LinkedIn branding and authority building can be tough. LinkedIn pages and personal profiles need to demonstrate as much authority and reassurance as possible, if you are to ever turn them online strangers into customers, let alone promoters (Read more on the inbound marketing buyer’s journey by inbound experts Hubspot here).
LinkedIn Branding? Is it like putting a little hat on a pig?
The UX redesign of LI has admittedly been horrific. Wasted space, complex user paths, confusing fields, downgrades of free features (now paying), lowered visibility of vital info (case studies, skills, references) I wrote a hand-wringing blog about Microsoft buying LI a few months back here, that now seems optimistic! So why build LinkedIn branding? Well it remains the best B2B platform (for how long?) And you can always reapply on another platform some of these best practices, should this one vaporise in thin air…
Because… When was the last time you bought from a site that looked like it had been coded by a hermit living in an underground silo using Dreamweaver 1993? Or from the social media asset of a company that had 3 followers (two of whom are yourself and your nana, we know)? Or from a LI contact who keeps liking quizzes like “99% will fail this test – Only for geniuses lolz”? Yes, me neither.
Before you produce content or build social media visibility and inbound marketing traffic, you must ensure your visitors are convinced by what they see…
1) Create a Slideshare account:
How companies can use Linkedin to their advantage here too can depend on how you tie it up to other, free, key online assets, such as… Slideshare. www.slideshare.net is an online sharing platform for business presentations in visual formats: Mostly powerpoint presentations, as well as videos.
It was bought out by LinkedIn in 2012 and embeds with LinkedIn. You can easily create a Slideshare account by signing into the new account page through your LinkedIn account. According to research published in the past by LinkedIn industry insights are the most sought-after content on the platform.
Connecting your SlideShare profile with your LI one widens the reach of your uploads on both sub-platforms and can help you to grow your network of professionals. It also helps you to build credibility and authority simply by showcasing some of the content you produce to a wider audience.
2) Develop your network size
How to use LinkedIn to promote your personal or corporate brand rests a lot on numbers: LinkedIn is funny in that sense, it gives exponential benefit to those who grow their networks liberally. You can “see” and “be seen” at 3 degrees of separation, hence the motivation to grow large networks.
And a lot of the core social proof you can build on your profile (skills endorsements, case studies, recommendations) will grow in direct proportion to the size of your network and page views. Beyond the quality of your work or skills, your ability to build social proof on LI will largely rest on “dumb” numbers, if that makes sense.
There also is an argument, that having a large network size is by itself proof of a SM expertise and networking savviness. Navel-gazing aside, social media is becoming a meta-skill for any industry, including research and engineering. Showcasing it is a plus.
– Include a Profile Badge, that will automatically link from your email, or your blog, to your LI profile. LI has multiple badges you can choose here LinkedIn has several different badge designs to choose from here.
3) Complete & Optimise your profile
Doesn’t sound exciting, right? And yet, professional LinkedIn profile writers will tell you: Most individuals and companies miss that essential point. Simple, thorough completion + simple thorough optimisation of their LinkedIn assets:
– Pictures: Smile simply, to the cam, do not be in a group of 87 people, do not wear a Slipknot T-shirt, do not use laboured poses, do not look chemically-enhanced, or too sexy. A simple portrait colour or black and white, smiling authentically, will do great.
– Background pictures: For both personal / corporate pages, make sure you upload a background picture, it conveys basic mastery of LI and a base level of emotional engagement. There are quadrillions of free pictures online, including meta search engines: http://librestock.com
– Logo: For companies, make sure your logo is legible. Pay a freelancer on Upwork $20 to customise your logo for LI dimensions, it looks lazy when a logo clearly wasn’t meant for the format
– Headline: Describe what you do concisely and from the prospective of your potential partner / client / employer.
– SEO your main information fields: Figure out the most sought-after skills in your market / skill set, and put these forward. Every major social media platform is powered by a search engine, quite like Google, that will prioritise the most relevant semantic information first when someone does a search. Be sure you turn up.
