Back when it started, LinkedIn was a simple digital Rolodex. Over a decade later, the platform has become the go-to social networking platform for professionals.
LinkedIn is where professionals go to find jobs, learn more about their industries, and research prospective companies. For businesses, LinkedIn is the place to recruit top talent, build partnerships, generate leads, and exercise thought leadership.
LinkedIn’s user base—now over 450 million strong—has made LinkedIn marketing an attractive opportunity. When users hop on LinkedIn, they’re already primed to engage with ads, industry-related news, or experiences that will boost their skills. For marketers, that’s a unique opportunity to offer relevant content to a targeted audience, and a powerful addition to any content strategy.
Unlike upstart apps like Snapchat, LinkedIn’s growth has been slow but steady, proving it’s more than a passing fad. The site launched in 2003, back in the heyday of now-defunct or dwindling sites like Friendster and Myspace. Growth was slow—as slow as 20 signups on some days, according to the company. But by 2013, the company had reached 225 million members, thanks in part to adding some of the same social sharing features that made rivals like Facebook so popular.
Today, about a quarter of all online adults use LinkedIn, according to Pew Research Center. Older college graduates and those with relatively high household incomes flock to the site; LinkedIn boasts higher usage rates among 30- to 49-year-olds than among 18- to 29-year-olds, the only social media network that can make that claim, Pew found. Nearly half of online adults with a college degree are LinkedIn users.
At the core of the LinkedIn experience is the individual user, who showcases her personal brand on the platform via a digital resume. The more colleagues you connect with on the site, the more likely you are to find a connection with someone who works at a company you’re interested in. The platform discourages people from connecting with others they don’t know personally, a guardrail which could help prevent the kind of context collapse that Facebook and other social media networks are fighting. By focusing on professional connections only, LinkedIn could avoid the lack of intimacy occurring on platforms like Facebook, where users have too many followers from different social spheres.
Like on Facebook, users can share personal or professional updates that are akin to status updates. However, LinkedIn has to be the only social media platform to cue users to write and share articles front and center. Quality, valuable content is definitely the emphasis here—even if motivational poster-like posts tend to be popular, too.
As sharing has increased on LinkedIn, so too have the options for companies looking to showcase their brands while tapping into LinkedIn’s rich network of potential clients and employees. Company pages, groups, and executive profiles offer a window into company culture. Forget a company website—LinkedIn is the digital face of the organization.
In fact, B2B companies prefer LinkedIn to any other social channel. LinkedIn is used by 94 percent of B2B marketers, according to a Content Marketing Institute report covered by Marketing Land. Fittingly, LinkedIn is also ranked as the most effective social media platform for B2B content marketing distribution, followed by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Still, using LinkedIn for marketing purposes requires a deliberate content marketing strategy. The platform is not the place for hard-sell tactics. Rather, it’s quality, useful content that earns the most mileage on the platform and serves as a pipeline to the company website.
A powerful LinkedIn presence starts with the company page. Successful marketers utilize company pages as lead-generation tools, showing what makes the company special instead of highlighting dry facts and information. Effective LinkedIn marketing requires frequent and consistent content updates, which are posted to the company page and show up in followers’ feeds.
Marketers can also exploit groups as a way to gain leadership and recognition in their industries. Here, the sales pitch is a no-no; LinkedIn users want expertise that helps them solve a problem or develop a skill to make their job easier. This kind of thought leadership gives companies an authoritative voice, helping to generate leads.
Sponsored updates are another opportunity for businesses to push posts on users’ LinkedIn feeds. Companies can customize sponsored posts based on targeted industry, company name, job title, skills, and more, in addition to typical demographics like location, gender, and age. Promoting a whitepaper, for example, can help spread valuable content to a niche audience, increasing website visitors and ultimately generating leads.
Like other social networks, LinkedIn is betting on video as a content form that will increase user engagement on the platform. So far, the network has invited 500 influencers to share thoughts on professional topics and news through video. Users will see video content from influencers they follow in their feeds and can explore what other influencers are saying about the topic or offer a comment themselves. Video—already an eyeball-generating media on other platforms—is aimed at driving higher user engagement.
If the video features are expanded to all users, LinkedIn marketing could become even more important as users spend more time on the platform discovering new people, businesses, and brands. Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn allows people to explore professional content within the context of the companies and people they want to be connected with. In a world where social media usage is fragmented across so many platforms, LinkedIn’s place as the professional go-to makes it particularly important for companies hoping to engage audiences within a specific industry.