Image: Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash.
LinkedIn has grown from its origin as an open job-hunting board, to a commercially controlled global marketing platform. For a small business, it’s impossible to ignore and difficult to master. A social media platform, LinkedIn provides businesses of all sizes the opportunity to communicate, connect and contribute.
But with so many users, how does one stand out in the crowd of messages and be heard?
This article addresses some of the very basic user guiding principals.
What you’re advised
Personal experience with marketers and other business advisers’ advice has been consistent when it comes to LinkedIn. “You have to post consistent, quality content…” With an implied “…or else…”
But is this true?
Well, perhaps not quite as true as the practitioners might have you think.
Finding reliable and believable data on LinkedIn return on investment is particularly challenging.
If you’re using LinkedIn to advertise and promote your business, don’t be too despondent on uninspiring results. You will be well represented in the average user’s experience.
What you observe
A short reflection on the type and number of posts in your LinkedIn ‘feed’ (or screen for those of us less Social Media obsessed,) will supply some consistent patterns of who posts, and what they post. Your network of connections plays a significant role in influencing what you receive, so there are influences at play which are outside your own control.
The most prevalent poster in your feed will be a coach of some sort. They will engage you with stories and analogies that show the struggle you’re currently enduring can be overcome. And you, too, can emerge from that struggle successfully, by following good advice. Theirs, that is.
There’s nothing wrong with these professional service providers promoting their services, at all. They need to make a living too. They offer their services to the market and individual buyers choose whether to accept their offer or not. Plain market process, as we should all expect.
The second most prevalent is the expert on a particular subject. They’re using LinkedIn to consistently post short pieces that help show their ability in a certain field. Again, this is valid advertising, as it supplies an example of their capability that a service buyer may wish to engage. Its genuinely hard to keep up with these subject matter experts who find a never-ending supply of facts, comparisons, trends, infographics that capture your attention.
The third is the individual, seeking to promote themselves through an accomplishment, a promotion, a role change or some more personal event. On a professional networking site, this is to be expected, and when done with humility and relevant connection to others, it’s quite good to see.
It is interesting to discover that company pages, and posts, are treated as “steerage class” passengers, in comparison to other users. (If you’re unaware of steerage class as an archaic classification, it’s Third Class, or very lowest level of service and amenity in a passenger liner. Think ‘no portholes, shared cabins with bunk beds, self-serve mess hall, not dining room.’) While you do see company articles often, they are not promoted or treated as favourably as individual account users whether they hold paid or free accounts.
When assessing the LinkedIn playing field, there are a lot of players. And most of the content comes from the minority. That minority is often your competitor, not your targeted prospective client.
Building your network
I’ve noticed some recent debate about how best to go about building your network.
An early view was simply to find an intended target connection, often on your mobile device, and press the “connect” button. This sends a templated, impersonal message to the recipient.
A revised view was that connection requests should be more personal by adding your own message to the connection request.
Some recent posts I’ve seen, suggest that personalisation is passé and verges on “…creepy…” and that content matters most, not a personal message.
If you’re confused, you’re in good company.
Here’s the reality: if you are an average LinkedIn user, who reads a lot, posts little and uses the platform to ‘keep up’ with what’s happening in your business market, it’s highly likely that for every twenty connection requests you send, regardless of templated or personalised requests, you’ll probably receive one to three acceptances.
One way to interpret this is that LinkedIn is now widely considered by many as, primarily, a marketing tool. So, vendors spruik their goods or services and the buyers see and gather their information on choices.
By observation, it has been shown that many higher-level leaders or office-bearers in companies don’t actively engage on LinkedIn, despite having an account. If they are your target audience, most often the only way to reach them is through their advisors.
So, what do I do?
My viewpoint is not from a self-styled “influencer,” just a common user. Like many, I’m a professional services provider trying to increase my profile in the marketplace, so that I may catch the attention of my prospective clients. My recommendations are derived from personal experience and with appreciation of the contemporary theories which are often communicated.
The overarching focus with business directed social media is that business is still dependent on relationships. You may hear some populist ideas that marketers present, like ‘data driven’ and ‘content is king’ but they count for nothing if you don’t connect with, and resonate to, your business partners and clients.
Here are some tips that might help you employ LinkedIn in your marketing exercise.
Thing One – Have a professional, complete, informative profile that presents you and your experience. People are genuinely interested in what you’ve done.
Thing Two – Regularly read the stuff that scrolls through your ‘feed’ on LinkedIn. Where there’s something interesting and relevant to you, do tend to use the “Like” button. This helps bring similar relevant posts into your feed. The algorithms used to control what you see are overly complex and do some strange and impressive things at times. Help them out, where you can.
Thing Three – Engage. When you read a post that you agree with, or better, don’t agree with, say so. Approach the exercise as you might, standing around at a professional gathering or conference, and hearing an open conversation from adjacent people. Be polite, but purposeful, as you’d do in public. It’s important to contribute to the discussion because it not only helps you understand and further the discussion, but you may be helping others in the process. This gets you noticed.
Thing Four – “Follow” your targeted prospective contacts or clients even if you choose to connect with them. This gives you insight into what they comment on or reveal to others. Accept that you’re never going to come anywhere close to 100% acceptance of your connection requests. If you manage to get 30%, you’re one of the most popular people next to Elon Musk, now.
Thing Five – Embrace that “old school” personal connection with your prospective clients or contacts. Talk to them. If you can’t do that in parson, use video conferencing. If they are too hard to get to commit to a discussion, email them.
Thing Six – Post meaningful content that matters to you and your prospective clients. Think of something that would be helpful to you and you’ll be on the right path. If it’s a small aid to them, even better. Make it short, relevant and useful. Don’t be too surprised that you might not get lots of comments on the post, because many LinkedIn users just don’t understand Thing Three. They choose to go to a professional presentation, mingle before the show but don’t talk to anyone, then leave quickly. Sad, but true.
Thing Seven – Have a plan. Have a pattern. If you want to extract some genuine results from LinkedIn as a marketing platform for you, your services or product, plan it. Plan a regular work cycle to prepare and post your articles. Set out a theme for the next quarter and draft some topics that follow a message you’re trying to present, or a topic that you know is important to share with others, less committed to ongoing research.
And the final, essential, suggestion – revisit Thing Five.
Peter Crane has spent thirty years working with Tier One production companies, helping them deliver efficient capital investments, reducing waste, improving performance and increasing investor confidence. Armed with practical experience in capital planning, project delivery, engineering services, construction management and strategic asset management in the infrastructure and resources sectors, Peter offers a unique insight into operational roadblocks – and how to fix them.
If you are interested in understanding how to plan and implement your business strategy, why not schedule a discovery call with Peter and the team at SER Solutions today?
Quote: Robin S. Sharma Quotes. BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc, 2022. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/robin_s_sharma_531656, accessed January 6, 2022.