– Describe your work experiences: All too often we see LI profiles with work experiences simply lined up, with no description whatsoever. This is social SEO sui-ci-de. Each work experience is an online piece of real estate. If you describe it in keywords that are relevant to what you do / often sought-after, this will bring you more visibility.
– Ensure your employers / and or University you went to / volunteer organisations you are part of are listed as entities (with their own pictures and logos that the LI system will suggest) than with plain text.
– Company page: creating a company page on LinkedIn is only the start. Make sure you create showcase pages and list case studies if possible, be SEO-savvy in what keywords you use to describe your core business and service offerings, USP’s, etc.
4) Develop your LinkedIn followership
How to build your company brand on LinkedIn rests largely on your followership. It is the main, sign of external validation. It demonstrates both expertise but trust as a potential supplier and/or thought-leader.
Your followership size is the end result of your profile quality, activity on groups and through content, etc. There are also some black-hat techniques (hiring a low-cost supplier to create basically fake profiles) but these will disappear as each platform becomes more savvy and actively fights off spam and black hatting.
If optimising a company page, or subpages (showcase pages) is a one-off that will yield recurrent benefit from there on, developing a followership is more of a recurrent activity. It can be outsourced to an agency or developed internally. In both cases, it will require an investment in budget and time.
The growth of your followership will depend on your budget, company, nature of your business, size of your existing network, etc. You need to get people to follow your company page on LinkedIn and Facebook, at the very minimum. A good number is say over 300-500. How to get started:
– Include simple URL to your Company page in your email signatures, across all your company staff. This will not bring a huge amount of followers, but more importantly, it will bring them recurrently and at no expense of time.
– Use your mailing list: Ironically, sound social media marketing often focuses on generating email leads (through email magnet landing pages, etc.) The reverse is also true: If you have a sizeable email list (2-3k +) you may want to include direct URL’s to your social media assets in your email campaigns to promote them.
– Hire a social media marketing agency: As for other business decisions, you may be better off outsourcing it, at the beginning especially, the first ones are the hardest to garner, and this has become very affordable in recent years. We do it obviously but shop around, hire only those who charge on success only.
5) Get recommended stupid!
Social selling requires at heart that you make 8-12 online (website, LI, Twitter, website again, etc.) “touches” with a web visitor, and guide them down an online sales funnel. At the first touch they are strangers to your brand, company and services, or tone. By the 12th, they will have consumed 2-3 pieces of your valuable content, know what you offer, visited your website / social media assets multiple times. By then they will natively understand your brand, your tone, your USP’s. And since you will have provided them with valuable content, they will have developed an emotional bond with your brand.
The important thing in this journey is to offer value at each step, and avoid “dropping the ball”. A single poor experience (if your website is shoddy and slow, if your SM assets have only 2 followers, etc.) can stop the whole journey.
Using LinkedIn for personal branding or corporate branding do overlap a lot. Employee amplification is a MASSIVE source of corporate branding. Your employer is a massive source of branding if you are looking to change jobs, etc. Online customers have become savvy, and before considering buying / asking for a quote, they will check not just your company page but also that of many of your staff. Amplification is very important, and a great RoI in time and $.
And the single more important source of personal branding on LI profiles is the amount (and quality) of your recommendations. How to get started:
– Get your staff’s skills endorsed (see point 1 above, and 4 below)
– Get your staff to grow the amount of recommendations they have. That is even more important than skills. Anyone with 20+ recommendations on LI will come across as an expert. This is much more of a proactive process that it may seem. You need to go out there, and ask for recommendations. And follow up. Do not assume that your LI contacts do not want to write one, simply if they have not done it at first request. Most times, people don’t mind, but are very busy… Also, remember that most contacts may be perfectly fine to write a recommendation but unsure how to craft one that you will like. So by your 2nd follow up, make sure you gently suggest that if they prefer, you can send them a few words if that can help (?)
