LinkedIn's Roth: Avoid overt marketing on social

LinkedIn executive editor Dan Roth said Wednesday that thought leaders should avoid PR and marketing messages if they want to communicate with stakeholders on social networks.

NEW YORK: LinkedIn executive editor Dan Roth said Wednesday that thought leaders should avoid PR and marketing messages if they want to communicate with stakeholders on social networks.

In October 2012, LinkedIn launched its Influencer program as a publishing platform for experts and leaders to interact with the public. About 450 thought leaders are involved with the initiative, including President Barack Obama and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. The influencers write two posts per month on average.

“[The general public] doesn't like reading PR, and when they sense something is a marketing message, they just click off,” said Roth, speaking at PRWeek's Influencer Summit on Wednesday morning. He added that he advises writers to be authentic and palpable in their posts.

Guided by a topic of their own choice or one suggested by LinkedIn's editors each month, influencers are advised to write pieces about leadership, management, how things work, and their thoughts on the future of business. Posts receive an average of 100 comments. The program is generated by a team of editors who work with the influencers, and an algorithm matches topics to appropriate audiences on LinkedIn.

"Influencers never have to run their pieces by editors, even if it is libelous [although editors will push back if a post is blatantly untrue or too self-promotional, and the nature of the Influencer Program content means legality is rarely an issue],” said Roth. “We are just a platform, and people are taking it upon themselves to push their message.

Glenn Kelman, CEO of Seattle-based online real-estate brokerage Redfin, is a lesser-known executive who has been successful using the program, according to Roth. Last month, Kelman wrote about the imbalance between the funding of companies like his and those, such as cancer-research organizations, which have a major impact on people's lives.

“This is a way of humanizing [CEOs] and also creating celebrities of them,” Roth said.

For a week, Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich lived on food stamps. He wrote about the experience on LinkedIn's program, and USA Today and Today were among the outlets that picked up the news. LinkedIn has relationships with various media outlets, including Business Insider, Mashable, and The Huffington Post.

“Influencers who are most successful are often taking a tangential topic that is lightly related but not 100% related to their business,” Roth said.

Companies should use social media platforms not just to get their point across, but to get other people to build on their message, Roth explained. Commenters can also use platforms such as LinkedIn's program to brand themselves based on what someone else said.

“Commenters on LinkedIn are thoughtful because there is no anonymity,” said Roth. “When you leave a comment, your entire network sees it -- your boss, employees, and people you want to do business with in the future. Also, commenters are not just talking with the influencers; they are usually talking with others in their network and adding something to the conversation.”

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