LinkedIn continues to gain importance as the primary social network for business professionals. New features and content types are being added on a regular basis, and the overall "tone" of the platform has shifted toward a mix of personal and professional content.
In this episode, Abbie Fink and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk about the evolution of LinkedIn as a content platform and why all business leaders should have a LinkedIn strategy in 2022.
Connect with Abbie on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abbiesfink
Connect with Adrian on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adrianmcintyre/
Read Abbie Fink's blog post for this episode: "Grow Your Brand on LinkedIn"
If you enjoyed this episode, please follow the Copper State of Mind podcast in your favorite app. We publish a new episode every other Tuesday. Just pick your preferred podcast player from this link and follow the show: https://www.copperstateofmind.show/listen
Copper State of Mind is a project of HMA Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm in Phoenix.
The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B podcast network in Arizona.
LinkedIn has grown in recent years from a relatively static resume site where you connected with business associates to a fairly dynamic, active and growing content platform that many professionals use every day to keep in touch with their network. How things have changed and how you need to change in response to them is the topic of our show today, as we look at growing your brand on LinkedIn. Here to share her thoughts on this is Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations, an Arizona PR firm that is much older than LinkedIn. Abbie, what's on your mind?Abbie Fink:
Yeah, so I was poking around on LinkedIn earlier in the week, and I had gotten a message from someone who was asking me if I could talk to her about a particular person that was on there. And it got me thinking about how we started LinkedIn as really this online, I'll date myself now, but an online Rolodex, right. It's where we connected. It was that first foray into social media for a lot of us of a certain age. It was a little bit safer we thought than some of the others. And it became a much more managed opportunity to manage your profile and potentially start developing status updates and things. Well, like all of these platforms, it evolved and became something really that businesses started to use in order to market their brand and grow their brand. And according to LinkedIn, they have upwards of 800 million users now. I mean, not numbers, is just something you can't even really wrap your head around and certainly is not a market that we can all go after all 800 million of these, but from a business perspective, it really is and should be part of your strategic thinking about where you are going to start and collaborate and provide content with your potential customers and clients and not just use it from a one on one connection, but really how you as a business can start to use it to grow your business as well. So I thought it might be fun to talk a little bit about that today.Adrian McIntyre:
Well, it's certainly something that you and I and our companies have both embraced as a place to, not only make connections and have conversations, share content and engage in commerce, you like the four Cs that I just created there?Abbie Fink:
Very good.Adrian McIntyre:
It's become something that is increasingly imperative, I think, for everyone, from the solopreneur to the C-suite executive to be thinking about a strategy for, because of the types of communication that are going down on the platform. I looked up just before we went on the air here, I made my first LinkedIn connection on January 11th, 2006 and 16 years ago there wasn't that much you could do on LinkedIn. You could create a profile, you could add some job history and you could add a few text words about each position that you had. And then you could start to try to find other people that you knew or that had gone to school where you went to school or had worked at companies that you had worked and things of that nature, and essentially create a network, but it was a network that didn't do a whole lot other than stay connected. And people who were using LinkedIn as a platform for either seeking jobs or for recruiting would use the information there very much like you would use the resume, but man, is it different today with all kinds of live content with everything from video to coming soon, it's going to be audio based events, or a social audio clubhouse type thing. The amount of options that are available to individuals to present their work, not just their employment history, but the projects, the publications, all the different things, it really has become something significant and an output for creative content, not just really boring business stuff.Abbie Fink:
Right. Well, and as you said, when it first started, I think its primary goal was business person to business person connection. And you were looking for a way and it was simple. You could click and you had all their contact information and you didn't really need to babysit it. You didn't need to go in and check on it. It was just there and it was there for whenever you needed it. And for some people that's still the case and as we evolved and the other social platforms became more and more user friendly and became more and more part of the business setting, LinkedIn looked at it and said, "Okay, what can we do and how can we maximize this already well established reputation for being a business platform?" unlike the others, right? This one really, when you think about social media for business, I think you're still come up with LinkedIn as your probably your number one source. What can we do? Do we want to be the business version of Facebook or do we want to have our own? And so there was a lot of growing pains, I think, as they were thinking through that. But what you're seeing now is really two sides to what LinkedIn is. It still will, and always will have that "I'm looking for a specific person," or "I am going to use it to connect to find people to come work for me," that person to person part of it. But what is shifting now is the second level of communication. So if I am looking and I want to connect with you and because there are things in your profile that I feel like I want to have a connection with, I'm also now going to start to look at who you are as the business of what you are. Right. And what are you talking about? And are you engaging with thought leadership? Are you creating things on the business side of that platform that tells me a little bit more about who you are than just resume building