The Internet has made a writer of everyone. In February, LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform. It’s in the process of rolling out access to all 300 million members, perhaps making LinkedIn the largest publishing platform on the Web. It’s a marketer’s dream.
There have been a few concerns expressed by journalists and members alike who question if it is a good idea to give that kind of power to so many people, many of whom, let’s be honest, have no business writing. LinkedIn has exposed its platform to truly unworthy content, but LinkedIn must have their reasons for the gamble, despite the risk that it could potentially tarnish the LinkedIn brand and business goal to be a legitimate site for news and information.
I share these journalists’ concerns about heaps of badly written or inaccurate content and agree with worries about spam. However, the optimist in me believes that eventually members will self-regulate and the majority of people will realize that just because you can doesn’t mean that you should post content. If members don’t learn this valuable life-lesson, LinkedIn will likely jump in to moderate long-form posts and grant LinkedIn Group leaders the authority to penalize spammers so as to not ruin the conversation for the rest of us.
These concerns aside, LinkedIn is an extraordinary tool, one that is still horribly underused, particularly by business-to-business companies, which are the very folks that may stand to benefit the most from the platform. There has already been a plethora articles published that espouse exceptional ideas of how to use LinkedIn for B2B marketing, so I’ll stay clear of regurgitating those lists here.
Instead, I would argue that all of these suggestions are next to worthless if an organization is unable to overcome the single obstacle that seems to be preventing the successful use of LinkedIn as a marketing tool: Executives just don’t understand it. Until leaders understand and are willing to invest the time needed to maximize LinkedIn’s potential for their personal brands and the companies they lead, your marketing efforts are bound to feel inauthentic, insincere and, well, like marketing.
How do you get execs on board? Simple. Here’s your pitch:
If I told you there was a way to communicate our company’s message to 300 million people in more than 200 countries and territories, would you care? What if I told you that this same strategy also had the potential to both generate qualified sales leads while simultaneously establishing you as a thought leader in our industry, would I have your attention?
Oh, one more thing, it’s free.
This strategy is equal parts you and the company. It is just as much about establishing you as a brand as it is building the company’s brand. It will only require time and patience. Essentially, you just have to be you.
If you can commit to staying current on industry topics – something you do already – and sharing your knowledge, expertise and opinions on those topics and trends, then we will be well on our way to harnessing our most valuable marketing tool – you – to break into new territories, build brand awareness and increase market share.
How are we going to do this? LinkedIn.
To be clear, you cannot expect overnight success. There is no backdoor here. This is a long play, but a necessary one.
LinkedIn has two new members every second and is likely to eclipse Facebook in popularity. In fact, researchers at Princeton University published a report in January predicting that Facebook has reached its user peak and will see a rapid decline between 2015 and 2017, losing 80 percent of its user base. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that stories about quitting the social networking site seemed to be a trend this summer.
While Facebook continues to be shady and changes privacy settings when you aren’t looking, LinkedIn is acquiring technology that promotes user engagement, such as SlideShare, Pulse, Bright and, most recently, Newsle. Based on these acquisitions and the new tools the company continues to unveil, it seems LinkedIn has its eye on becoming a one-stop shop for news, information and all things networking. I am eager to see what they roll out next so I can figure out how to use to my own and my clients’ benefit.
So what are you waiting for? Go pitch your CEO! You’re already behind the times. At nearly 6 million followers on LinkedIn, Richard Branson has more readers than The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today combined. You have some catching up to do.
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