you do to grow your audience will also increase your credibility. Focus more on educating and less on selling. Doing this makes it easier to build relationships using LinkedIn and have others view you as an expert in your field.
Want to learn more about using LinkedIn to support your sales effort? Start with improving your LinkedIn profile – get LinkedIn profile tips and resources here.