If you gathered 100 marketers in one room, they’d probably disagree on almost everything. But according to a recent report from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, one of the few things just about everyone can agree on is LinkedIn. The “2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” report found that 94 percent of B2B marketers rely on LinkedIn as part of their content marketing strategy. As this study makes clear, LinkedIn is the most-used social network among B2B advertisers.
“We’ve seen a big shift in the number of brands looking to LinkedIn as a trustworthy, always-on content marketing channel that they can leverage to build meaningful relationships with influential audiences,” said Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s group manager of content marketing. Currently, the network’s membership is more than 380 million users strong.
LinkedIn has ramped up its own content marketing efforts in the last few years, in part by investing in branded videos profiling successful LinkedIn members. “The goal of it all is really to help professionals be more productive and successful,” Miller said. “That has also meant providing them with the right tools to grow their professional brands and connect to the people that can help them succeed.”
But are B2B marketers making the most of those tools? With the vast majority of businesses integrating LinkedIn into their marketing plans, it’s time to ask: Are they taking full advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer? Here, Miller shares his top tips for tackling the world’s leading B2B social platform.
1. Leverage longform content
When LinkedIn launched its Influencers program in 2012, the hype was palpable. Business leaders like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Arianna Huffington have all used the publishing platform to share longform blog posts with their LinkedIn followers. In the beginning, only select “influencers” could post, but LinkedIn has since made the feature available to all users.
According to Miller, once everyone could post, more than 1 million users were collectively publishing 130,000 posts per week during the summer.
Whether you’re already using LinkedIn longform posts or preparing to in the future, it’s important to understand why they’re valuable. The blogging tool is best served for demonstrating thought leadership and establishing credibility in the minds of potential customers and partners. Longform posts on LinkedIn become part of your profile and are automatically shared with your connections and followers, improving your discoverability on the site. Currently, 45 percent of readers are high-level executives like managers, VPs, and CEOs. The tech, financial services, and higher-education industries demand the most content.
In one of his best-practices posts about writing for LinkedIn, Daniel Roth, the company’s executive editor recommends paying particular attention to the headline. “Clear beats clever; use puns or jokes sparingly. And don’t try to trick people by offering a headline that doesn’t pay off in the text,” he said.
In the body text, brands should consider focusing on industry trends, specific challenges your company has faced, and opportunities that turned into successes. An honest voice is key, as is the inclusion of visual assets like images, video, and infographics.
2. Supercharge your company page
Miller reports that nearly nine out of 10 LinkedIn members believe a company should maintain an up-to-date Company Page. “It’s not enough to just fill out who your company is. You need to be active,” he said.
Your Company Page is your brand’s “content hub,” and as such, LinkedIn encourages businesses to post at least one update per day. This, Miller explains, is the most effective way to launch a conversation with other members, generate word of mouth, and engage with your target audience on the site.
What should brands post? Company news, industry articles, and invitations to “weigh in on hot topics” are all good bets. In 2014, LinkedIn asked its members to nominate the 10 best Company Pages they’d seen, and as it turned out, the winners had something in common. All of the brands regularly encouraged their followers to ask questions, and all tried to help solve their customers’ problems by posting utility content.
When creating a post for a Company Page, marketers should include keywords that strengthen SEO. In terms of length, text blurbs should be relatively short; social media software company Buffer puts the optimal length at 25 words. And studies show that including quality photos in social media posts can generate 87 percent more shares than other content types.
3. Increase reach with Sponsored Updates
Where lead generation is concerned, LinkedIn’s paid distribution picks up where Company Pages leave off. In its initial year and a half on the market, Sponsored Updates became the fastest-growing product in LinkedIn’s history. The updates are a form of native advertising, so they adopt the look and feel of an organic post. Companies primarily use them to promote their longform posts, drive traffic to branded content, and increase awareness for upcoming events.
LinkedIn’s top-performing Sponsored Updates of 2014, many of which saw engagement rates upward of 2 percent, included a comic strip from Intel IT Center; a link from Bankers Healthcare Group, Inc.; and a listicle from Secret Deodorant called “8 Invisible Signs You’re Totally Fried.” As expected, numbered lists generate shares, but so too does the inclusion of a question, strong language, rich media, and intro copy under 150 characters. Also, optimizing for mobile is a must. As Miller put it, “Our active uniques—especially on mobile—are rising.”
4. Connect with Sponsored InMail
Direct, personalized, and private, LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is an increasingly popular marketing tool on the platform. LinkedIn relaunched it earlier this year with a notable change: Messages can now only be sent to LinkedIn members when they’re actively using the site. The company hopes this adjustment will boost interaction. Targeted Sponsored InMail messages, which are created with the help of LinkedIn Marketing’s account team, are seeing an average open rate of 40 percent and a 9 percent click-through rate, per Miller.
Most brands are using InMail to promote events and webinars, and deliver personalized invitations to business prospects. Miller believes InMail is most useful for growing a community of like-minded, highly engaged professionals, and said the product works best when the message has obvious value for the member. “It should be concise, engaging, and easy to read,” he said. “The body copy should speak to the target audience with a clear message and strong call to action.”
(For more tips on Sponsored InMail, check out this SlideShare from LinkedIn.)
Most marketers know there’s value in being active on LinkedIn, but we hope these tips help you have more insight into what works best. And if you’re in the 6 percent not relying on LinkedIn, we’ll just assume you were attacked by a squirrel.