Using LinkedIn to Market You and Your Business
Over the past year, LinkedIn has changed quite a bit. Engagement levels seem higher than ever and users are leveraging the platform in creative and compelling ways.
No longer is it a professional networking site reserved only for job searching, or sharing a company update. This is the LinkedIn of the past. It’s transforming into a bigger, better, and more “human” platform.
And we have to take it seriously as we move into 2018…
With 467 million total LinkedIn users and 106 million monthly users, there’s a whole lot of opportunity.
One more stat that blows my mind is that 40% of users hop on the platform daily. With activity levels this high, it’s time to take advantage of the opportunity.
We’ll be looking into profile optimization and content strategy so that you can get a better idea of how to successfully leverage this growing platform.
The first half of this article is about profile features and best practices for setting up a successful profile page. If you already have a rockstar profile, just skip over to part 2 and learn about content strategy and optimizing posts.
Part 1: An effective LinkedIn profile page
Ultimately, LinkedIn will work as an asset in your marketing strategy, whether you use it to generate leads for business, or simply to grow your personal brand.
It’s in this sense that your LinkedIn profile page acts as a landing page. It’s the place where people find you and, within moments, make a decision in regards to connecting with you.
This means you not only have to be direct with what you “do”, but craft it in a compelling manner.
Think of the difference between:
“Search Marketer at Agency X”
“I help Small Businesses Double ROI with Proven Digital Strategy”
I think you have an idea of what I mean here.
This is your moment to prove your worth and show people that you can help them. You have to ask yourself the question that a visitor to your profile would ask:
“Why should I bother connecting with this person?”
Just as a website would, you should be driving relevant people to your profile. However, the importance of this is that people who fall within your ideal audience would be able to see that you are valuable.
On the other hand, if someone simply stumbles across your profile and you can’t help them, you don’t want them connecting with you anyways. Stating your value clearly creates this filter.
Optimizing your profile
There are several parts of your profile to take note of. If we successfully edit these areas, we can immediately state our value and allow others to know what we do, who we are, and if we can help them.
Am I worthy of connecting with?
Headshot: Arguably one of the most important elements of your profile. As humans, we are naturally drawn to faces and imagery.
That being said, a professional headshot can only help you (I don’t have one yet, don’t tell anyone!).
This is quite obvious, but there are a lot of ugly-looking and misaligned profile pictures floating around. I’m not referring to the people in them, but rather the quality of the picture and the context. (Ie. what the person is wearing and their facial expression).
Remember, think about the people you’re trying to attract and the industry you represent.
Headline: Along with your name and headshot, this will follow you across LinkedIn. Make it worthy of being there.
It’s the first piece of copy that people will read about you. What do you want them to think?
How can you show off what you do in a compelling manner? How can you articulate your value in 120 characters?
Some people simply state what they do, others state their value and immediately establish themselves as an authority. It’s powerful and it makes it easy to follow them.
Summary: Writing a good LinkedIn summary isn’t altogether difficult, but it is important.
When someone clicks through to your profile, they’ll have the opportunity to dig a little deeper and see what you’re truly all about.
Was your headline just clickbait, or can you back it up with some more evidence?
With a 2,000 character count, you can quickly outline the experience you have, the value you provide, and even offer a call to action in your profile summary. For example:
“I help companies hire more qualified candidates, feel free to get in touch if you’d like to chat: Joe@staffing.com.”
Furthermore, the summary can be a great place to give your story. Where are you now? Where are you headed? And most importantly, why? Stories sell!
And one last point: you can include media objects at the bottom of your summary. Link to your personal website, a mention in a relevant publication, or something of the like. Take advantage of the link opportunity with a nice graphic:
Experience: In the experience section, you’ll have the ability to display all your positions, the companies you worked at, and the tasks/accomplishments that occurred at each.
The best practice here is to simply provide bulleted lists so that visitors can quickly scan over them.
No one wants to read a whole wall of text about you. Make it as easily digestible as possible.
Education: I don’t have much to note on education, just clarify what school(s) you attended, what you studied, and any extracurriculars that strengthen or add validity to what you currently do.
Skills and Endorsements: I’ve been skeptical on skills and endorsements before. Frankly, it seems to be an unqualified way of showing that you excel at “something”.
The reason for this is that anyone can endorse you for any skill, whether or not you, or they, have any experience.
This certainly brings into question the validity of this feature.
That being said, I still do believe that it’s important to add skills to your profile. You can add a maximum of 50, but that’s overkill. Focus on a few and allow others to judge if it’s true.
The only reason that I suggest doing this is that it can increase your chances of showing up in the LinkedIn SERPs.
In fact, according to LinkedIn, profiles with at least five skills receive up to 17x more profile views. If it takes just a few minutes to do this, you might as well add them.
