At LinkedIn’s inaugural CommsConnect event in San Francisco, executive editor Dan Roth listed several guidelines for LinkedIn success, most of which flew in the face of conventional PR wisdom.
Many PR pros view LinkedIn as the ultimate content marketing platform, especially since it opened its publishing feature to all users. However, Roth said it is actually conversations – not tightly controlled, manufactured content – that are a true driver of success on LinkedIn. He illustrated four winning principles of people who successfully used LinkedIn’s blog posting capabilities to enhance both their personal and corporate brand.
Data gives you guidelines, but it can’t tell you what to write
In an era of Big Data, content marketers and communications pros are under more pressure to use stats and analytics to inform their decisions and tailor content around it, Roth said. However, he cautioned against creating content and LinkedIn posts that rely purely on data, saying that while analytics are great for shaping a strategy, they shouldn’t actually dictate what the content is.
"Netflix recommending movie titles based on user profiles is an example of data, but it’s really the content in a show like House of Cards that bind the user to the Netflix brand," said Roth.
Measure outcomes differently
Metrics such as clicks, shares, and views are the expected measures of success for content publishers, but Roth encouraged PR pros to evaluate what the blog post achieved in terms of the conversation it started.
"You need to ask ‘What were the comments like? What was the conversation like? What did it lead to?’" he explained.
Roth gave the example of Target CMO Jeff Jones, who published a controversial post on LinkedIn in which he was brutally honest about the company’s failures and culture. The post received more than 300,000 views, but more importantly it had 550 comments. While some of those comments were critical of Jones and Target, many of them were supportive and included recommendations for how Target could win back consumers after its data-breach debacle.
"I don’t know if that was a genius marketing move or if Jeff just wanted to bare his soul," said Roth. "But it doesn’t matter, because in the end, that post fundamentally changed the conversation."
Give up ownership of the story
Another scary thing for PR pros to hear is to embrace the unknown when it comes to telling a brand’s story. Roth said most professionals who publish on LinkedIn are terrified, editing and re-editing what they are going to say for fear of either offending people or doing something to hurt the brand. However, he said most publishers are thrilled once they press that publish button.
"The only thing scarier than publishing content is that no one reacts to it," said Roth. "It’s always better to be heard and talked about."
People use LinkedIn to build their personal brand as well as their company’s brand
There is no anonymity on LinkedIn, and that’s why any activity on the platform by a user ultimately affects his or her personal brand. Additionally, since people on LinkedIn are usually there in a professional capacity, all of their activity reflects on the company for which they work. Roth said comms pros should embrace this, despite it being a little nerve-wracking to allow non-traditional communicators to speak about the brand.
"Instead of a company having one voice that no one is listening to, you now have dozens of voices getting heard everywhere," said Roth.
By encouraging employees to share their personal experiences and challenges at the places they work, their company becomes a real, approachable brand that people can care about, rather than just another corporate entity.
"Ultimately your brand is a story your employees tell," Roth said. "The more you can help them, the better off you’ll be."