8 reasons to love LinkedIn

Here’s why the social platform's new features are critical to your strategy.

BY Linda Formichelli
Contributor

When you see the little blue square that signals LinkedIn, do you think of hordes of job seekers posting their CVs and flexing their thought leadership muscles in order to attract employers? Or maybe you envision dry-as-dust “content” written by networking execs who consider annual reports the height of literature.

If so, your brand may be missing out on the social media platform that’s booming for B2B. More than half of all social media traffic to B2B company websites comes from LinkedIn, and the platform’s 500 million members include 61 million senior-level influencers and 40 million decision-makers.

The other social platforms may seem more exciting because they’re constantly releasing new features. But LinkedIn isn’t looking to stoke FOMO like these other platforms are. So, while you’re scrambling to monetize disappearing posts and persuading followers to bookmark your tweets, LinkedIn is steadfastly working to bring business marketers the most valuable and effective tools. “They don’t post updates every month like the other social platforms,” says Kristina Rodriguez, associate social journalist at Imagination. “They’re mindful of what they’re producing and want it to be the best experience for their members.”

Right now LinkedIn is actively innovating and setting itself up to become a revitalized platform to help brands bring in more leads, establish thought-leader cred and drive meaningful business results. Don’t miss out: Here are the tools, features and surprising facts about this social platform workhorse that will help you lead the pack.

LinkedIn is going Live

If you’ve been wanting to dip your toes into livestreaming, but platforms like Periscope and Facebook aren’t appropriate for your business, take a look at LinkedIn. “Live video is the fastest-growing format on the platform right now and has been the most requested feature from our members,” says Lynn Bader, director of North American agency relations at LinkedIn.

This feature lets you host live videos for select segments or for the entire LinkedIn community. Bader is expecting members will use the feature for videos like event and product announcements, earnings calls, conferences and award ceremonies. Q&As with customers, members or leads are also an option, and PR News suggests that another use case for LinkedIn Live is behind-the-scenes videos that will help with recruitment and showcase the business’s office culture.

Live is in beta, and LinkedIn is hush-hush on when it will be rolled out to all its members. “We’re looking forward to seeing how our pilot broadcasters use Live to bring people together and will evaluate what makes sense for expanding based on the communities we see forming and growing around streaming,” says Bader. “It will continue to be an invite-only program for the time being.”

Pinpoint your micro-audience

LinkedIn is the place to go for B2B social media advertising. “From a sales standpoint, you are trying reach a very specific audience—like those who work for a particular industry or company, have a certain level of seniority or live in a defined area—and LinkedIn is the only social media network that has that kind of information,” says Tiffany McEachern, social media specialist at PSCU, a credit union service organization focused around payments. “It is by far the most expensive network to advertise on, but that’s because it’s the only network to offer targeting specifically for business professionals.”

As with other platforms, on LinkedIn you need to put your money where your market is. Organic works for getting your content out in front of your own audience, but if you’re looking to reach a new audience, paid ads are crucial. To get started, take a look at some of these advertising advances LinkedIn has released or overhauled in recent months:

Interest-based targeting. With so much content and engagement on LinkedIn, creating the right audiences for ads can be hard for marketers. That’s why LinkedIn introduced interest-based targeting earlier this year. “We’re now letting our marketing partners reach people with relevant ads that match our members’ professional interests, based on the content they share and engage with within our news feed,” says Bader. “You can now fine-tune your campaigns and target over 200 different professional interest categories like customer experience, artificial intelligence and global economy—and that list is going to be growing over time.” Marketers can then combine interests with demographics to create the most targeted audience.

Objective-based targeting. Along with introducing interest-based targeting, LinkedIn overhauled its Campaign Manager platform to make it easier to create objective-based marketing campaigns and measure their impact. Through this type of ad, marketers are able to identify the most important objective for their campaign, such as driving clicks, generating leads or garnering video views. LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager platform then customizes the campaign creation experience by surfacing the ad formats and features that support that objective.

Matched audiences. You may be familiar with lookalike audiences from Facebook; now you can use this same targeting method on a platform that’s more relevant for B2B marketers. The matched audience feature combines the characteristics of your ideal customer with LinkedIn’s member and company data to help you identify new audiences that are similar to your existing customers, website visitors or target accounts. “And since the members that we’re going to be reaching are already on LinkedIn, we believe they’re in the right professional mindset to engage and respond to marketing messages,” says Bader.

Dynamic Ads. These have been around for a while, but what’s new about Dynamic Ads is that you can now create them directly in Campaign Manager. Dynamic Ads are small display ads that pull in publicly available details from your target audience’s LinkedIn profiles to personalize the content. For example, an association might feature the names and photos of LinkedIn members in their target industry along with a note on how the association can help the members meet their career goals.

Groups are now friendlier

Smart businesses join, or even create, LinkedIn Groups to be part of their target market’s conversation and to help build engagement around their brand or industry. But in the past, “LinkedIn deemphasized Groups to the degree that they became ghost towns and almost no one spends time in them anymore,” says Melonie Dodaro, CEO of Top Dog Social Media and author of LinkedIn Unlocked.

LinkedIn has now turned Groups back around, rebuilding them to make it easier for members to find, join and participate in them—including starting conversations, replying, commenting and sharing—right from their LinkedIn Home feed. Soon, members will also be able to post original videos, multiple images and other types of content, and receive notifications so they can stay on top of new Group activity.

Rodriguez says LinkedIn is looking to create a good user experience right on the platform to keep members there rather than driving them to other sites, so the revamp of Groups makes sense. However, if you’re using LinkedIn to, well, drive people to your website, some of the changes to Groups can be a drawback.

