TL;DR: LinkedIn might not be anyone’s fave, but if you’re not using it, you may be missing out on valuable business and career opportunities to get your business values (or yourself) in front of the right eyes. To make it easy, we’ve provided a crash course in LinkedIn strategy and advertising for brands.
Ahh, LinkedIn. The Michael Scott of social networks. It can feel like this annoying, often uncomfortable thing. (“Please add me as a connection, person who I attended a meeting with once, so that I can figure out which person you know who may be of use to me!”) Yet, it is also often necessary to pursuing business and career goals, much like Michael was to all of his Dunder Mifflin employees and the fictional company’s clients. This discomfort prevents a lot of people and businesses from using the platform to its full potential. Here, I’ll break down basic LinkedIn strategy for businesses, provide some advertising recommendations, and offer some LinkedIn best practices for both brands and individuals.
Finish Your Profile
To get the most out of the platform, LinkedIn wants you to complete your profile to the fullest extent. Not only to seem legit, but also to be as visible to recruiters, potential collaborators, etc. as possible, per LinkedIn’s search algorithm. It’s also good to make a point of connecting with colleagues often. One of LinkedIn’s most powerful tools is the ability to see how you’re connected to others, which can be crucial when you’re looking to make an introduction with a potential employer.
LinkedIn Strategy for Brands
Brands, on the other hand, can use LinkedIn for many reasons not related to networking. Generally speaking, organic brand content on LinkedIn shouldn’t be sales-focused. Instead, brands should focus on using organic content to communicate their missions and values to current and future employees. It’s also a perfect space to provide thought leadership. Sales content should be saved for sponsored content, display ads and sponsored InMails, where brands can use targeting to ensure the content is being seen by their desired demographics. If you’re not familiar, InMails are private messages, similar to emails, that are delivered directly to a LinkedIn user’s inbox.
When it comes to content creation, LinkedIn is a passive platform. Most users — unless they work in sales — keep their profiles updated to make sure they’re attractive to potential employers and recruiters, but only occasionally share articles that are relevant to their profession or career-building in general. Status updates or mobile photos are even more rare. Brands that share content demonstrating their brand values — regardless of whether that content is branded or not — tend to see a great deal of success on LinkedIn. Additionally, companies with strong culture and values can recruit well-suited talent by positioning their existing employees as brand evangelists. Companies like HP, L’Oreal, Four Seasons and the Nature Conservancy exemplify this model of value-espousing on LinkedIn (i.e., they never aggressively sell their products).
Advertising on LinkedIn
When we talk about advertising on social media, we tend to think of Facebook as the targeting giant. However, LinkedIn allows you to target people not only by job title, but also by job skills. The benefit of this is that LinkedIn users tend to give much more accurate self-reported data.
You probably have plenty of Facebook friends who don’t list their employer or real job title for various privacy reasons, but on LinkedIn, people give as much data as possible about their jobs and their skills because they want to stand out. If your business offers something that appeals to specific job roles, there is a lot of potential opportunity to reach targeted audiences on LinkedIn. For example, destination marketing organizations and convention and visitor bureaus looking to target meeting planners can deliver ads straight to planners’ newsfeeds and messages to their inboxes.
However, direct sales probably aren’t going to happen from LinkedIn ads, but users have proven to be more willing to share contact information than users of other platforms. If you can offer your target market something of value through a LinkedIn ad, your chances that they’ll fill out an email entry form are pretty high. Because of this, LinkedIn is the ideal platform for building prospect lists.
Pro tip: Make sure you do a quick Google search when targeting by job title. There tends to be a lot of variation in titles between companies, and your LinkedIn ads will only reach people whose titles match the ones listed in your targeting exactly.
If you haven’t checked LinkedIn lately, dust off your password and check it out — look familiar? Microsoft has taken steps to bring LinkedIn’s user interface up to speed with other platforms, like Facebook. Among other things, the LinkedIn feed is now much more visual, with large images and autoplay videos now taking up more space, which was once dominated by text and tiny thumbnail images.
On the brand side, LinkedIn has offered some valuable updates, like an improved version of Sales Navigator and self-serve InMails. In the past, brands had to be willing to spend a certain threshold on advertising in order to get access to InMails. Now, InMails are entirely self-service and can be sent by anyone with a business account. Sales Navigator is essentially a robust stalking tool for salespeople looking to use LinkedIn for prospecting purposes.
To sum it up, LinkedIn, while not super intuitive or clunky, offers valuable tools that many brands never even know they’re missing out on.