Building your brand and nurturing your reputation with customers, prospects and other stakeholders are two of the most important marketing activities any individual or company can undertake.
When it comes to professional social networking nothing surpasses LinkedIn as a platform to enable this - with its B2B focus, 575+ million users and more than 260 million monthly active users.
Careful targeting, a good content strategy that can be enhanced with paid advertising and sensible use of automation are valuable steps to building your brand on LinkedIn.
However, as with any social platform, you probably only have a few minutes to make an impact.
Read on to see how you can harness this opportunity…
The power of trust
According to 2019 research by Edelman, two thirds of people now consume their news from social media - showing the power of online influencing.
But 73% of people believe the spread of fake news is being designed to deliberately mislead – just look at how stories are circulating linking 5G to Coronavirus to see how this works (even though this theory has been comprehensively debunked).
Trust in the source of news and other content that influences people therefore becomes of paramount importance.
LinkedIn has grown to be the #1 trusted B2B social platform, where audiences are consistently confident in content accuracy. So it’s here that they choose to find relevant news from a source that is considered reputable – and in an environment that makes it easy to consume.
That’s why LinkedIn has to be your natural choice for publishing B2B commentary, product or service news and opinion.
Finding the reputation sweet spot
As the world’s largest business networking platform, LinkedIn enables you to accurately reach the people you want to influence with the messages that underline and reinforce your purpose.
Where these overlap is your reputation sweet spot – and this is at the heart of your brand building activity.
A four-stage playbook
LinkedIn provides an excellent forum for building and influencing your audience on LinkedIn, using all of the detailed targeting and filtering capabilities available in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or LinkedIn Recruiter.
Then it is up to your playbook for building your brand on LinkedIn, using these four stages:
1. Grow your network
2. Organic outreach
3. Amplify content
4. Measure and adapt
Stage 1: Build your network
Building your network is a foundation activity for any marketing activity, be it softer brand building or hard-hitting lead generation – after all, if you don’t have a relevant network, then it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your marketing is.
LinkedIn automation with Dux-Soup is superb for helping you to quickly and efficiently build up a network of relevant contacts, without spending huge amounts of money.
Once you have your target list – either built by you (we’re presuming you know your buyer personas and target profiles) or sourced from a list building tool like LeadFuze – then you can set Dux-Soup to automatically reach out (in a personalised way) and invite your targets to connect on LinkedIn.
You can use all sorts of features in Dux-Soup and LinkedIn to refine this – as an example, check out our recent blog on LinkedIn searching and filtering.
Once you have the connection then you can either set up an automated drip campaign through Dux-Soup to feed relevant content to connections or do it manually. This will likely depend on volume and your preferred approach.
There are several specific playbooks we’ve published that go into detail on how you can use LinkedIn automation solutions for lead generation – here are a couple of examples:
But when it comes to building a brand the approach is longer term so, if you are focused on this, then the rest of the playbook pivots you along a slightly different path – but you will recognise some of the tools as the same ones we use for lead generation.
Stage 2: Organic outreach
In many ways, organic outreach - using your Company Page, your profile and (if you have them) your employee’s profiles to post content - is the simplest way to influence your target audience whether they are customers, prospects or shareholders.
You will naturally want to maximise your organic reach. This involves leveraging your network to keep your opted in audience up to date with your latest communications, innovations and thought leadership.
Hold on, doesn’t this sound like another way of saying you need a great content strategy?
You’d be right and this is the key to your organic outreach. The way to turbocharge it is to combine research into your audience with the insights offered by LinkedIn to understand what content works best and what hashtags you should be using.
Your LinkedIn Company Page and / or your own profile should become a central hub for a variety of content. We all know that content marketing can be time consuming if all you are doing is creating original content but there are a number of ways to ease the burden:
• Use your CEO and senior executives to publish content – they typically have greater reach and credibility (if that’s you then great!)