kinds of things. And so, we do a little bit of practice what we preach on our own social media channels to see how these things can work. And we did an experiment towards the end of the calendar year where we really did a focused effort on what we were sharing on LinkedIn, how we were sharing it, the types of content was important, but what words were we using? What hashtags were we using and what was happening with that content once it was on there? And we saw a pretty significant increase in clickthroughs over to our website, which is ultimately what we're trying to do in terms of people finding out more about our agency and such. And so analyzing what that was is really about if we intend to be thought leaders and experts in public relations, communications, marketing, this is a place beyond our own website to be able to put forth that content into the marketplace. So we are now looking at... And LinkedIn has a tremendous amount of opportunities to create and curate content that some of the other sites don't necessarily have. And they have a very robust marketing platform behind it where you can access some things and work with it. But it is a place for you to further that thought leadership and that expert knowledge that you have created as well as using it to seek business and engagement with others that can purchase your goods and services or for you to ultimately become that go-to source for information. So I really have a newfound respect for what LinkedIn is and what it can do. It has become something that is more than just pop over there and check and see if do I know somebody, does somebody know me? Who do I need to know, but really about gathering content and even putting this conversation together, simply by going into the search function of LinkedIn found a whole host of information about this topic, how do you grow your business using that platform that were coming from really smart marketers that are taking and using this quite extensively for their own business development.Adrian McIntyre:
Now, there's something that I have to say here, and I don't want to harsh anyone's buzz or rain on any parades, but one of the things that lets you know that a platform has arrived is when there is a self-appointed army of ...Abbie Fink:
... experts who are offering their consulting services, their courses, their membership groups, and so on about the platform itself. So if you go on LinkedIn, you'll find a bunch of LinkedIn experts on LinkedIn about LinkedIn on LinkedIn. And there could be a little bit of an echo chamber there. However, I think quite a few of those folks do have some valuable insights to offer because they are certainly pushing the envelope of the platform to try to see how it works. And at the same time, I don't think anybody particularly with LinkedIn has to spend a lot of money with one of these LinkedIn experts to get the basics right, because the basics will take you a long way. And those basics include things like writing a profile for an actual human to read and engage with and understand you. In other words, letting your own humanity come through so that someone reading it sees who you are, what you're about, what you care about, rather than using resume language, which can often be a bit distanced from the person. It's often based around objectives and achievements and responsibilities and things of that nature. So use real language to write a complete profile that expresses who you are and what you do and why you care about these things and some of those things. Not treating LinkedIn like a billboard on the side of a bus. In other words, your goal here is to create real human connection, not to just promote your thing. I mean, if I'm looking at profiles and everything about it is screaming, "Advertisement," it's a little bit of a turn off. It's not necessary. One of the things that I think has shifted a bit with LinkedIn is what people used to think was required to be professional has changed a little bit. And LinkedIn has become more like the business casual, the cocktail mixer at the conference, not the executive session where everyone's in a suit. I mean, you obviously still wouldn't stray too far into overly personal stuff. But I think there are a lot of people who are in fact, finding real traction on LinkedIn in sharing their actual personal stuff. So you got to find that balance for yourself and there's some more specific tactics and things we can talk about. But in general, I think it's not too hard to figure out how to LinkedIn appropriately.Abbie Fink:
Well, and here's the thing. So if you've been listening to this podcast for any period of time, you know we talk a lot about authenticity and walking the walk and talking the talk, right? So if we think about the two sides of how LinkedIn can be, you have your personal brand and that's your profile and the information that you're sharing there. And you're absolutely right. There needs to be a humanness to the content that's out there but it needs to be authentic and it needs to be you in the same way that your website is you and every other place I might find you is, right. So the persona that we're putting here needs to be consistent. Then there's the business side of LinkedIn, right? So it's Abbie Fink who's there as Abbie Fink, and then there's HMA Public Relations and the things that that page does and where the two intersect. And much like any other communication strategy that you're developing, if you are going to take that to one of these social platforms, like LinkedIn, it needs the same kind of discussion and goal setting and purpose that you would do with anything else. So, is this a reliable place for people to find out information about you? Can they come to your LinkedIn profile? If that happens, the place that they spend, they, the magical they that we're all trying to attract. If they spend their time in LinkedIn as their way of finding out information, then what will they find there? And is that branding, that forward facing information consistent with what they will find everywhere else? And, yes, casual, comfortable, conversational... See that, I had a three Cs too, way of talking will engage that potential audience. What is the content that you're sharing there? And is that the same messaging there where they might find you other places? You have to think about it from the customer perspective, right? What are they going to see when they get there and what's in it for me? If I'm going to engage with your page or with your LinkedIn profile, do I benefit from that? Is there something with what I'm getting when I get there beneficial to me? And from a customer relationship, that's what you're looking for. I want to provide you with something that you find valuable to the extent that you want to continue a dialogue with me. And so what are our philosophies? What are the things that we stand for as a business, and is that coming through loud and clear on our LinkedIn profiles as well?Adrian McIntyre:
