How Does LinkedIn Fit into your B2B Marketing Communications Strategy?

Last year, LinkedIn rolled out more features, applications, enhancements and beta programs than I could keep up with. I couldn’t list them all, but what I do know is that they’ve stepped up the game dramatically. Dismissing LinkedIn as simply a recruiting/job search tool would be a mistake.

Across our firm, nearly every client is exploring how to use LinkedIn more strategically in its marketing communications efforts this year. More companies are asking for training sessions to educate employees on how to improve their individual profiles and network more effectively. And I’m determined to tap into the potential it holds for my clients in 2011.

How? Following is a snapshot of some of the discussions taking place within B2B companies:

  • Revive the Lame LinkedIn Group. Raise your hand if your company has its own LinkedIn group to which nobody pays attention. OK, now answer: who is it for and what is its purpose? Decide that now. Then, take some action to experiment. For example, one of our consulting firm clients is about to release new research that serves as a major marketing/sales initiative for the year. Their LinkedIn group hasn’t been particularly active, so we’re going to test using the research as a platform for discussion about some of the issues raised. An internal campaign is encouraging employees/consultants to join the group (if they haven’t already) and invite any relevant personal contacts to do the same. We’re seeding discussions now around related issues to get conversations going pre-launch. We’re including a link at the end of webinars to join the LinkedIn group and ask any unanswered questions. A prominent link to the group will also be featured on the microsite for the research. My point: look for specific opportunities to experiment.
  • Be a True Participant in Your Groups. Now, raise your hand if you join groups, and never participate in them? Guilty! New goal: take a little time to assess all of those groups and identify the top 3 that could really have the most impact on your business. If your organization has 10 different lines of business, start by focusing on one. How do you know what groups are worth your time? Check to see how engaged members are in talking to EACH OTHER, not just the frequency of new posts. Are the members of that group a strategic target for you/your business? Can you be helpful to the group in some way?
  • Create a LinkedIn Company Page. It’s free, so why not? This Marketo post does a great job of explaining why B2B companies should take advantage of company pages (customer recommendations, offering a direct connection to sales contacts, etc.), along with tips and examples. In addition, new analytics allow you to see who is visiting and following your company profile (see helpful post from Kherize5). With improved keyword search functions and the ability people have to “follow” companies now, it’s a miss if you don’t.
  • Engage and Empower Employees. Most working professionals today are on LinkedIn (see Hubspot infographic), so why not educate and empower employees throughout the company to share useful news and content as part of your communications strategy? It doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartBlog on Social Media offers a few very simple ways to empower employees with information.
  • Maximize Use of LinkedIn Applications. In your LinkedIn profile, go to the “more” tab and select “get more applications.” It will show you a full list of all the tools at your disposal. Are you maximizing your content sharing strategy to its fullest potential? Make sure you’ve connected your/your company’s SlideShare account and blog. Consider using the Events application as another way to broadcast significant company events or to identify people in your network attending similar events.

What ideas do you have for making LinkedIn a part of your marketing communications strategy?

Photo by mpeterke

To reach Kellie:

Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan