Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media

The Next B2B Marketing Gold Rush – Winning the LinkedIn Marketing Long Game

So far in this series of articles, we’ve covered “Why LinkedIn and Why Now?” and “Getting Started on LinkedIn.” This one will cover how to win customers, sales and the attention of your industry’s top talent over the long haul through nothing but time, effort and good old-fashioned sweat equity.

From the jump, let’s not sugar coat it. Winning big on LinkedIn – or any marketing channel, for that matter – requires a serious commitment of time and/or resources…maybe even both. And, in reality, time is expensive. Like really, really expensive. I don’t say that to discourage anyone from exploring LinkedIn…quite the opposite actually. But, if you go in expecting an immediate high return on your time spent, I’d be setting you up for disappointment. I do that enough to people in my personal life to do that to random fellow marketers on the Internet.

While it’s definitely possible to generate sales leads and spread your content in a short period of time, it takes time for the snowballing “network” effect to kick in. If you want to grow and nurture a large audience that interacts with your brand on a regular basis on any social platform, you need to stick at it for mo­nths. Not a few short bursts of energy over a few days. Not weeks. Months. Growing a loyal audience is like growing anything that buds, blossoms or bears fruit – it takes love, time and a healthy amount of anticipation. And, if you become a neglectful gardener, any effort made upfront won’t pay off.

To be fair, you very well might get lucky and find a few small nuggets of shiny lead goodness at the beginning of the process. But, if you want to leverage LinkedIn in a way that will become a metaphorical “goldmine” – a regular and lasting source of new clients and strong first impressions for top talent – you’ve got to chip away at growing your content base, following and engagement on a daily basis.

The “Free” Method – Organic Growth

The quotes around “free” are very deliberate. After all. It’s 2019, nothing with an “organic” label is cheap.

For those of you in the metaphorical audience that might not be deep in the digital marketing realm, “organic” is typically used for any type of digital marketing that doesn’t require a direct ad spend to draw eyeballs. Somebody typing something into a search bar (on Google, LinkedIn, Baidu, etc.) and coming across your website and content through the results? That’s organic.

Long-term, much like any meaningful offline relationship…which as a “millennial”, I hear those still exist…the most powerful way to build a lasting connection with potential customers on LinkedIn is through the tools available to you that don’t cost anything but time.

So, what’s the “organic” hustle look like on Linkedin?

  • Religiously and constantly “Sharing” content from your website, industry resources or partners.
  • Posting/publishing your own image, video and written content directly to the site

There’s enough nuance in those 2 tiny action items to fill a book. But, since we’re all busy and this post is probably longer than you’ve budgeted for already (and you’re not even halfway there)…see below for seven things, that if you execute well, you’ll be ahead of 99% of the competitive LinkedIn field.

Leverage Your Existing Content Strategy

Anything and everything your company is publishing out to the world through your own website or media partners can and should find its way to your company’s Linkedin feed. There are very few exceptions this rule, so few actually, that we’d ignore the idea of exceptions completely. This includes:

  • Blog posts
  • White Papers and Case Studies (unless you’re using them as gated lead magnets, in which case link to your landing page AND stay tuned for the next post in this series on using LinkedIn pad ads for lead gen)
  • Product videos
  • Infographics
  • Landing Pages
  • Press Releases
  • Placed Editorial
  • Meaningful company announcements (new product announcements key hires, promotions, etc.)

In other words, if it’s on your content calendar or you’re investing in getting it produced, push it out to LinkedIn. If you don’t have an existing content calendar, you really need to stop whatever you’re doing and get that created. Actually…finish this article, then stop what you’re doing and create a content calendar.

How should you share it? That depends. General rule of thumb is that getting people to your website, and closer to the always critical “Check Out”, “Contact Us”, “RFQ” or “Call Us Now” buttons is best. Doubly so if you’re using remarketing and cookie-driven services on your site.

If it’s longer than 100 words and an image, or best experienced on your or a media partner’s site – go with a “shared” link. This means most landing pages, blog posts, press releases and paid editorial will almost always be links.

If it’s short or relies on one image/infographic or video – post it natively to LinkedIn. There’s less benefit to the user to click over to your site as the experience isn’t much different and less benefit to you when they do. For the sake of reducing clicks, friction and creating a more “lively” company page, most videos, individual infographics, or quick company announcements should always be posted to LinkedIn natively.

Tune Into The Right Frequency

For most companies in the B2B space, the current sweet spot for posting to LinkedIn is 5-10 times per week. In some industries, that number might seem a bit aspirational, especially if you’re starting from 0.

