HP reached a major milestone this week: It became the first brand with 1 million followers on LinkedIn.
"It's very powerful to us as a company," says Natalie Malaszenko, HP's vice president of digital marketing. "We're honored to be here."
Just how big an achievement is reaching the 1 million mark? For comparison, the biggest brand on Facebook, Coca-Cola, has just under 200,000 followers on
That's just it, though. LinkedIn isn't Facebook. Brands that are entirely consumer-facing—such as Coke, MTV, and Disney—don't fare quite the same there. HP
has the benefit of being a consumer brand and a business-to-business brand.
Even so, that alone isn't what put HP over the top, Malaszenko says. It took a lot of work companywide to connect with such a huge LinkedIn audience.
Finding the right message
A lot of people on LinkedIn, Malaszenko says, are interested in what HP has to offer, and they're constantly asking questions about which technological
tools can best serve their business needs.
"You have this wonderful community of people on LinkedIn who are talking about how to move their worlds forward," she says. "It's really a platform that
has lent itself well—and very naturally—to the essence, the DNA of HP as a brand and what we're really good at as a company."
That doesn't mean HP was able to jump right in and start grabbing up followers, though.
"First, we listened and we watched," Malaszenko says. "We saw what other brands were doing. We saw what customers were talking about in other communities.
We dipped our toe into the pool and put content out there to see how this community would react to it."
Social media is ingrained in all of HP's planning, she says. When any campaign or product rollout starts, everyone involved in that project contributes to
the social messaging. Everybody adds something.
"We do have a team that's very focused on social and listening to the community, making sure that the content matches the need of the community, but
planning the content, planning the conversations, actually happen across the company," she says. "It's really a group effort."
The audience's voice is part of it, too. HP's team looks at industry trends, as well as what's being shared, "liked," and commented on to decide what shows
up on its LinkedIn page.
"Sometimes the comments are the best place where you can see follow-up content you want to post," Malaszenko says.
Viewing LinkedIn as an entirely separate entity from other social media is "a critical part of why HP has hit this milestone," Malaszenko says.
"Not all brands look at this the same way," she adds. "All social networks are not created equal. We really do change up our strategy significantly."
So, what's different? For one thing, people on LinkedIn aren't just accepting of posts about products, they welcome them. On Facebook, being too
product-focused is a big no-no. LinkedIn users can't wait to dive in to a discussion of the specifications of a new tablet or printer.
"You can have more technical discussions," Malaszenko says. "You can talk about your products in a very open way."
It all goes to show the audience is different. A LinkedIn blog post examining HP's following
found that a huge chunk—43 percent—is made up of IT professionals. Another big group—35 percent—comprises upper-level managers.
Malaszenko adds another tidbit: HP's 1 million followers have 43 million followers of their own. The second-degree connections total 138 million. LinkedIn
has only about 200 million users total. That's a lot of potential to get a message out, if it's presented in the right way.
HP's social team meets weekly to create an editorial calendar for LinkedIn and other sites, but that schedule isn't written in stone. Technology moves
fast, so the team stays flexible to swap out one post for a more relevant item.
Likewise, HP's team doesn't post just to keep feeding the beast. If a post is still generating "likes" and shares—as
the post announcing the 1 million milestone
continues to do—the team will let it live out its shelf life.
"We want to make sure we don't kill anything too soon," Malaszenko says.
When it comes to responding to comments, "Part of it is gut," she says. The community helps answer questions a lot of the time, so the team doesn't want to
step on its toes. Sometimes, questions are posed that only HP can answer, however.
So what does this all ultimately mean for HP? Malaszenko says the company is one with something to prove. This helps do that.
"HP is in the middle of a turnaround," she says. "For us to reach a million is, for us, a really exciting moment. It's really showing us that we do have a
base and a community that's excited to talk to us."
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.