Bonus points if you can earn endorsements from highly skilled people:
Accomplishments: Is there anything in particular you’ve done that helps you stand out from the crowd? If it’s relevant to what you currently do, I’d urge you to keep it. If not, you may as well remove it as it doesn’t do you any good.
For example, you may want to include past projects that you have worked on, but perhaps it would be best to remove awards and certifications that are outdated or unnecessary in your current position.
The reason that you have to be smart about what you include here is that it’s a concise section and viewers of your profile only see a brief overview.
They can choose to expand the section, so don’t inundate visitors with ten different languages, projects, and certifications. Information overload is a no-go.
Show off in a compelling manner
Some individuals I’ve stumbled across on LinkedIn do an excellent job of marketing themselves.
They share their amazing accomplishments, the niche they work in, and how they help others.
What’s so impressive is the way that they’re able to promote themselves in such a compelling and subtle manner.
Your LinkedIn profile is certainly your chance to talk about “you”, but it should always be in relation to how you provide value in the online world.
Otherwise, why would anyone want to follow you?
Look at what you do and how it aligns with people seeking information within that ecosystem. That’s how you can craft a compelling profile.
For examples of profiles and critiques on them, check out some of the reviews that Aaron Orendorff did. It’ll get you thinking about your value proposition and how you frame yourself in the mind of a LinkedIn user who stumbles on your profile.
Aaron Orendorff points out areas of opportunity.
Part 2: LinkedIn Content strategy and post optimization
Your LinkedIn Content Marketing strategy
I’ll be very brief, I’m assuming most of you know the generic:
- Sharing content on LinkedIn that aligns with your target audience
- Being original. Why would they follow you and not someone else who does the same exact thing?
- Staying consistent. If you aren’t posting often, you’ll be forgotten quickly.
Ideally, you should be sharing content that resonates with (a.) professionals, (b.) industry professionals, and (c.) your potential customers.
Here’s the difference:
(a.) Professionals: This type of content is general, but at the same time it hits a common vein. It’s the type of content that anyone can empathize or relate to. It’s what tends to go viral on LinkedIn.
Just think of the stories you see on LinkedIn with hundreds of likes. They’re typically about overcoming a major obstacle, sharing a story, or emphasizing a common pain amongst LinkedIn users.
This is the type of content that has to do with hiring, career struggles, thought leadership, self-improvement, and a whole series of very broad topics that relate to most in the working world.
It gives people a sense of “we’re in this together”.
(b.) Industry Professionals: This is your bread and butter because it’s the audience that includes people just like you. Frankly, when you speak about what it is that you do, it’s natural that you’re going to attract people that do something similar.
Your industry has people that are experiencing the same exact problems as you, and they’re all actively looking for solutions to those problems.
How can they get more customers? Do their job better? Get a raise? What tools should they be using? Who should they hire? What decision should they make?
These LinkedIn users may not directly bring you business, but they will bring you respect in your industry.
If you’re creating great content that actually helps them, they’ll often be your biggest advocates. Whether this includes simply sharing the content, mentioning you online, or even referring people to you for business.
(c.) Potential customers: Especially if you’re in B2B, LinkedIn can be a perfect opportunity for connecting with potential customers.
As if it isn’t obvious enough, LinkedIn was built for prospecting. You can connect with anyone in your second-degree network, along with InMail several third-degree connections a month. And LinkedIn navigator will take you even farther.
From a content standpoint, LinkedIn offers just one more platform, amongst many, to attract inbound leads.
It depends on your industry, but at the end of the day, your content still has to help people. I think we’re all aware of this, so I’ll provide some cases to exemplify this:
Take String Nguyen for example.
She creates engaging content on LinkedIn to help people with their growth on social channels.
What’s beautiful about String’s content strategy is that it’s (a.) immediately helpful and entertaining (her interviews are great!), (b.) establishes herself as an authority in a defined niche, and (c.) subtly hints at her services.
The more that you can chat about helping potential customers than you do about your offering, the better.
Vincent Orleck of BRANDish Social Media sums up this philosophy perfectly:
One other example is Gilles DC.
Not only does he create posts that are intriguing, thought-provoking, and generally entertaining, but he also distributes information regarding lead generation and cold outreach.
For anyone trying to fill their funnel, Gilles is an awesome resource. Just check out his article on LinkedIn Pulse article and you’ll agree: “Outbound Sales on AutoPilot”.
Once again, we see an individual leveraging content that subtly hints at the product offering while still providing a massive amount of value upfront. Truly a win-win for both the content consumer and content creator.
Posting content on LinkedIn
I’m not going to dive into what content you should be sharing on LinkedIn. You’ll be the judge of that based on your niche.
