August 20, 2015 ianblyth

How to Win the Game (and Customers) with Content on Linkedin

With over 107 million registered, engaged users in the United States alone, many of which are your customers, colleagues or more importantly prospective customers, Linkedin is the choice for B2B marketers.

And it’s growing. Every second, two more people join Linkedin. By the time you reach the period at the end of this sentence, Linkedin’s audience will have grown by 12.

From 2013 to 2014, Linkedin grew its membership by 20% – more than Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube combined. It’s the fourth fastest growing network behind Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

It’s a unique social media platform that lets you network with like-minded individuals and connect directly with potential customers. So the question is, why aren’t you using it?

If Linkedin gives you the capability to share targeted updates directly with connections or write posts to engage in thought leadership (and set yourself apart from the competition), why aren’t devoting at least 20 minutes a day with it?

Let’s put aside the incredibly powerful (and free) search capabilities of Linkedin for a moment. And lets save the potential of engaging groups for another time.

This is all about how you can collect, share, and create compelling content for your audience to start conversations and get connections motivated. Below are some tips for sharing stories and writing blog posts to engage your audience, and by the way, everything below is free. The only thing you need is the time.

First, Create “Listening Stations” with Google Alerts for Awesome Ideas

The most common excuse people come up with for not engaging their audience on Linkedin with an update to share or an article to write is the lack of ideas or time to generate them or a combination of both, which is downright scary.

Now, I’m sure we’ve all seen The Wolf of Wall Street so I’ll spare you the quotes about the things that are holding you back and do you one better by offering your a solution. It’s called Google Alerts and it’ll collect news stories for you, on a daily basis, based on keywords of your choosing, and send them to your inbox.

There’s no scouring search engines for information or researching niche blogs. The best thing is, it was developed by Google (it’s right in the name) so it’s incredibly useful, as powerful as it simple, and free, which is the best.

Here’s how it works. First, you enter a keyword you care about. Try something simple like “Digital Marketing”, “Fainting Goats”, or “David Lynch”.  Then toggle a few settings, enter your email address, and boom, done, that’s it. The alert automatically monitors the web for content related to that keyword and updates you by placing an email right in your inbox.

You can have alerts emailed to you daily, weekly, or if you’re into this sort of thing, as it happens. You can also narrow the alert regionally, or have it monitor only blogs, videos or discussions. There’s a number of settings to help you set the granularity of the alert.

In a data-driven world where things happen all the time, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for keeping you up to speed on what’s happening.

It’s great to set up a few of these alerts as “listening stations” that will funnel ideas to you automatically. Make a habit out of reading it daily. It’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in your customer’s world. It will also give you great content to share as an update or even ideas for a post.

When you’re ready to learn more about this go read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and ‎Julien Smith. Five years later, it’s still the de facto standard for influencing people in social media. Great read.

Share Smart on Linkedin and Engage Your Audience

Now that you’ve got your listening stations supplying a steady stream of content to your inbox, it’s time to put it to good use.

Whether you’re sharing stories to your feed or using several articles for sources in a post, there’s some best practices you should follow to maximize your return on investment.

First, let’s talking about sharing an update. Sharing an update is easy enough – you simply copy and paste a URL into the “Share an Update” field on your homepage. For the most part, if the site you’re sharing has it’s act together, you’ll see a thumbnail and abstract appear after you copy and paste the article. After that, you can enter a message summarizing why you’re posting the content.

After that click “Share” and boom, done – you’re sharing content on Linkedin. Look at your spreading the word.

And while this is a pretty cool thing to do – sharing links and news you feel are relevant – it’s only scratching the surface.

One of the coolest things you can do is “tag” a person or company in your share, which engages your audience (the whole point).

As you’re writing your message to explain your post, you can type an “@” symbol and start typing either the name of any company or person on Linkedin to “tag” them in the post, which means they will receive a notification after you share. This is a great way to build your audience, stay connected with customers, or push prospects toward the sale.

Here’s me sharing a Windows 10 article from TechRepublic with Bill Gates (the real one) and mentioning Microsoft (the company, for reals) with my old college buddy William Johnson (who couldn’t care less about this). All the shares appear in gray, that’s Linkedin’s style.

So how does this work in the real world? Check this out.

Let’s say you’ve just had a great first meeting with a prospect and you want to keep the relationship moving forward. You know this person is incredibly interested in cyber security. In fact, that’s the problem you’re trying to solve with the prospect. Also, since you’re smart, you’ve connected with the person here on Linkedin.

An appropriate way to keep the prospect engaged is to find a news article or blog post the prospect would enjoy, share it on Linkedin, and mention them as you do it.  As an aside, if you really want to find the best cyber security news, do yourself a favor and follow Debbie Windell, the Director of Community Engagement at ICS-ISAC. She will fill your feed with so much great content with respect to cyber security you won’t need a Google Alert.

And by the way, you can automate content posting with Buffer – an application which lets you create a stockpile of content that will automatically post to Linkedin (or Twitter or Facebook) based on a schedule you create.  Plus it’s totally free for up to 10 automatic posts a day. The only draw back here is you can’t yet tag people on Linkedin posts in Buffer. It’s worth a look anyway.

Write Awesome Posts on Linkedin to Engage in Some Serious Thought Leadership

Here’s a question: What’s the most popular type of content on Linkedin?

Think real hard. Ok, give up?

I’ll give you a hint: It’s in your head. You’ve built it up over the years you’ve been working. The answer is this: Industry insights.

According to recent research, six out of 10 Linkedin users are interested in reading about colleagues experiences and expertise over all other content combined.

