For years, advertising, or "paid media," has been the traditional cornerstone of marketing initiatives, both online and offline. But with the fundamental changes in consumer behavior due to social media comes a fundamental change in marketing approaches -- and rightly so. With the inexorable trend toward converged media on social, brands must creatively combine paid, owned, and earned media to fully realize all potential points of contact with consumers.
Content is what fuels earned and owned media engines. But creating a steady stream of top notch content for marketing is new territory for many brands, and it's upping the pressure for marketers who seek to cultivate and engage their audiences through content marketing and storytelling. Recent reports show that brands struggle with content creation, and even when brands know where to start, they struggle with keeping up the regular, fresh, and inspiring content.
For B2B brands, starting to build a reliable, relevant, trusted, must-read content stream cannot begin and end with content on the corporate website. Social strategies and content marketing strategies must be closely coupled in order to work. This is where LinkedIn has emerged as a huge business marketing opportunity. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, talked recently of his plans for LinkedIn to become "the definitive professional publishing platform, where professionals come to consume relevant content and publishers come to share it." One out of every three professionals on the planet is now on LinkedIn. As a place where businesses and professionals connect, LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to support professional communication, and it is building the hooks and systems to cultivate the sharing of content organically based on communities' specific interests.
For brands early in the B2B content marketing game, knowing how to begin is essential. Here's how to kick start your brand communications and content marketing strategy on LinkedIn.
Just as individuals need a LinkedIn presence, so too do companies. LinkedIn's presence and importance is growing exponentially, and businesses would be unwise to miss out on being a part of that rise. Companies should look to grow their LinkedIn network through status updates on their company page, as well as news shares, job openings, and more. LinkedIn does not charge for company pages, and more than 2.9 million companies already have LinkedIn company pages today. There are many "how to" articles to help you get started, such as "13 Brands Using LinkedIn Company Page Features the Right Way" and "Best Practices for Company Page Engagement" from LinkedIn.
If you're creating shareable content on your corporate website, enabling a LinkedIn share button helps distribute that content. Today, there are more than 1.5 million unique publishers actively using the LinkedIn share button on their sites to send content to the LinkedIn platform. Sharing buttons are increasingly important in our network-vetted society. Everyone is looking for good ideas to share and stay connected, so make it easy for people to do it. Don't let LinkedIn's relatively smaller size (compared to Facebook) fool you. Sometimes, the smaller the group, the more influence it holds.
A company is only as smart, ambitious, trustworthy, and connected as the employees who create it. Having employees maintain an active LinkedIn profile serves to increase networking potential and company reach. Encouraging employees to follow their own employer and share sanctioned company updates to their own networks creates a "halo" effect. While always acknowledging the need for communication policies to be adhered to, when employees remain active LinkedIn users, engaging in group discussions and connecting with others, it not only benefits their profile, but the company profile as well.
The point is to be a part of the conversation. Finding and sharing relevant news, stories, and links can be as valuable as creating something worthwhile yourself. If an audience can count on you to curate great material and keep them informed and at the top of their game, the source that actually created the content is less important. The content available already for sharing on LinkedIn is formidable. Re-sharing content from outside your own company and then adding a corporate opinion is a great way of amplifying parallel messaging.
Among the 1.2 million groups on LinkedIn today, it's worth finding and participating in the ones that best reflect your business. Informative, thoughtful, and discussion-provoking commentary, as opposed to sales pitches, works best. At the heart of every successful business is trust, and by creating group participation via postings -- asking questions, answering questions, sharing discussions, and measuring your results using tracking tokens and Bit.ly links -- offers businesses a huge potential to influence en masse.
At the end of the day, in social media, there is no end of the day. Social channels must constantly be maintained, updated, contributed to, shared, and participated in. By leveraging the considerable investment LinkedIn is making in building a B2B marketing and publishing platform, brands can now target a rich, growing, interconnected network of professionals. Combining LinkedIn with inspiring and engaging B2B content is a winning strategy.
Roger Katz is the CEO and founder of Friend2Friend.
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