Find an influencer in Top Voices

Influencers are those people who have the expert cred—and audience pull—to help boost a brand’s image. With its yearly Top Voices picks, LinkedIn makes it easy to find out who the influencers in any category are, so you can learn from them or reach out to them for comarketing opportunities.

To find out whom people are listening to, search “Top Voices LinkedIn” plus your industry, such as “health care” or “finance.” You’ll discover, for example, that in 2018, Yardeni Research’s Ed Yardeni was LinkedIn’s No. 2 Top Voice in finance & economy and Dr. Sachin Jain of CareMore Health was the No. 1 Top Voice in health care. Dig into their profiles to discover what your target audience finds compelling so you can incorporate these aspects into your own content campaigns.

When it comes to being the influencer yourself, besides learning from the masters, it’s important to show the people behind the brand, rather than hiding behind the company page. “Brands are tapping into LinkedIn’s strong influencer following by making their CEOs and CMOs their face,” says Troy Davis, paid media manager at Imagination. “These people are posting through their own profiles and not the brand’s page.”

Adds Dodaro, “When people get to know the CEO of the company, it creates goodwill and increases brand relevance. And that’s especially key for the larger brands out there, as a lack of relevancy is what destroys companies.”

Millennials and Gen Z love LinkedIn

Say you’re a financial agency or industry association that’s going after younger customers and members. If you make a beeline for Twitter or Insta, you’re ignoring the large swath of young prospects who are on LinkedIn.

More and more millennials and members of Gen Z are flocking to the platform in search of professional development, internships and help starting businesses. “When I speak at events, I often hear millennials speak of LinkedIn with excitement as if it is this brand new platform,” says Dodaro. “They’ve just discovered how amazing it is.”

LinkedIn is used by 87 million millennials, and, according to a 2018 article in Inc., “Early signs have shown that Gen Zs may have stronger entrepreneurial aspirations and be more focused on making money than previous generations. Gen Z’s entrepreneurs are making their presence felt on LinkedIn.”

LinkedIn leads to IRL meetings

LinkedIn is all about building relationships, so it’s only natural that LinkedIn meetings would lead to off-platform gatherings IRL. “Our data has suggested that about 80% of LinkedIn members consider professional networking to be important to generating new opportunities and to the future success of their careers,” says Bader. Not only that, she says, but millions of members share professional events on the platform. To help these members move from the virtual to the real without having to hop over to Facebook or Meetup to set up their event, LinkedIn is piloting a new feature that lets members create offline events right on the platform.

The feature is in beta in New York and San Francisco, but the idea is that LinkedIn members can create an event and provide the details plus a unique hashtag. Organizers can invite their connections and share the event info in their feeds; invitees are then allowed to share the invitation with their own networks, bringing fresh faces to your events. Attendees will be able to view and search the guest list, chat with one another on the event page before, during and after the event, and post photos and videos of the event after the fact.

Need ideas for events that will raise your expert status and expand your network? Try alumni happy hours, industry networking meetings and educational talks or panels.

LinkedIn updates Pages

In November 2018, LinkedIn Company Pages became simply LinkedIn Pages. With Pages, brands can now share PDFs, PowerPoint presentations and Word docs in addition to images, video and text—letting you provide information in the way your followers would like to experience it.

Analytics on Pages is also new and improved. “It’s now more manageable to see whenever someone interacts with you or your page,” says Davis. “You can also see the content and topics your target audience is reading. Pages shows you the content that’s been trending with your audience in the last 15 days, which offers insights into what you’re posting.”

These insights help unite and rally internal teams. Remember: Your employees can be your biggest advocates. “One trick to get more impressions on your content is to get your employees involved,” says McEachern. “If your employees are sharing and engaging with your content, it will most likely show up in the news feeds of their connections, giving your content more exposure.” To facilitate this kind of engagement, LinkedIn has introduced a suite of tools called Elevate that suggests content for your staff to share and lets you discover and reshare their public posts from your brand’s page.

LinkedIn has hashtag swagger

Those hashtags you use on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks help potential readers find you by identifying topics and keywords of interest. Recently, LinkedIn has made it easier to attract readers to your thought leadership content through its newly developed hashtag feature.

“Hashtags can be helpful in a number of ways,” says McEachern. “For example, when my company does webinars that are specifically for credit union marketers, we include the hashtag #creditunions so anyone following that hashtag will see that post about our webinar. This helps us reach our target audience without having to pay for advertising.” As a social media specialist, McEachern also follows #socialmedia, which helps her stay up to date with content and changes that are relevant to her job.

Add hashtags not only to posts but also to the commentary of your articles before you publish them so your articles will appear in searches. Choose carefully: Once you publish your article, you can’t edit, add or remove the hashtags.

To find out which hashtags are the most popular—because you don’t want to load your posts and article commentary with tags that no one is actually following—click on “Discover More” under “Followed Hashtags” in the left-hand column of your homepage. (If you’re not following any yet, you’ll be invited to do so.) There you’ll see, for example, that #mobilemarketing has 4.4 million followers, and #consultants has 3.9 million followers. Follow the ones that seem like likely suspects for your own brand, and use them yourself if you determine they’re a good match.

LinkedIn has always been a platform for professionals, and now it’s creating and overhauling features that give it the appeal and usability of social sites like Facebook and Instagram—but with the needs of B2B marketers in mind. Explore the site to discover the tools and features that’ll put your content out in front of the people you want to reach.

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