And lucky for you, Linkedin offers a free way of talking directly to your audience through posts. This is how it works:

On your homepage, you find that button all the way on the right that says “Publish a Post” and click on it. Then get to work Hemingway, write an engaging post filled with the insights and experience.

(Pictured: You Being Awesome)

Coming up with ideas is easy – you already have listening stations set up to stream ideas directly to your inbox. Plus you’ve got all this industry experience. Additionally, you’ve probably got an opinion, insight, or success story that will help someone in someway and that’s what it’s all about.

Disagree? Take this into consideration.

I talk to people all the time who feel like they work in a vacuum. They can’t imagine that anyone, anywhere, even within a 100 mile radius of their workplace, could be experiencing the same problems they face on a daily basis.

Worse yet, they can’t imagine someone in their position working in the next town over that would benefit from the novel way they solved their problems or how they arrived at awesome conclusions with innovative thinking.

They can’t even fathom that person like them exists – let alone imagine them having the same issues and the capacity for appreciation of the solution.

And that’s just wrong.

Everyday people work in environments that are admittedly not 100 percent similar to others, that’s true. Of course no office, graphic design den, factory, plant, or pizza shop is just like the next. But in ways, one municipality is similar to the next to the point where the ideas for solving problems could be just as applicable — or helpful — to others.

In short, don’t spare pixels because you think your idea isn’t awesome. Because it is. It’s awesome. Go burn some pixels telling people about it.

Now, you’ll want to structure your post for sure – add a couple of subheads, organize your thoughts, fashion a snazzy headline. Need some helping writing? There’s a outstanding blogger named Neil Patel who wrote a great article about Writing 2000 Words in 2 Hours.

Regardless of how its structured or how it gets done, just remember three simple rules of posting on Linkedin:

  1. If you’re trying to sell people something outright, game the system with keyword stuffing tricks, or not handling yourself professionally, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. If you’re trying to impart knowledge, educate, and helping others, you’re probably doing it right.
  3. Writing is about solving a problem – always. If you’re not solving a problem with your writing, back up until you see the “3” and start reading again but more carefully this time.

The coolest thing about writing a post on Linkedin is when you’re done and you hit “Publish”, every one of your contacts will get an alert. Everyone you are connected with will get “pinged” about your article. Powerful stuff.

There’s a lot of research into the best times to actually pull the trigger on your post. Many say early morning is the best, other go with the email-marketing standby and suggest right around noon.

The truth of the matter is if you write engaging content, folks will read it and if it’s valuable, they’ll tell others.

And sure, there’s research into how long the post should be. Accepted best practices say the posts should be between 1900-2000 words. (Check No. 6 here on this awesome post).  But don’t sweat that either or try to reach some word count by shoving unnecessary graphs onto the screen.

If you need some inspiration on who’s winning the game with this already, check out Jeff Haden for example. He has nearly 700K followers and posts to Linkedin quite often. Laszlo Bock, SVP at Google, does a really nice job too. Check out Liz Ryan as well, she’s got a great voice and loads of style.

But if you do nothing else, listen, you’ve got to make your post look awesome because it’s free. Here’s how.

Dress Up Your Linkedin Post with Free Pictures

Adding great photos that are applicable to your post is an awesome way to help your story. So the good news is there are literally dozens of great stock photography stuff on the Internet that offer amazing art that is absolutely free.

Trust me, this fact — the existence of such quality stock photography — coupled with your great idea for a post, makes for the potential for some amazing content.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to forgo the big giant list of sites (Dustin Senos over at Medium already has a great one going) and instead give you a magic link to Google. Ready? Here:

Magic Link

But I want to call out some of my favorites.

IMCreator.com

After you get past the truly unfortunate user experience (the site is just a bear to use) you’re find some of the most amazing photography hanging around the web.

The unique thing about this stock photography site is that there is a great deal of people and close-ups of faces, which is an incredibly powerful thing given the fact that people read websites and are more likely to respond to designs that incorporate human elements.

See above, a shot by Jonathan Kos-Read, just an amazing picture.

Freeimages.com

I’ve personally used this site countless times for tons of projects.

The site offers high-res, user-contributed photos that can be used for personal blogs or corporate campaigns. Polished isn’t exactly the word I’d use for this images – this is all about utility. It’s the polar opposite of IMCreator.com.

It just gets the job done consistently and that’s why I recommend it a lot.

If you’re a small business and you’re looking to start content marketing, the stunning amount of vertical-specific art on Freeimages.com makes it a must-have resource.  The account is free (that’s 100%, no future payment) so get after it. That above shot of the forest is by Andrew Cooper.

Startup Stock Photos

When I think of Startup Stock Photos, it reminds me of the good people on the Internet and how fortunate we are to have them.

The site’s creators obviously know how difficult it can be to work for a startup. Making this kind of high quality stock photography seems to be their way of giving back.

It’s all there in the site’s tag line:

“Take ‘em, these things are free. Go. Make something.”

Startup Stock Photos is packed with professional, ultra-clean, modern, art.  And the best part is they are high-res, highly versatile, and above all, free.

Takeaway: There’s a bunch of free stock photography out there but a small percentage of it is awesome.  When you find something you like that inspires you — and it’s free — be polite and attribute the author.

In all cases, use stock photography that is applicable to your subject and always, always, always, do the right thing and attribute your work. Linkedin’s clunky editor makes it a challenge to add captions to articles, so why not list the credits at the end of the article, like I do.

However you decide to do it, take five seconds to give the author some credit. It’s the least you can do.

Images I used:

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