LinkedIn. It’s the ‘middle child’ of the social media family – it doesn’t feel like it gets a lot of love and it hasn’t always been that sure about where it fits in to your marketing strategy.
But this misunderstood business networking site presents an untapped opportunity for business owners – especially those operating within the business-to-business (B2B) space.
I mentor my business coaching clients to incorporate LinkedIn to their marketing plan because it’s a H2H (human to human) strategy that puts you in direct contact with the people you want to do business with.
LinkedIn: no longer where CV’s go to be forgotten
If you created a LinkedIn profile five (or more) years ago and haven’t thought about it since, then you’re in good company. However, it’s worth the effort of diving back in; they’ve made some great changes to the platform.
These days, LinkedIn offers the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, build your authority, get your brand in front of potential leads and nurture relationships with industry leaders and influencers who can help you build your business.
LinkedIn works for B2B because…
It’s where your audience is really hanging out online
If you sell your services or products to other business owners, CEOs or senior executives then Facebook and Instagram probably won’t get you there. These decision makers are time-poor and take their business or career very seriously – those social platforms are likely a bit too ‘casual Friday’ for most.
It’s more targeted than other social platforms
Facebook and Instagram encourage a focus on ‘vanity metrics’ (ie ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ etc). But nobody pays much attention to the quality of those leads. There’s a general ‘myth-conception’ that bigger is better – but how many of those leads actually convert?
LinkedIn users are more careful about who they’re seen online with. They’re more interested in following and connecting with people who work within or alongside their industry.
The site’s business focus also means that when users scroll through their feed, they’re expecting (and actively seeking out) valuable industry-related content. You’re not competing with a never-ending stream of inspirational memes, selfies and cat videos.
It’s where you’ll find higher quality leads
Because LinkedIn is more likely to get your content in front of decision-makers, it can generate more qualified leads. You’ll be more able to engage with people who have the authority (and the budget) to buy from you.
It’s where you can keep an eye on the competition
The new hashtag feature makes it easy to search for content and see how people in your target audience engage with it. Simply enter terms that relate to your business and analyse what others in your industry are posting. You can also follow people whose content you admire and learn from their example.
It helps with organic reach
Google loves LinkedIn. You’ll notice that if you search for an individual, their LinkedIn profile often comes up in the first few results (sometimes even above their website). If you post regularly and link back to your website, you’ll also see an increase in relevant referral traffic.
You can build up your ‘social proof’
Clients, customers, industry peers and even vendors can leave testimonials on your profile. This kind of social proof is compelling for potential customers. If you can demonstrate that people know, like and trust you (and are prepared to go public with it) then people feel more comfortable doing business with you.
The only downside? It’s a ‘long game’ strategy
Like all good content and networking strategies, your payoff from your LinkedIn engagement won’t happen overnight… but it will happen. With patience, commitment and consistency, many of my coaching clients have started to get a lot of traction, which is now ramping up into real results.
LinkedIn etiquette (and useful algorithm hacks)
There are some unwritten rules about how to engage in LinkedIn. You’ll also come to notice that there are some things that the LinkedIn algorithm loves (sending your content to the top of people’s feeds) and some things it will penalise you for.
These are the big ones:
This is NOT an opportunity to ‘sell’
What? Didn’t I just tell you that you’d find and convert customers on LinkedIn? Yes. But no selling. Ever. It’s not why people are there. The big opportunity is to connect with people in an authentic (read: non-salesy) way. Share lots of top-notch content and add value with your comments and new connections will surely come your way.
Be ‘strictly professional’
This is no place for personal non-business-related photos, make off-colour jokes or post comments that are in any way offensive or too controversial. Make sure that any content you post is mainly focused on solving a problem for your ideal client.
Don’t spam people’s message inbox
There’s a bit of a dance involved in making connections with people you don’t know on LinkedIn. It can turn people off if you try to connect too early or message them without any prior (and less direct) interaction. If you need to lay some groundwork for connecting with someone, then start by engaging with their posts. Speaking of which…
Always add value
If there’s someone you are trying to woo, don’t just ‘like’ their posts. Do the ‘like-plus’ and post a comment that adds value to the conversation.
It’s like being at a real-life networking event. Imagine that a group of people are standing around talking about something and you walk up to the group. You smile at everyone (ie like the post) and then say something incredibly insightful and interesting (ie make a value-packed comment). Quite often this will pique people’s interest. You may find that the original poster (or others reading the comments) will check out your profile. They may even request a connection with you.
You should give more than you get
Be generous in your posts and your comments. Don’t worry that you’re giving too much away for free. If you’ve got great tips, strategies and content that your ideal client will love, then post away. It shows off your expertise and leaves people thinking, “if this is the ‘free stuff’, imagine what you can buy from this person”.
Know when to post
Research shows that 8am, 12pm and 5-6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best times to post an update or publish your content. This makes sense, since most people check socials on their commute or on their lunch break. If you want to catch the eye of your intended audience, then you need to show up when they’re in ‘scrolling mode’.
Know what you are posting
Is the content you want to put out there best done as a post, an article or a ‘LinkedIn live’? There are several ways to publish on LinkedIn, but you need to know what option is best for your purposes.
Simply put, a post is a way to quickly share an idea (you only get 1300 characters). This might be an update, a photo or meme, a video or even just your take on a third-party piece etc. An article, on the other hand, is more like a blog post; longer-form content that digs deeper into a topic (usually 400+ words).
LinkedIn Live is a new tool that offers users the ability to make a live streaming video – a low-fi but immediate way to create content. You could do an educational ‘how to’ or even take people behind the scenes of your business. It’s potentially an intimidating prospect, but users love video posts and they tend to get priority in terms of ‘ranking’ in the feed.
Whatever you post, be sure to include an invitation for others to comment with their point of view.
The Less links the better
While it is fine to occasionally link to carefully chosen articles or even your own website or blog content every now and again, the LinkedIn algorithm doesn’t reward posts that send traffic away from the site. Therefore, try to keep most of your posts link-free.
LinkedIn is the social that really means business
One of the benefits of social media is the interactivity and the human element. You get immediate responses to your content and can really get a feel for what your audience responds to. LinkedIn is proving itself to be the ideal place for online B2B networking and marketing. After all, it’s a platform with a captive business-info-seeking audience. Despite a shaky start, it looks like this previously un-loved member of the social media family has finally found its feet.