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Why it's time LinkedIn became your organisation's new best friend

Posted on 10/06/2015 by Christie Patten in Social media LinkedIn Digital Media Strategy whatsnew
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It's been more than a decade since the social networking site LinkedIn was launched, connecting professionals and organisations with each other on a digital platform filled with potential for networking and business opportunities. Our Consultant and digital media buff Christie Patten explains why organisations need to be taking more notice of LinkedIn and how they can get the most out of it as a communication tool.

 

In its first decade, LinkedIn cultivated a global membership of 225 million. How many members did it start with? 4,500. In its first year, LinkedIn was gaining new members at a rate of 20 per day. In 2013, that rate had increased to two new members per second. Per SECOND. 

So LinkedIn as a business is successful, and we all have a profile established, right? After all, it is the most popular professional networking site in the world. This is your opportunity to set the right impression with a client, business partner or colleague even before you meet face to face.

Partnerships are forged here instead of in the meeting room, new business opportunities are promoted and secured, products are launched, expert opinions are shared and employers and employees are sizing each other up. Yet few businesses have been able to tap into the full potential of this digital business tool. 

Taking advantage

According to TechCrunch, LinkedIn receives about 187 million unique visitors each month. What does this mean for your business? If you're not using LinkedIn properly – you're missing out on some amazing opportunities.

Mostly, when clients walk through our door they understand LinkedIn can connect them with their colleagues, employers and industry. What they don't often realise is why those connections are so valuable and how they can maximise the opportunities available through this platform. 

But where do you start? It can be quite daunting to create and implement a proactive LinkedIn strategy. Your organisation's outcomes on LinkedIn will depend on your input. What are you goals and how will you achieve these? Do you have staff allocated to looking after your LinkedIn company page? How many hours a week do they spend on LinkedIn? This is usually where your organisation's marketing communications staff or public relations agency will be able to step in and help.

When we advise clients on their use of LinkedIn, we usually start by asking a few key questions. Once you can answer these, it will give you a clearer picture of how you should be using LinkedIn.

Can you answer these questions?.. Yes?.. Then you're ready.

• What do you want to achieve from LinkedIn? 

To build relationships? For what purpose? To generate new business opportunities? Recruit staff? To engage with key stakeholders? To position your organisation in a particular way? To promote your organisation's activities?

• How will you measure your success on LinkedIn?

Do you have a plan in place to track your connections, views, comments and engagement on this platform? Without tools and systems in place to help you to monitor and report on LinkedIn activity, how will you know how successful your strategy is? How will you know what you need to do better or what's working really well? 

• Who is the audience you want to speak to on LinkedIn? 

Like any public relations campaign, LinkedIn won't work for you unless you know exactly who you're talking to and how to talk to them. In the famous words of Sun Tzu – "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster." Is your target audience mining companies? What are they interested in? Where are they based? What's happening in their industry at the moment? Do you have employees on LinkedIn who can become supportive content generators? Who from your organisation would be suitable to position as expert commentators?

• Do you have regular time set aside to post/share/update your company's page? 

The more people see your organisation or its staff in their news feed, the more likely they are to come to trust you as a credible and knowledgeable source. It can also increase your chances of converting them to a customer when it comes time for a sales pitch.

What's next?

Once you have established the Who, What and Why, it's time for the all important How. How do you use LinkedIn properly when so many haven't been able to nail it yet? By being prepared, having interesting content (yes, unfortunately it has to be interesting to work), listening to your audience and maintaining your presence in the long term. 

There are a few simple tactics you can employ that – if done right – can help your organisation become a LinkedIn master. These are by no means the only tactics, but they are the most useful for the clients I have worked with - and I have also found them to be the easiest to maintain if you plan on using LinkedIn for longer than a week (which...by now I'm sure you've realised that you should).

Christie's top 6 LinkedIn tips for success

1. Join and contribute to groups
Join groups to keep abreast of industry discussion and contribute to conversations in a way that will demonstrate your organisations’s knowledge and expertise. Joining a LinkedIn group is an effective way to increase engagement with your target audience and position your organisation as an authoritative voice. Keep in mind that there's no point joining a group if you're not going to be contributing by making relevant, thought-provoking comments and responding to questions. 

2. Regularly share news and content
LinkedIn is a great tool to share news and content. Most recently, LinkedIn has increased its content distribution capabilities through the acquisition of Slideshare, Pulse and Newsle. This is definitely something to take advantage of! Sharing and promoting pertinent news demonstrates to your audience that your organisation keeps up-to-date with industry and broader current affairs. Content can also be shared across multiple platforms. For example, share your most recent blog post on LinkedIn, and tweet about a LinkedIn post on Twitter.

3. Ask for recommendations
Recommendations prove to others that your organisation is reputable and creditable, and also improves your LinkedIn presence. The best way to get recommendations is to simply ask people for them. This, of course, requires etiquette and technique and each request should be tailored to the individual. Providing recommendations in return also demonstrates goodwill and improves your organisation's relationships with others (remember relationship building?). As a starting point, you should aim to give and/or receive one recommendation per month.

4. Create a campaign 
You can also use LinkedIn to create campaigns that pose interesting discussion points to influential bloggers in various industries who can respond via their own blog post. These responses can then be posted as status updates on your LinkedIn account, increasing engagement levels and expanding your organisation's reach and visibility.

5. Create marketing offers 
Create marketing offers that are listed on the Products/Services page. For example, free webinars, free consultations, free e-books or special reports. This will help to generate new business leads and has been successful for many businesses that utilise this tool effectively.

6. Spend one-on-one time with your connections
Pinpoint who your organisation's most valuable connections are and try to engage with at least a few of them each week. This could mean a private message, a public comment or just an @mention. Why? Because personal interaction through targeted messaging is always more effective than mass-produced attempts to impress all of your followers at once. Again, this rule isn't just for LinkedIn – it goes for any communication activity.

For professionals reliant on building relationships within and across industry, LinkedIn is a proven and essential part of the communication toolkit. The only question is, are you ready to benefit from it?