Agencies Using LinkedIn
Thanks to a recent article that evolved out of a "Fireside Chat" among PR industry thought-leaders, we have compiled a list of seven insights surrounding the best practices for PR firms and other communication agencies for utilizing LinkedIn to promote their brand, as detailed below. Note that due to the nature of this request, we have used an unusually large number of extended, direct quotes in order to allow the industry experts to speak for themselves rather than risk muting their voices through rephrasing.
The Fireside Chat of Industry Experts
Having said that, the backbone of our report comes from an article by Steve Bauer, SVP & Partner at FleishmanHillard, on the PR Council website in which he relates several LinkedIn "don'ts" that came out of a private "Fireside Chat" with Blair Decembrele, Director of Global Integrated Marketing Communications & LinkedIn Career Expert, and over 40 PR industry professionals. The chat was moderated by Gregg Greenberg of the C-Suite Network.
As this article represents a near-consensus among PR industry thought-leaders, the first six out of seven of our insights come from this key article. We have rephrased the insights as positives rather than "common mistakes to avoid" and have supported them from other sources. However, since this brief's backbone comes from the above individuals, we will not restate them in each insight apart from attributing direct quotes to Bauer. Bolstering points will be attributed appropriately.
Most CEOs Lack a Professional LinkedIn Article
- Bauer writes, "Before meeting a new client, partner or prospect, I typically do a quick Google search to learn more about them... A high-quality, up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a must-have for any business professional. When someone has an incomplete or outdated profile it’s a poor reflection on the individual as well as the company."
- Bauer, in turn, cites Cheryl Conner on Forbes, who notes that 61% of CEOs have no social media presence at all. Connor writes of the exceptions, CEOs who have grown their brands through deft use of social media. (The case pertaining to LinkedIn is described below.)
- Visibility is paramount to an agency:
- In addition, a study by Hootsuite, a social media management firm, found that "50% of B2B web traffic originating from social media" and 80% of social media-generated leads come from LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Profiles Should Focus on Business Objectives
- Bauer notes that even professionals who have an updated LinkedIn profile often "fail to ... build deeper connections with their community and drive business results through content and engagement." He goes on to explain that simply publishing content isn't enough. Instead, all content should be "tied to specific and measurable business goals." In other words, the goal should come first, and then the proper content can be generated.
- Connor cites the case of Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project, who has built an audience of 2.5 million on LinkedIn by writing upbeat and positive articles that consistently start conversations.
Know (and Grow) One's Audience
- Bauer cautions against trying to be all things to all people: "Instead, hone in on a very specific audience and find ways to deliver value to them. Building relationships and trust with a small but powerful and influential audience is way more impactful than generating massive reach with people who could care less about your company or your story."
- Wendy Marx, President of Marx Communications, adds, "The most successful content on LinkedIn is educational in nature." That means that the best way to grow one's audience is to help them: "Answer common questions that arise in your industry. Address problems and concerns that your audience faces on a regular basis."
- However, she warns, "Don’t post purely self-promotional content. Share content that helps your group members get the latest information."
Have a Point-of-View
- Bauer writes that one should always share an individual perspective on a shared link or article. Sharing third-party articles on one's LinkedIn profile is easy, but not only may it not be helpful to one's audience without additional comment, but it also fails to establish the sharer as a thought leader.
- In a politically-divisive time, it may be tempting to take a neutral tone or even avoid discussing trending topics out of fear of criticism. However, 61% of consumers want companies to express their views "on topics beyond their core businesses" and, as Bauer notes, "audiences are hungry for more transparency and they feel a stronger connection with organizations and their leaders that take a stand on issues that matter to them."
- FleishmanHillard Chief Strategy Officer Marjorie Benzkofer adds that while every option is loaded with potential business risk, even remaining silent risks alienating half of consumers. On the other hand, 43% of US consumers "said that if a company explains WHY they have taken a position on an issue, they are extremely or very likely to continue to support them — even if they disagree."
- Blair added during the Fireside Chat that "unlike other social networks, LinkedIn is a self-regulating community." With business reputations and relationships on the line, "disagreements on LinkedIn tend to be more sophisticated and civilized" than found on most platforms.
Quality Over Quantity, But Don't Let It Stagnate
- Rather than rushing through producing content, Bauer writes, PR pros should "focus on quality over quantity. Do fewer things better. Save the cat pictures and ‘click to buy’ messages for other social networks."
- However, publishing too seldom can result in stale content that turns off the audience. Marx advises publishing on LinkedIn 1-2 times a week to maintain audience engagement: "If not, they’ll get bored and look elsewhere for content — and most likely they won’t come back. As soon as new developments hit the industry, be the first to offer your perspective on it. Audiences will start to turn to you for fresh insights and advice."
Engage Directly With Others
- Bauer notes that LinkedIn has an editorial board comprised of 50 journalists from around the world, overseen by editor-in-chief Dan Roth. They are constantly creating and curating content for the platform, and Bauer recommends finding ways to connect with them "and help tell a new side to the story that isn’t being told."
- Marx also suggests tagging other LinkedIn users and authors strategically, but not so often as to become annoying. She also suggests engaging employees to produce more content for the company and creating LinkedIn groups to draw others in the industry to one's content.
- Yuliya Kutuzava of KNB Communications adds that, when a PR firm needs press attention, "reporters are now more easily accessible on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, it has become easier to get their attention there."
- Wendy Marx notes the incredible importance of using visuals in one's LinkedIn content: "Studies have shown that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Add to this the fact that content with visuals gets 94% more views than content without and that 65% of people are visual learners — the importance of visual content becomes crystal clear."
- She suggests using charts, images, infographics, slideshares, and other visuals at every opportunity, not only in articles and blog posts, but in one's own LinkedIn profile.