Using LinkedIn to Market Your Company
With Facebook recently becoming the fourth largest site in the world and by far the most dominant social network, it's understandable that it receives so much media attention and people are eager to learn how to advertise on Facebook and use it as a marketing tool. Twitter is a similar case; its explosion in recent media coverage has caused it to become the social media marketing tool du jour for many small business and organizations.
As a company we certainly use Twitter and Facebook to market our company and our clients, so we are in full agreement with the recent attention to both sites. However, it seems as if people rarely ever talk about LinkedIn anymore, even though it remains a formidable marketing tool and stellar company (it reached profitability long before the others).
LinkedIn offers a multitude of marketing opportunities outside of paid advertising or status updates. Here are four effective and efficient ways to leverage the medium for your organization.
1. Be There to Leverage Your Offline Network. The most fundamental strategy is just to be there to take advantage of your natural, offline network that is already in the space. If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, go get one, now!
The site has more than 40 million users from around the world, so it's almost certain that people in your offline network are already interacting on the site, waiting to interact with you. Also, I've found that I frequently encounter "blasts from the past" and reconnect with people from college or even further back, giving us the opportunity to catch up on what the other is doing and seeing if there are any collaboration opportunities.
In addition to creating your personal profile, be sure to also create a business listing for your company. This will allow your company's employees to join the group and easily communicate with each other, as well as place your company in the LinkedIn directory and available for people searching it for companies in certain industries.
2. Join and Interact in Groups.
While LinkedIn, itself, is a giant social network, it is in some sense made up of thousands of smaller networks, i.e., groups. This statement holds more true for LinkedIn than for other social networks, such as Facebook or MySpace.
While the groups serve a s self-identifiers for network members, similar to the purpose of groups in other networks, LinkedIn's groups go even further by acting as a staging ground for discussions, article postings and RSS aggregators. In fact, LinkedIn considers groups so important that a shared group is one of the five main qualifications that allow you to instantly connect with another person.
Once you join groups that are relevant to you and your company's expertise, you then have the ability to contribute by posting discussions topics and commenting on other threads. Active groups have dozens of interesting discussion topics per day.
By posting your own discussions and commenting on others, you will broadcast your company's knowledge on a topic, perhaps drive people to your blog, and catalyze new, authentic connections. However, it's extremely important to make sure that your postings are genuine and that you're not spamming the group with worthless noise, as this will lead to people never looking at the material you post.
Joining and interacting in groups is an important and effective strategy to broadcast your knowledge and expertise, as well as to extend your network to far beyond only individuals that you have met offline.
3. Answer Questions.
As noted in the previous section, each group affords you the ability to post discussions and respond to threads, allowing groups to be an important tool in displaying your expertise. In addition to group discussion boards, LinkedIn also has a general Questions section available for anyone to post questions and answers to.
You have the ability to sort these questions by topic and to find questions that are particularly suited to your knowledge and interest set. By answering other people's questions, they will then recognize you as a valuable resource and check out your company's website, connect with you through LinkedIn, or maybe even contact you with a business need.
Taking a few minutes out of each day to help others and expand your business's reach is an extremely valuable way to market your business through LinkedIn.
4. Create a Group.
The most advanced stage of marketing your company through LinkedIn is by creating your own group for others to join. The group should be relevant to your company's area of expertise and should serve as an environment where members, even competitors, feel genuinely welcome to posting their own discussions.
Do not create a group just to push your message out on other people. It's important to understand up front that the immediate beneficiaries of a group should be its members and the topic's general community, not your company. However, over time, your company can reap the rewards of founding the group through increased visibility, readership, and mindshare.
You should probably not create more than one or two groups, allowing you to really focus your energy on those groups, as well as preventing others from viewing you as a spammer out for solely your own benefit.
When creating a LinkedIn group, it's also important to compose your title with targeted keywords that both relate to your business and also are searched by LinkedIn members. You want your group to be strongly tied to your company's core focus and interest, and you also want to make it extremely easy for LinkedIn members to find the group.
You should not create a group until you have spent a significant amount of time living in the LinkedIn community, ensuring that you fully understand the proper techniques, etiquette, and management of a group. A group is an invaluable technique of increasing your name recognition and reach to thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals interested in your area of expertise.
We actually created our own group recently, titled Online Campaigning & Political Web Development. The group is meant for political professionals and politicos interested in political web development. With politics representing over 1/3 of our business, it's an extremely important niche to us and this group allows us to expand our presence and thought leadership in the space.
In conclusion, while LinkedIn isn't the largest social network, it is the network with the most business-focused members and mission. It arguably is the best social network to freely market your company, however, it does require some work on your end to ensure that you're leveraging the right techniques.
Have you had success with a LinkedIn marketing campaign? Do you have other tips on how to market a company on LinkedIn? Leave your thoughts in the comments!