6) Get more skills endorsed, more coherently
Your skills endorsed are a good way to build a visual branding around a coherent set of skills. If your top (most visible) ones are all 99+ it is extra branding ka-ching. Visual impact was higher on the old platform, with faces of skills endorsers showing into a neat wall, now mangled into the top few endorsers, in grey and white… But hey.
It is not just about the amount of skills endorsements you have, or how neatly they cohere around a certain expertise. It is also about how prominently you showcase your skills. LinkedIn allows for display rules that are a lot more flexible and modular than many people realise.
You can raise your personal branding simply by pulling your skills endorsed module up, say below your summary. You can also raise it by pulling the specific skills that are the most important in your business / niche / function up, from inside the skills endorsement box itself.
7) Follow / unfollow high-value / low-value contacts in your network
Following the right people in your niche / function / industry is a must. It will allow you to:
– Build your own expertise by being exposed to the best content out there.
– Allow you to curate some of their best content into your own feed. Might as well be focussed around a relevant, coherent one.
– Build some early relationships with these influencers. We’ll cover influencer marketing in another blog but this is a crucial and growing part of social media marketing. Conversely, you need to unfollow contacts who pollute your feed, that means unfollowing anyone who makes poor content, clickbait trash quizzes and self-promoting content producers. And those who like their links and content. If you don’t:
– You’ll be exposed to more and more low value content. And we are all time poor, this is going to come at the direct expense of the good content you could have seen.
– You won’t be able to curate as much good content.
– You will limit the amount of valuable relationships you can create.
8) Complete your Co. profile (showcase pages, corporate page, jobs page)
The best LinkedIn company pages are often, simply, the most complete: It sounds obvious, but most profiles, or company pages I see, or train clients on, tend to have at least 2-3 major items missing. This is really damaging to your ability to develop both reach and authority on LinkedIn:
– Reach: Because each social media asset you create serves as an online piece of real estate that will capture some traffic day in / day out, whenever someone on LI performs a search along the keywords present in it. It will catch even more traffic and visibility if you optimised the keywords in your social media assets for the LinkedIn search engine.
– Credibility: Not having any company page or showcase pages in this day and age, screams to your online visitor “Listen, I don’t know, I don’t care, or frankly I don’t get it. Or all of the above”. This are free, valuable resources, use them.
9) Create Content: Relevant and valuable
Social Media content creators know how long it can take to produce quality original content. That is why I have left this at the end, not because it is less important. Writing blogs and producing videos can take much time. Particularly if it is given to untrained staff, or treated as an afterthought. Or if it’s done without proper 80/20 mindset, or in a culture where failure is dreaded, etc.
There is no shortage of reasons why content often takes a long time to produce for companies at the beginning of the inbound marketing journey.
Just remember this though: It is a skillset worth learning. Content is still “king” because it is what actually mediates your visitors’ interactions across your social media assets, it is what expresses your tone and offers concrete value to your readers (see “7 tips on how to…”) It is what establishes you as a thought-leader (see “My original thoughts on topic Z…”) It is also what grows your reach and nurtures your visitors from online strangers all the way to clients and promoters.
10) Curate content
Social Media curation is an easier option than creating your own original content. Curating content is simply selecting external content, that you did not produce, that you properly attribute, into your social media feeds (or on your website occasionally).
Obviously, curating other peoples’ content is not as good as churning out regular, authentic, relevant, valuable content of your own. It builds nowhere near as much branding, or reach. It is however, also FAN-TAS-TI-CAL-LY faster to do, so on the whole, it is often a positive trade-off. Particularly for social media beginners / anyone who is particularly time-poor, or budget-poor.
Content curation still shows your tastes, and/or your ability to tell essence from detail, and important evolutions from cosmetic gimmicks. Just Google “Content Curation + keyword” depending on the field you work in, and you should find plenty of sites catering to that topic. Some like buzzfeed can be interesting for they only show the best content that has already been liked and shared hundreds / thousands of times, so content that has innate social value already proven. You can even sort out results by topics (personally I built a search query from Buzzfeed, that opens automatically in one of my Chrome tabs).
You can also follow influencers here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/discover straight from LinkedIn.