How to Use LinkedIn for Content Marketing

I was talking with an attendee at a chamber event recently and the topic of LinkedIn came up. She said that people “only go on LinkedIn when they’re searching for a job.” Yet, while the Human Resources aspect of LinkedIn is undeniable, its utility for businesses is compelling.

LinkedIn is the ultimate Rolodex. Nearly everyone is on it (in the business world at least – the average income of users is U.S. $85,000), most of the contact information is kept up-to-date, and LinkedIn recently made improvements to its platform to make it much better (specifically by improving layout, search and tagging). Yet, it may seem like a strange place to promote your company’s content.

You probably are familiar with”Weak-Tie” theory, the sociological concept that friends of friends are most likely to perpetuate a person’s interests. It’s based on a study conducted by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter that showed that people were more likely to find new jobs from friends-of-friends than from friends or strangers (in 1973). Of course this makes intuitive sense, too. We are more likely to buy something from a company that a friend works for (all other things being equal)… so long as we are aware that a friend works for said company.

You see the weak-tie concept with content virality as well. The piece that I wrote for Vocus last week on how to increase sharing on Google Plus got 65 social shares, and the piece that I wrote about creating a social media strategy a couple of weeks earlier got 890. In the first instance, the social reach of my post ran its course through my connections and Vocus’s followers. But in the second example, the post’s reach was perpetuated by weak-tie connections and got 13 times the publicity.

My point is that LinkedIn is a source of high-value weak-tie connections. The goal of this post is to show you how to easily leverage your employee network to reach those high-value weak-tie connections with your content.

Leverage employee sharing

If you want to achieve reliable reach for any social network, you need to have a group of people who regularly broadcast your content. A lot of businesses have wastelands of under-appreciated blog content with employees  unaware of the content, disconnected from the content, or  discouraged from using social networks at work. Each of these is a lost opportunity to connect with weak-tie connections, as well as to develop employee ownership in the company’s inbound initiatives.

I’m going to share two ways that you can easily get more employee engagement around your content using the IFTTT (if-this-then-that) trigger-action tool:

Send a share request email each time a blog entry posts: Each time you post to your blog, you can use IFTTT to send employees an email message encouraging them to share on LinkedIn. The trigger happens when your article posts on your RSS feed and the action is an email, utilizing the link: http://www.linkedin.com/cws/share?url={{EntryUrl}}

Here is a pre-crafted IFTTT recipe for this (just change the RSS feed and email address / message): https://ifttt.com/recipes/97682

Automatically share every blog entry on LinkedIn: A better way to reliably gain reach would be to have employees automatically share every blog post on LinkedIn. Of course, this depends upon the frequency of posting, relevance of content and their comfort with these. But if they’ll do it, that’s huge. Again, the RSS feed is the trigger and a LinkedIn post is the action.

Here is a pre-crafted IFTTT recipe for this (just change the RSS feed): https://ifttt.com/recipes/97708

LinkedIn also allows you to Like and Comment on any specific post (these social signals stay on the LinkedIn platform). I haven’t seen any data on whether these are good drivers of traffic, so my recommendation would be to encourage “Shares” in lieu of engagement on the platform. If you get engagement, great – but my instinct is that a Share carries more weight on LinkedIn (until there is data to the contrary).

Make your employees subject-matter experts

If engagement on LinkedIn is all about reaching those weak-tie connections, what better way than to place their “friend” in higher esteem?

There are many reasons why employee generated content is a great idea, but advocacy from the employee and from their connections is a big one. Maybe you have someone who is artistic and you get them a subscription to an infographic tool like Piktochart. Or maybe someone is a data cruncher and you give them a budget to do some small-scale studies with Survata. (And maybe you introduce these two at some point). Or in lieu of bells and whistles maybe you just have an editorial calendar and some consonant topics and divvy out assignments.

In any event, showcasing the competency and knowledge of your employees puts your company in higher esteem with your weak-tie connections.

This point is relevant to any social network, really. But on LinkedIn, you can leverage this by tagging the post with the employee’s name. Like Facebook, you simply start typing the person’s name and select the name when it appears (I’ve found this feature lags sometimes, so if it’s not appearing just pause for a moment).

In order to tag, you have to be connected to the person. Which is a great reason to encourage employees to keep their pages up-to-date and to stay connected. LinkedIn recently introduced a deeper integration allowing for import of contacts which I’m really fond of for increasing the breadth of your LinkedIn network. You can manage these settings here.

Leverage weak-tie connections to create content

If I had to do sales prospecting on any social network, I would use LinkedIn (with a premium account). The data and connectivity that LinkedIn provides is far more useful than other social networks for that purpose (in my opinion). And a big part of sales and connection is to understand what you have to leverage for others. A link from your site and exposure to your audience is a powerful enticement for many people.

One thing you may consider doing is finding high-profile prospects and inviting them to contribute content to your company blog. You can use LinkedIn to be introduced by a shared connection, you can tag them in your LinkedIn Share post, and maybe you develop enough of a relationship that they become a close-tie connection whose weak-tie connections become more familiar with you. Again, this isn’t something that can only be leveraged with LinkedIn but the connections that LinkedIn offers are oftentimes quite different from those of other social networks.

You will ultimately have to decide whether LinkedIn is a social network that you want to establish a stronger content presence in. Hopefully this post showed that you have much more power in the network than you’re currently leveraging, and that you can utilize that power with very little additional resource.

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.

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