Rather, I’ll quickly discuss your options for the formats of content you can share, and what I’ve noticed to perform well from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective.
Pulse: LinkedIn Pulse is a segment of LinkedIn that allows people to share long-form content. What’s awesome about Pulse is that it sends a notification to your network when you publish an article.
Not only does it act as a place to publish content that’s too long to be an update (over 1300 characters), but it’s also a great platform for repurposing content.
My suggestion is to look through old content that has performed well in the past, and republish it on Pulse. You’ll be able to get fresh eyes on your content, drive traffic back to your website, and there shouldn’t be any negative effects in terms of SEO.
If you’re looking for more information, Wordstream has a solid piece on creating high performing content for LinkedIn Pulse.
One last benefit to note is that your content can appear in the Google SERPs as well, even if it’s a republished piece.
Ryan Battles has a great article on reposting content. Below he shows an article of his that shows up twice in the SERPs, with the original piece showing above the republished one.
Slideshare: Slideshare isn’t something that I have personally used nor looked into very much.
Based on my research, it seems to be a great channel for sharing presentations and can help you show up in the SERPs like articles.
KissMetrics even went as far as saying that SlideShare is “The Quiet Giant of Content Marketing”.
I’d be skeptical of such a claim, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think an opportunity exists. Feel free to check out the guide to SlideShare on KissMetrics for a more in-depth review of the platform and helpful insights to creating better presentations.
Updates: Updates are the classic go-to format for sharing content. You have up to 1300 characters to craft a post that will be shared with a small percentage of your audience. The more that it resonates with that small percentage, the more your update will be distributed.
Gretta van Riel describes how this works:
If you’re anything like a typical LinkedIn user, updates will be your primary method of sharing content on the platform (more so than articles and presentations).
It’s your job here to satisfy both your audience and the LinkedIn algorithm.
By creating content that engages your audience, the algorithm will reward you.
However, to increase engagement and distribution of your posts, it’s important to optimize them for the algorithm as well, not simply your audience.
It’s similar to how you create content on your blog, and you also take into consideration SEO to increase your chances of additional traffic.
Time to jump into post optimization, where I’ll clarify this.
Recently I had the chance to study LinkedIn updates and analyze how the inclusion (or lack thereof) of certain features can increase or decrease engagement rates.
I collected data from 400 LinkedIn updates, from 4 different people with various followings.
Then, I normalized the data by first finding the average number of likes a post receives for a particular user, and then giving each post a percentage of performance based on the average for that user.
100% is average. Any update with engagement over 100% is considered above average, and vice versa.
For example, visuals are very important. We’re naturally drawn to images and video in our LinkedIn feed and based on this study, updates with images and videos actually have a slightly higher rate of engagement.
This chart shows the difference between posts that include images, and those that don’t.
And for video:
What this tells us is that people are not only receptive to images and video, but LinkedIn also appears to encourage it.
However, there are other features to take note of. Here is the complete chart from the study:
What quickly becomes evident is that links and shares perform poorly on LinkedIn.
The difference between posts with and without links is large enough that I highly encourage placing any links in the comments rather than the body of the update.
Part of the reason that this may happen is that users may feel you’re being promotional.
However, it’s most likely due (in large part) to the LinkedIn algorithm, which intends to distribute the most relevant content to your audience and also keep users on the platform.
Links encourage people to leave the site, so the algorithm appears to punish posts that contain them.
As a social networking site, it’s disappointing to see that shares of others’ content performs so poorly. As you can see above, posts that were shares performed the worst overall. Perhaps the small amount of data collected led to skewed results.
Nonetheless, we can still draw inferences:
- Avoid links. They will only hurt the reach and engagement levels of your posts.
- Leverage visual content. LinkedIn won’t punish you (they might even reward you) and people naturally enjoy it.
- Share stories. People are opening up on LinkedIn. They’re going deeper than just simple article shares and complaining about recruiters.
- Work with others. I’ve noticed that many of the LinkedIn users who are driving a lot of engagement are excellent at interacting with and promoting others.
This doesn’t mean you should tag people for the sake of it. Rather, see where you can provide value. Work to respond to questions and post comments to help other people. Send messages when you both receive connection requests and when you prompt them.
Time to optimize your profile and content
Overall, it’s a matter of having a library of both general and niche-based content, along with properly formatting it to increase engagement from your audience while satisfying the LinkedIn algorithm.
The above will certainly help, but at the end of the day, it’s all up to you.
You have to decide who you want to talk to, what you’ll discuss, and what makes you different.
Always be answering the big question: Why should anyone follow you?
Best of luck in creating a compelling profile, crafting engaging content, and defining a strong value proposition on the new and improved LinkedIn.