LinkedIn for Business: A Marketer’s Guide to Lead Generation
In 1994, a young graduate by the name of Reid Hoffman, entered the working world with degrees from both Stanford and Oxford Universities. He worked briefly at Apple on one of the world’s first social networking platforms, eWorld. Two years later he launched his first company, SocialNet, a dating app. He then went on to join the electronic payment service, PayPal, as COO.
In 2002, Hoffman combined his ingrained desire to be an entrepreneur with his accumulated technology and business experience, to co-found the first business-orientated online social network, LinkedIn.
Today, LinkedIn has more than 467 million users (far exceeding his goal of one million) in over 200 countries across the globe and is available in 24 languages. 5,5 million of those active users are South Africans. That makes it the country’s second fastest growing social media platform after Instagram. With stats like that, how could you not be interested in what the world’s largest professional social media network can offer your business?
LinkedIn has had the most consistent growth in South Africa for some years now, showing double-digit growth since 2010.
By now, marketers have caught on to the importance of following consumer attention through sponsored content on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, user intent on these platforms typically revolves around connecting with friends or just mindless entertainment. LinkedIn on the other hand, gives marketers the opportunity to engage with users while they’re in a different state of mind: business.
Throughout the course of its development, LinkedIn has grown from a social network that connects professionals, into a powerhouse of business tools that can help your company engage audiences, source talent, and most importantly, generate leads.
In fact, out of the top five social media platforms, LinkedIn is responsible for more than 80% of leads for B2B marketers. If you’re not already one of them, let’s take a look at how you can do the same:
1. Create a Company Page:
In 2010, LinkedIn launched Company Profile Pages, allowing businesses to create their own profile, list products and services, allow recommendations and testimonials, and show potential employees and clients more about the brand.
Research shows that consumers search for companies on LinkedIn first. Being visible as a company on LinkedIn is a powerful way to promote your brand through trusted recommendations and endorsements – think of it as the modern day word-of-mouth. This is especially useful for B2B transactions as businesses are more inclined to opt for products that they know are tried and true. Each time someone endorses your business for a skill or product, it becomes visible to their connections. With more endorsements and eyes on your company page, the likelihood of being discovered and considered by potential customers is improved.
Remember to optimize your company profile for connecting. This means adding a banner, logo, company description, specialities and details, as well as adding employees, investing in followers and creating sponsored advertisements (we’ll get to this). If your profile is not 100% complete, LinkedIn will penalise you by lowering your search rank, ignoring your keywords and ultimately rendering you just about invisible.
2. Join and Create Groups:
Joining or creating relevant LinkedIn groups can be an easy way to get your product or service in front of the right execs. Joining groups is relatively simple; finding the balance between sharing useful information and hard-selling your company, is a bit trickier. Try to avoid blatantly pushing your product or service all the time, where possible, rather share third party endorsements, reviews and achievements that highlight your brand.
Creating a LinkedIn group takes a bit more time and effort, but the pay-offs are massive, especially for B2B interactions. This is how it’s done:
1) Click on Work –> Groups –> My Groups –> Create Group
2) Fill in the required fields. Tip: Uploading a picture as your group logo is critical, even though it’s not specified as mandatory. Make sure you have a logo/image that is relevant to the name and theme of the group, as well as high-resolution and visually appealing. This is what people see on their homepages and search results, so make it count.
3) You will be redirected to the “Send Invitations” page. To add prospects to your group, you will need to be a connection with the invitee first. Tip: Instead of trying to connect with every person prior to invitation, rather take advantage of LinkedIn’s bulk email function. Simply export the email addresses of either your own internal database, or a paid third party directory, into .csv format, which can then be uploaded to LinkedIn. Once complete, simply send out your group invite all at once.
4) Assuming your invitations worked, it’s now time to leverage your group to generate some leads. Start by sharing valuable industry content and prompting group members to do so too (just be sure not to be overly generous with your own products / services). Make sure you’re always staying up-to-date with trends and news in your group’s specific field, so as to ensure levels of conversation remain healthy. Weekly or strategically timed InMails can also be a great way to pique user interest and revive waning engagement. Keep at it long enough, and there’s a good chance you could find yourself with an oasis of potential leads before you know it.
3. Add a Showcase Page:
Showcase Pages are mainly for bigger businesses with more expansive product or service inventories. They are designed to promote products separately. By focusing on each product and service directly, you have a better chance at reaching a more specific target audience with a more personalised offering.
4. Create Sponsored Content:
Creating sponsored content on LinkedIn allows business to extend their reach beyond just those who follow their page. Here’s how:
- Click Work –> Advertise –> Create Ad
- Sign in
- Choose which ad option suits you best:
Sponsored Content appears within a user’s news-feed, much like any other organic content, and is available across all devices. People who see your update have the option to follow your company or showcase page from the update itself, as well as click through to your destination page.
Text Ads are intuitive, self-service ad formats that enable you to easily create, manage, and optimize customized campaigns in a matter of minutes. These Ads are limited exclusively to desktop interactions, and are placed in the right column of your homepage. The Ads also have an optional feature called “Lead Collection” which allows advertisers to capture leads directly through a native contact form. Interested potential customers are shown a “Request Contact” button, which if clicked, alerts the Ad sponsor of the interested party’s request by way of email.
You can also deliver relevant and personalised messages with Sponsored InMail, but be careful not to abuse this feature – no one’s a fan of spam.
4. Next, it’s time to choose a captivating picture and catchy title.
5. In terms of targeting, pick your intended audience by desired location (anything from an entire country to a specific suburb), job title, industry, age or more.
6. Finalise your preferred pricing structure by selecting from the PPC or PPM payment options.
As a lead-gen channel, LinkedIn can often be forgotten or overlooked, so ensure that you’re able to measure your ROI and therefore justify your investment. How, you ask?
No matter how much incredible content you put out there or how much energy you spend on your newly created group or page, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. LinkedIn campaign manager, UTM codes, Google Analytics and social media monitoring tools enable you to track traffic and conversions from content you post on LinkedIn’s publishing platforms in a manner of ways – so lean on these.
LinkedIn’s not just that place you go to show-off your new short-course certificate. It’s a complex, nuanced network that requires time, brand and marketing strategies, consistency and insight. To make all of your efforts worthwhile, you’ll need to monitor and measure them effectively – and that’s where Meltwater gives you a step up.