The secret to the successful LinkedIn influencer program

What if you could stage the greatest business conference in the world? LinkedIn is creating a virtual version of that very conference with its LinkedIn Influencer program.

What if you could stage the greatest business conference in the world? Who would you invite to speak? Jack Welch? Bill Gates? Meg Whitman?

LinkedIn is creating a virtual version of that very conference with its LinkedIn Influencer program. As executive editor Dan Roth explained to 20 chief communications officers at a roundtable discussion hosted by my firm, financial and corporate communications agency Prosek Partners, the invite-only LinkedIn Influencer program brings together the world's top business leaders to share insights with LinkedIn's community. It offers a wealth of opportunities for executive positioning, while helping the LinkedIn community learn from the thought leaders of tomorrow.

Nearly every communications professional has faced the challenge of persuading a reluctant executive to build his or her social media profile. The Influencer program provides a safe platform for executives to build their brands by offering insights and advice that showcase their company's values, culture, and vision – as well as their own.  

As with other social media platforms, LinkedIn Influencer posts should be less about the author and more about what he or she can do for the reader. As Roth explained, it's about finding a topic that resonates with followers, such as how the Influencer overcame past challenges, and turning this insight into actionable advice. Most of all, it's about being authentic.

“We live in a time where career ladders are broken,” said Roth. “Most corporations offer little training or mentoring. People are in charge of their own careers, so they look to people like Sallie Krawcheck or Richard Branson as mentors. After all, if you're in a cubicle in Peoria and want to someday be Richard Branson, who better to hear from than Branson himself?”

While offering career advice may seem easy for an executive that has reached the pinnacle of his or her profession, Roth explained that there are some informal guidelines that executives should follow to build a successful Influencer profile.

1) Own your mistakes: Sometimes the clichés are true – mistakes really are the best learning opportunities. CEOs and other executives shouldn't be afraid to show that they too had setbacks while explaining how they overcame them. It's not only a great way to give advice, it's a great way to humanize your company and its leadership, which can pay off in both brand building and recruiting.

2) Engage, don't lecture: LinkedIn measures the success of its Influencer program through shares and comments, among other important metrics. A lecture or list may drive page views, but it probably won't start an engaging conversation. LinkedIn members leverage Influencer content to build their own brands by commenting on Influencer posts and sharing with their network what they think about the topic. Your executive's content should ask questions so as to provide readers with that opportunity.

3) Don't promote: If done judiciously, you can get away with the occasional bit of self promotion on Twitter or Facebook. It won't work here.

The focus on sharing may have been the biggest takeaway of all from the roundtable. LinkedIn Influencer may be a new platform, but the old rules still apply: Put your audience first and provide them with something of value. You'll reap the rewards many times over.

Hal Bienstock is SVP at Prosek Partners.

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