LinkedIn is a ubiquitous tool for the modern knowledge worker, but it's still elusive to marketers. I've had the privilege of advising dozens of B2B companies on their marketing strategy over the last few years, and have learned a lot about the do's and don'ts of LinkedIn for B2B marketing. I hope this guide helps demystify how marketers can get the most from LinkedIn as a marketing channel.
LinkedIn has over 760M users, with more than 260M monthly active users and 104M daily active users. Each of these people use LinkedIn for the same reason: to build their network and discover information that will help them in their professional lives. While consumers have many sources of content discovery today, LinkedIn is the primary destination for business-centric consumption. It’s the only app that people open with the intention of thinking about their professional identities.
This creates a unique opportunity for B2B marketers to leverage LinkedIn for connecting with prospective customers while they are in a work mindset. The only other channel that marketers can use for this type of engagement today is email, but email is not meant for discovery; it’s purely transactional. A top notch LinkedIn strategy can be a potent source of brand building and lead generation for the marketers who are willing to throw out what they know about social and email marketing to try something new.
There are two main types of content that get posted on LinkedIn today: Posts and Stories. Similar to other social media platforms, posts are consumed within a feed that’s personalized to the end users and Stories are consumed in a more passive, mobile-first experience. LinkedIn Posts live on forever and can be viewed from a company’s profile page, whereas Stories are temporal and go away after 24 hours.
On LinkedIn, individuals and companies are treated more or less as equals. The key difference is that you can’t “connect” with a company, but you can follow them. Similar to other social networks, the potential distribution for a LinkedIn Post or Story is proportional to the number of people that follow you. Unique to LinkedIn, however, is that if one of your followers engages with your post (ie, Likes or Comments on it) that post will then be eligible to be seen by all of the people who are connected to the person who engaged with it. This means that it’s mission critical to create content on LinkedIn that doesn’t just drive link click throughs, but drives genuine on-site engagement.
The three main components of a LinkedIn marketing strategy are determining your audience, your posting frequency and your content calendar. Because LinkedIn is a job-centric social network, they have the best data in the world about the jobs of each of their users. This means that when you’re devising your marketing strategy for LinkedIn you can be very specific about what persona of user you’d like to engage with. For example, you could say that your primary audience is, “social media marketers at companies with less than 500 employees” or “sales managers at technology companies with 1,000+ employees”. Instead of thinking about your segmentation in terms of a user’s interest, you can (and should!) think in terms of their job profiles.
Once you have a clear sense of your target persona, you can start to think about what posting cadence would work best for you given your current team and priorities. In general, the half-life of a LinkedIn post tends to be around 2 days, meaning it will get 50% of its engagement within the first 48 hours it's on the platform. This is distinctly different from something like Instagram, where the post half-life is closer to 5 hours. As such this means that you can plan to post less frequently on LinkedIn while still benefiting from sufficient coverage and mindshare. LinkedIn Stories do follow a more similar engagement timeline to other social platforms since the posts are temporal, with a half-life closer to 12 hours. Taken together, you should aim to share LinkedIn posts 2-3 times per week, and ideally share LinkedIn stories once per work day if you’re able.
Once you have a clear sense of who you’re targeting and how often you plan to post, you can start to develop your content calendar. The core pillar of your content calendar should be any long-form blog content that your team is creating. For this content, you can view LinkedIn as a primary destination to not just distribute your content but also to spark the conversation with your users about it. Instead of just saying, “new blog post- check it out!” consider taking some time to ask a question that elicits comments from your readers.
In addition to posting your own blog posts, you can fill in the remainder of your content calendar with industry news or reports that are relevant to your core audience. For example, if you’re targeting “social media managers at companies with less than 500 employees” you can consider sharing any important news about the core functionality of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and the like. Similar to promoting your own blog posts, don’t just post a link to a story but also consider asking a question that provokes users to engage. Oftentimes, the comment threads end up being as valuable or more valuable than the content itself!
LinkedIn recently launched LinkedIn Stories as an experimental, mobile-only feature to try and drive deeper engagement on their platform. A unique value proposition of Stories is that it gives the consumer of Stories an easy jumping off point to engage directly with the post creator in messages. It also introduces features such as polls that are commonplace on other platforms such as Instagram.
The key benefit of LinkedIn stories today is that it is highly nascent, with <10% of all active users actually posting content to stories today. This means that there’s a unique opportunity to increase your share of voice with your users by posting to your stories.
Once you’ve determined your target audience, posting cadence and content calendar you have to figure out how to actually create the creative assets that you’ll share to your Posts and Stories. When you share a link to a Post, it will pull the Open Graph markup from the underlying page, and use this to pre-populate the image for you. While this is a great place to get started, it’s highly restrictive in the flexibility it offers to customize the appearance and content for the end users. It’s a missed opportunity to not customize these images to be tailored to your brand, the specific message you’re trying to drive home, and the expectation your audience has from content in their feed. When you share a Story, you can decide to either re-share an existing post (not recommended, as it doesn’t add differentiated value to the end user), create your own content using the LinkedIn native editor, or upload your own image.
The best practice for creating these custom LinkedIn Posts or Stories is to use a graphics editor like Canva or Photoshop to create the content. However, this requires manual editing and design work that can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes per post. If you’re sharing 3 Posts and 5 Stories per week, this can take anywhere from 1-4 hours to produce. Instead, consider using a generative design tool like Aesthetic to automatically generate all of the branded creative assets that you’ll need to power your LinkedIn marketing strategy.