And the dialogue, you mentioned that word, I think that is so critical because so much content is still a one way street. It is still a push channel, a broadcast mode. It's like, "Were we are saying our thing," but the real value, if you value relationships, the real value comes in the engagement, in the conversation, in the comment threads, below the content, in the conversations that happen through the messaging platform on LinkedIn and the most important thing here, and it runs in the face of some people who are trying to sell LinkedIn marketing magic bullets, all of which don't work. And I don't recommend any of them. For example, automated messaging, bad idea. Don't do it. Any attempt to get speed and shortcut the process. Don't do it. It's not going to work. Or if it works, it only works on the kind of people it works on, which may not be the kind of people you want to do business with. So have real conversations. If someone else in your network... One of the wonderful things, let's just get into the weeds here for a second. One of the wonderful things about LinkedIn is the way their algorithm works, prioritizes the friends of friends, that's not what it's called, but the second order connections, right? So that means when Abbie posts something on LinkedIn, if I comment on Abbie's post my connections to some of them anyway, will see Abbie's post because I commented on it. They're not connected to Abbie. They are connected to me. And I think, well, Adrian had something thoughtful to say about what Abbie said, not only do I now think more highly of Adrian, but also, "Who's Abbie?" So then they're clicking through to Abbie's profile, understanding that at the very small level, this is how the platform is working, has you making the kind of content and engaging in the kind of conversations that will help real human relationships to emerge. And that's what we, at least those of us that are in a relationship driven business, that's what we really need.Abbie Fink:
And I use LinkedIn very much the way you just described it. If I see an interaction that you have had, and I'm interested and I'm intrigued enough, I will click over and see what this other person has said or this other business has said. And I need to find my anniversary date as well. I'm curious when I started on LinkedIn, but I accepted anyone that asked to link in with me and at that stage of the game, I thought it was about, it was the numbers game. And then for so much of social media at the time, that's what we were all banking on was how many followers, how many connections, how many fans, whatever the word was of the platform, "Well, I've got 1,005." "Great. Well, who are they?" "I don't know, but I got them." I'm much more selective now, both in who I accept, as well as who I'm asking. Now, you can link in with Abbie the person by asking me, and I will say yes or no. You can link in with HMA Public Relations and see what my company is doing simply by following that on LinkedIn. So there's not a permission based connection the same as it is one on one. But I think about now my own protocol in terms of who I bother to say yes or no to, and who I engage with from a business perspective, because I'm taking the time each day to go into the link, my LinkedIn page, to engage, to read what's there to see what's happening and I want that to be a meaningful experience if I'm going to invest that time. So for me now, the invitation to link in with me needs to be purposeful. I don't have to know you. We don't have to... In fact, the majority of the people I do not know personally, but there is a reason that we have decided to connect. We met at a conference, or it is a colleague of yours that I find interesting. And so there's a reason. And there's a function when you ask someone to link in with you where you can make a personal note. And I always tell you you should do that. Don't just hit the connect button, but actually, "Hi, Adrian. I saw that you talk a lot about X, Y, Z. I'm interested in that information. I thought we might be able to connect here." To your point, in that human connection, you see that and you think, "Well, there's somebody at the other end of that request." And so I feel like we have to rethink the connection part. I also use it when I am meeting with potential client that I don't have a deep connection with yet, check the LinkedIn profile, are there any common connections? What are they saying on their LinkedIn page as a business? What will they find when they come to mine, because I hope that they're doing the same thing and does that align with my business philosophy and the things that I'm going to share with them once we get to meet face to face? And so it really has, for me, really evolved into this really beneficial business tool that goes beyond just, "I have 1,005 connections," right? These are, for the vast majority of people now and businesses that I follow have a direct relationship or purposeful relationship with me and or our business in order for me to make that, yes, "Will you link in with me?"Adrian McIntyre:
I think it's important also to acknowledge that LinkedIn recognizes the difference now. They didn't used to, but the platform has changed so that you really have two options with most profiles. One is to connect, but the other is to follow. Follow is a lower level action in that it doesn't require the approval of the profile owner for you to follow them. It does require their approval for you to connect with them. And if you're someone who creates a lot of content and doesn't mind having followers who want to read that content rather than having connection, protecting your connections in the way I was talking about, you can switch your profile to what they've added. It's called Creator Mode. So if your profile's in Creator Mode, then follow becomes the default action. People can still send you a connection request. It just takes another extra step. They have to click into the three dots and go in and say, "Connect," and things of that nature. So switching your profile. The follow allows people, if you're publishing stuff, if you're sharing stuff, that's an easy way to both grow an audience and maintain the integrity of your actual connections. Remember, one of the things about LinkedIn is, unless you switch it off, any one of your connections can see all of your connections. Now, just somebody who's not connected to you can't do that. But for example, I'm approaching 5,000 connections on LinkedIn. I have mine open because quite frankly, I don't really care about this, but some people in other types of businesses might think, "You know what? This is my personal network and I don't want just someone in my network to automatically see everyone else in my network." Well, there's a switch in your privacy settings that you can say who can see my contacts and you can make it so even people who are in that private network of your first degree connections, can't see the profiles who are also in there. That's your personal choice. I approach it more openly. You need to decide what's right for you.Abbie Fink:
Well, and that's it right? Like any of these, you set your own rules and regulations that you're going to follow in terms, again, who you're going to connect with and why, who you reach out to and why, whether you keep it as an open connections or a little bit more protected and there's no right answer. It really is personal in how you want to manage that. But where all of this has to come back to is thinking about LinkedIn as an opportunity to grow your business, both the business itself and your personal brand, as it connects to your business, that you want what is there to be authentic and as real as other platforms that you might be using. Although if we agree that this is predominantly business focused, it might look a little different, but if I visit you on your LinkedIn profile and I see you on Twitter, or I see you on Facebook, you are basically the same person in all three places. And then whatever your website tells me that you are, there's some consistency there. You have an opportunity because of the platform and some of the parameters that are there for long form discussions and engagement and conversation and therefore it requires commitment. It's not a set it and forget it kind of thing. You can't just go in there and link in with a whole bunch of people and then take weeks to go back and see if there's been any engagement. If you're going to do it, you need to take the time and invest some of your energy there to make it successful for you and set a strategy like you would with anything else. So you have some goals for what you want it to do and how you will be able to manage that and put the time that you need to invest in that in order to make sure it's successful. And without getting into the specifics, there are several opportunities that exist there for things like video and live chat and curated content and all sorts of things that, depending on how you want to use it and how you want to engage with it really broaden its perspective for you and gives you this really robust way of being able to utilize it. But like anything, again, it requires some attention and it needs to have some strategy around it. And if you're going to use it and use it to a point of being successful for you, then you have to give yourself the benefit of the time to invest in it and make it part of your overall communication strategy. As you look to enhance and build your brand, LinkedIn can be a very valuable tool to do that.Adrian McIntyre:
One quick thing I want to say on the content front, as those types of posts and events and other functionality baked into the platform have evolved and gotten better and better over time. It's important to understand for that content strategy and your internal or agency team should advise you on this as well, that there is two different types of time frames or cadences for that kind of content. Unlike Twitter, where the average lifespan of a tweet is 12 minutes, and then nobody sees it ever again, LinkedIn really does play in both the short term and the long term content. So you can think differently about your content strategy in both regards. So for example, you can just make little short posts that are offhand remarks, thoughts, things of that nature. And you can also write longer pieces either as a post or as an article. You can upload videos and there's ways that you can pin those in the featured section of your profile so that they do have some durability so that people will come back and they'll see, "Ah, these five things are pillar content for this person." And that's really nice. That's not something that's actually available on other platforms. So you really get to work both the short term and the lasting side of that equation. The other thing we have to say about LinkedIn is, why that matters, is although the platform has nearly 800 million users, in the United States, there are 66 million monthly active users. So there are a lot of people who are coming on LinkedIn less frequently than you. I read a statistic somewhere a few months ago that the average C level executive logs into LinkedIn once a week. So recognize that not everything you do is about today. You are creating content and engaging in conversations that do have a little bit more of a relaxed or longer term time frame. You're still going to reach people. And it just doesn't have the... And this can be refreshing, I think is what I'm trying to say. It doesn't have the immediacy of a tweet where either it had to hit or nobody ever sees it, kind of a thing.Abbie Fink:
And I think that's a great point to make and really summarizes the idea here is, this is an investment over time and that the long game is really what you're after here. And unlike the others that they do disappear into the ether once you've scrolled past them, LinkedIn allows a little bit more longevity and a little bit more opportunity for the content to stay and to live and be searchable for a much longer time. So what's relevant and immediate has a little bit more life cycle to it. So I am a big believer in what LinkedIn can do. And I think it's an important part of growing your brand, whether that's your personal brand, or if you're looking to develop yourself as a thought leader, independent of your business. That's perfectly acceptable and a valuable place to be if you're looking at it truly from a business perspective. I think that's great as well, but comes down to again, paying attention to it, giving it the benefit of a strategy and really thinking through what it can be and making sure that it works for you and with you in terms of what the other goals are for your business. And I think you'll start to see some success. We are going to touch on some of the other social media strategies as it relates to business. We've talked about them a little bit here today, but I think it's worth diving into some of the other platforms a little bit more. So in some upcoming episodes, we'll touch on how some of the other social platforms separately can be considered as you look to grow your brand in the social space. So I think that's a good plan for us. And if you're interested in linking in with us, let us know, we'd be happy to make that connection!