But, only a certain percentage of your audience will see each of your posts organically in their feed. An even smaller percentage of potential customers who don’t follow you will see your posts if they’re following your industry or the topics you write about. What percentage? That’s a question only the senior product team at LinkedIn can possibly answer.

But, it’s critical that the network of professionals you’re trying to reach see you multiple time per week or month for you to start to gain traction. Pattern recognition and repetition are a brand’s best friends and marketer’s best tools. Use them.

Document, Document, Document

Document what? Everything. We’re not talking about just your LinkedIn management process either.

This is good advice for any content marketer in 2019. Always be documenting everything that happens at your company – as you never know when a “post worthy” moment might happen. Have your phone camera ready at all times and ask your team to do the same, hell, have a team member play part time videographer when big things are happening.

Sounds silly, but anything short of trade secrets or confidential client info is fair game here.

Creative internal brainstorm turn into a passionate industry roundtable? Film it, edit out any punches or swearing and consider posting it.

Loyal, consenting customer come in for a visit? Awesome! Take a snap shot and share it with a shout out.

Subject matter expert giving an internal training talk? A clip of a key concept might be an incredible 30 second snippet that shows your audience exactly why doing business with you is a smart move.

Somebody kill it with over the top birthday treats? People love food pictures (for some reason). Employees come in rocking team gear after a big win? People love cheering their favorite team on through digital “likes”.

If people would love seeing it, and it fits your brand’s image, it’s worth documenting and probably posting. Doesn’t matter if its practical material that fills a business need or not, in fact, maybe it’s better when it doesn’t…

Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate (People)

The “Celebrating” we’re talking about here is a close, yet often much more fun, cousin to the documenting we just mentioned. It’s highly suggested that you get in the habit of capturing and sharing all the magic moments that naturally happen at and around your company. BUT, it’s even more critical that you go out of your way to find opportunities to celebrate the employees, customers, partners and industry figures that make your company and industry shine.

In other words, MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA SOCIAL.

The reasons behind why this is so critical are simple, yet often overlooked.

We’re all vain and love getting notifications about ourselves.

When you “tag” an individual, whether they’re with your company or not, they’ll likely get a notification through the LinkedIn app or email. What are the odds they’ll engage? Pretty darn high. Once they engage, it’s likely their network will see the post – potentially starting a chain of digital high fives, that might lead to more people seeing your brand and possibly engaging with your LinkedIn page more deeply. If they hit that “follow” button on your company page, you have a new member in your audience that you can now reach every time you hit the publish button.

If you tag an individual at a partner or customer company – along with their company –  there’s a strong chance that their marketing manager and a few key stakeholders will see it. These are big potential wins, especially if that marketing manager decides to reciprocate and share something that features you or your people back. What goes around comes around, and good will is contagious.

Despite what the news would lead you to believe, for the most part, we generally like each other.

Without getting too far into the dark arts of design psychology, people are much more likely to engage with content and imagery that focuses on people. It’s easier to approach, easier to digest and we’re naturally wired to subconsciously look for faces. By celebrating people – yours, your partners’ and your clients’ – you’re much more likely to get people to stop their scroll and take a second to take a second look at, and like, what you’re publishing.

So, what does “celebrating” on LinkedIn look like?

Announcing a big internal promotion, with a nice photo of the promoted.

  • Sending a shout out to a loyal customer that leveraged your product in a meaningful way – extra points if you can link to a case study of the application.
  • Sharing an article or thought leadership pieced published by one of your people on your company feed.
  • Sharing and adding positive, constructive commentary to a post by an industry leader or luminary.

Make Sure Your “#” and “@” Keys are in Good, Working Order

“Mentioning” and keyword searching is still in its relative infancy on LinkedIn. Bur, making sure you “tag” your content properly is critical to getting the highest number of eyeballs and greatest amount of attention to your LinkedIn efforts.

Any time you post something more than a quick shout out, you’ll also want to “tag” it with a series of keywords using the hashtag (#) symbol. If you’re a twitter or Instagram user, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now…because this is second nature to you.

If you’re not a big fan of Twitter or IG, look down at your keyboard and then find the “pound sign” – this is the one that used to be to the right of the 0 on most touchtone phones, or so they tell me. You can use that and then type a few key terms that people might use if they are looking for material related to the topics you’re writing about.

All that said Finding the best possible content hashtags to use on LinkedIn can be a bit of a guessing game. Due to the relative newness of true, full-featured content marketing on LinkedIn, and the closed nature of the platform, there is no magically (or machine learning enabled) tool that’s going to help you much here. Add in the fact that every niche B2B industry has its own special language and vocabulary, and it gets even more difficult.