• Engage other thought leaders in the organisation to create and share content (if you have them – if it’s just you then consider associates or adjacent influencers in your network)
• Use curated content wisely, i.e. sharing other people’s content
• Use short form content where time pressures dictate it
Engagement rates vary enormously depending on the type of content, timing, geography and other demographics etc. Topics might include product innovations and sustainability, people and community stories but remember to include a call to action unless there is a good reason not to.
A well-rounded strategy will involve a mix of different types of content, news, updates, short posts about what you are reading, long form thought leadership articles, infographics, videos and more.
Why is a content mix a good idea? If all you do is send out one type of content – for instance company announcements, then your audience will quickly see that you are not posting quality content and engage less with it. By mixing up your content strategy, you keep things fresher with the goal of securing better engagement across a larger number of content assets.
Unusual posts can work well. I bet you can’t guess which of my own recent LinkedIn posts had the highest rate of engagement.
It was a picture of a pen – top marks if you got it right!
It happened to be a five-year service pen that a client of mine had given me for supporting their business. I had no sales message, no call to action. I just wanted to share something cool that had happened to me. The number of comments and likes comfortably set a new personal best for engagement because it was original, genuine and interesting for my network of contacts.
Stage 3: Amplify
Whilst organic outreach is important, you can enhance the results with a carefully thought out paid advertising strategy. The main reason we need to do this is that your current followers may not necessarily form your priority target audience.
One caveat here is that if you have been building a focused network using LinkedIn automation tools like Dux-Soup then you will have a high proportion of relevant contacts. However, what about all those contacts that you targeted but didn’t accept your connection request?
You can use targeted LinkedIn ads to reach more of these people and secure the all-important connection.
There are a number of data insights and filtering capabilities (demographic information such as age, location, seniority, skills etc) that you can use within LinkedIn that enable you to reach your prospects with a high degree of accuracy.
There are two basic choices for amplifying your reach with paid activity:
• Text Ads
• Sponsored content
Text Ads have a wider reach and can be displayed on any page across LinkedIn. It is a volume play – the cost per click is lower than sponsored content but your ad will be seen by a greater number of people.
Sponsored content appears directly in the newsfeed of your target audience. Naturally this has a higher price tag but it also has a higher click through rate. This amplifies the reach of your message to key stakeholders.
One area to keep an eye on is your budget. LinkedIn ads are more expensive than other social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. However, as a pay per click platform, results are generally proportional to your actual spend.
Stage 4: Measure & adapt
In order to continually improve your brand building efforts, it is vital that you set some benchmarks to evaluate what success looks like. This could be related to awareness of your brand and recall of content – measuring your share of voice. Other engagement measures include number of impressions, likes, shares, clicks, etc.
By combining two measures - say impressions and share of voice - you can use LinkedIn research tools to establish if you have impacted on brand perception or awareness.
The quality of your content posted will reach and appeal in different ways. This could be announcements, innovations and other key initiatives, thought leadership, etc.
Each of these is likely to have a different rate of response. By measuring the effectiveness of the call to action you can adapt your approach and determine what content types will give you the best results for your audience.
It goes without saying that you should look to drive continual improvements when it comes to your advertising spend too. If you haven’t used social advertising before it is best to start small and scale up from there once you have established what works.
If you are using the steps I have outlined for building a brand on LinkedIn then make sure that:
• Targeting and testing is built in right from the start
• Your content assets are aligned with your brand priorities and campaign messaging
• Content has genuine substance to inform, educate and entertain rather than being salesy
Unlike lead generation where the results are more easily visible, brand building must consistently promote your message over time.
Given that it can take 6 months or more before a brand campaign shows benefits, don’t make any quick decisions about whether your strategy is working. If you invest time in measuring and improving then the results should end up speaking for themselves.
About the author
Adam Osman is Head of Marketing at Dux-Soup Adam is passionate about using the latest marketing techniques to help companies and brands grow. With two decades of experience in marketing technology products for international companies and startups alike, Adam leads the effort to spread the word about how Dux-Soup can benefit companies looking to turbo charge their LinkedIn lead generation.