LinkedIn can be somewhat of a mystery to social media managers for two primary reasons:
1. Much more so the other major platforms, LinkedIn is more dependent upon one-to-one, person-to-person interactions than interactions between a company and its audience. This makes it very different than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and SnapChat, to name the most obvious examples, where the majority of interactions with customers and prospects are with a corporate monolith–a business page or profile, that is, bearing the company’s name. Unless you’re a one-man-or-woman shop, it’s unlikely you speak with customers and prospects on social media with a profile bearing your name–unless you’re using LinkedIn.
2. Because of #1 above, it’s difficult to have someone else manage your personal LinkedIn profile. Unlike your LinkedIn Company Page; a Facebook business page; or a presence on Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, or Twitter; a LinkedIn personal profile demands a much more intimate knowledge of the user’s voice and individual day-to-day activity. And it’s hard to fake it.
This is actually a strength, because it means LinkedIn acts exactly like real-world relationships. After all, it’s rare that we have relationships only with corporate entities (especially in the B2B space) and not with individuals at those companies. To take this one step further, our relationships with a company are almost always contingent upon our relationships with people at a company. Two examples help illustrate this:
- One of my clients is a manufacturing company, but my relationship with that company only exists because I have a one-to-one relationship with its marketing coordinator. If she were to move on to a different company, I would have to develop a relationship with another company employee to retain a relationship with the business.
- Every year I get help with my taxes from a woman who works at a CPA firm. When she moves out of my market or retires, I’ll need to find someone new
–and I’ll be looking for a person much more so than a company.
It’s certainly true that an individual doesn’t always make or break a relationship: we can be retained as a service provider or retain a vendor due to multiple relationships with a company. In the end, though, it all hinges on people.
With all this in mind, how can organizations use LinkedIn effectively when doing so, unlike other social media platforms, demands decentralization? There are three keys to success:
- Encourage your staff to use LinkedIn and train them in how to use it effectively. Your company will only make effective use of LinkedIn if your people make effective use of LinkedIn. To do so, they’ll need to know why this is true–and what they can do about it. That means training in LinkedIn best practices.
- Provide them with content. Many of your people will have plenty to say on LinkedIn without your intervention. Great–let them have it. Others, though, will need help, especially since sharing content on LinkedIn won’t already be intuitive. The best thing the organization can do is develop a system for developing and disseminating relevant content–news about the company, industry insights, thought starters.
- Certainly use your Company Page effectively, but realize it’s not as important as your staff’s collective personal profile pages. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your LinkedIn Company Page. But for most businesses, it should be a secondary concern. Think of it this way: in addition to person-to-person communication being preferred, it’s also a numbers game. Your staff likely has far more LinkedIn connections collectively than your Company Page has followers, even after you account for duplicates. In some cases, some of your LinkedIn-user employees will individually have more connections than your Company Page has followers. Since your employers have the bigger bullhorn, that where staff time is better spent.
This can be a little scary for social media admins used to keeping close control of the company’s message. However, there are also advantages to loosening the reins a bit. As Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes said in a recent issue of Fast Company, “content shared by employees…gets eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels, and is reshared 25 times more frequently.” LinkedIn is a great place to being leveraging this phenomenon, but it might be a warm up more than an anomaly. After all, it appears that decentralization–on LinkedIn and elsewhere–is simply a matter of giving people what they want. And what’s becoming clear is that what the people want is…people.