So, at the time of this post, the suggested best practice here? Steal with little remorse. Look at the top posts from your top competitors and companies that serve your industry. What are they using? What are the leading experts in your field using? Write them down.

Starting from there, actively follow these hashtags and start paying attention to how often they’re used and by who. If you’re noticing a large amount of usage, by relevant people and organizations, join the party. You’re probably in good shape with those tags. It’s really that simple, there’s no magic bullet or omnipotent A.I. driven tool that will manage this for you. Do the research, trust your gut and industry knowledge, and get to publishing.

In a world of interconnected niches, one or two organizations jumping in and regularly using a tag can be enough of a momentum to shift to get it visibility and help promote wider adoption of its usage. It’s kind of like a dance floor at an awkward wedding, it only takes 2 or 3 people to get the courage to get up and move and the rest will follow. Be one of the brave ones (just don’t let liquid be your source of courage behind the keyboard).

Any time you mention a person or company on your feed – “Tag” them. This is how you’ll trigger the notification on their phone/in their email that you mentioned them (releasing a quick hit of ego-driven dopamine into the pleasure center of their brain), and also ensuring your content shows up if somebody searches for that person or company.

To properly tag a person or company, type “@” in your content and then start typing the company or person’s name. This will trigger a dropdown selection tool that lets you identify who you’re talking about…choose the right person or company, and magically, you’re top of mind for them – and being shown to a certain percentage of whoever is following them. Now, go make that feed algorithm do work.

Give WAY More Than You Ask For

You probably already have this one covered in your content calendar…which again, if you don’t have a content calendar – make one. Like immediately after you read this article…you’re getting close, I promise..But, I digress, one of the absolute keys to any social media marketing – though I’d argue is even more critical on LinkedIn’s professional platform – is to always offer exponentially more value in your feed than you ask for.

Strive to educate and entertain your audience (GIVING value) more than selling to them (ASK for a sale or promote your product)…and, since you’re probably in the world of B2B, that probably means educate more than entertain.

Author content that makes them better at their job. Provide insight and links to relevant industry trends. Help the engineers and operations people understand the business side of the market you serve. Help the business people in your industry understand the operations and engineering side.

In short, use your LinkedIn feed to become the educational resource you wish your industry had.

To many, this sounds counter intuitive. Marketing exists to sell. And, that’s true. But, the marketing landscape is too crowded and loud these days to sell selfishly. Selflessly give your audience a reason to come back to you time and time again. And, when they keep coming, you’re bound to get the right product in front of them at the right time eventually – with a message amplified by a pattern of trust, credibility and authority already established through all the “giving” you did along the way.

 (Politely) Remind Your Internal Team to Participate

Algorithms – or the equations that factor what content gets served up on social or search platforms – run your, and your company’s, digital existence. They determine what every person on the Internet sees, when they see it and how often. Understanding how to “game” these algorithms to define what your audience sees is critical to your LinkedIn success.

No one can tell you exactly what the LinkedIn algorithm is – and as soon as anyone who doesn’t work at LinkedIn can – a major update will probably already be underway. But, as a social platform that’s working on growing its loyal, regular user base, we’d bet two things will index extremely well when the platform picks and chooses what content is worth showing. LIKES and SHARES. Simple as that.

Obvious? Maybe. A given on all social platforms? Ask Facebook and Instagram marketers how much organic traction they’re getting these days compared to the early days of those platforms…social networks change as their user and advertiser base grows – usually to the benefit of the organizations willing to shell out some ad dollars. The early days are always where the biggest organic opportunity lies.

While LinkedIn’s been around for roughly 16 years, we’re still in the first 2-3 of the platform being a hub for social content sharing and marketing. If social media’s short history is any indicator, NOW is when it’s time to politic for as many legitimate likes and shares as possible.

The easiest way to get the algorithm’s omnipotent powers to shine down on your content is to find a group of supportive, like-minded people to give your content some love shortly after you post it. Where can you find a group of supportive, like-minded people? Hopefully, at the desks and offices closest to yours.

Encourage your team to be active, and your content will get a quick hit in impressions and reach. If the content is solid, and finds life outside of your organization, the numbers can add up and that often fabled “viral” network affect can kick in. Ideally, this will create a chain of “likes” and “shares” to qualified professionals in your field, representing a huge potential greatest return on marketing time investment.wo

Good things start from within – growing a presence on LinkedIn is no different.


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