Thursday, May 27, 2010

6 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn

The top six social media tips to know before you leave the office.

Last week, LinkedIn launched its new “follow” feature, which enables users to track a company from its profile page or the profile pages of its employees. This new functionality is a reminder that the professional social networking site is more than just a resource for job hunters. Now, LinkedIn’s 65 million members worldwide can monitor a company’s news, new hires, and special events, and marketers should take notice.

The network’s business focus makes it a prime platform for demonstrating thought leadership, networking with potential leads, drawing attention to products or services, and engaging internal audiences. Furthermore, recent updates and rollouts have made it necessary to monitor the conversations about corporate brands taking place on the site.

This week’s Six @ Six outlines six best practices every company should be implementing on this increasingly important social network platform. How is your company using LinkedIn to enhance its brand reputation and generate business leads? Let me know on Twitter @valerieelston.

1. Claim the Company Profile:

For some, this advice may seem exceedingly basic. Yet, a surprising number of businesses are not in control of their company’s profile on LinkedIn. Taking charge of the content available on LinkedIn is critical because the site ranks highly in search results and receives about 70 million visits a month. Additionally, it’s important that someone be assigned to manage the profile because any employee can edit the page. This will ensure content is correct and current. LinkedIn indicates the last person to have edited the profile so you will know if someone other than the profile manager has made changes. Be sure to brand your page with your company’s logo, add links to other online resources such as your company’s website, and choose to have your profile automatically populated with news items. These features will add depth to your profile and increase the content available for search engines to crawl and index.

2. Optimize the Profile:

Because the amount of information one can add to a company profile is governed by LinkedIn’s pre-defined fields, it’s important to make the most of the space available. Take time to rewrite your company description from an SEO perspective. What are the keywords that drive people to your company’s website? These words should be liberally utilized in your company’s LinkedIn profile. Your employees can also take steps to optimize their profiles, which will enhance their credibility as brand ambassadors while also strengthening the company’s SEO. For example, when entering website information on your profile, you can add a description by selecting “other” from the drop down menu. This enables you to add keywords that will help search engines direct searchers to your links.

3. Empower Internal Brand Ambassadors:

The power of employee brand ambassadors cannot be underestimated. Employees are your brand’s first line of defense on LinkedIn and encouraging them to participate helps disseminate positive information about your company. Many of your employees may already be taking part in group discussions or using the Answers feature. Of course, these communications should be subject to internal checks before posting and all employees should be provided with best practices and instructions so they can most effectively leverage their personal profiles.

4. Take Advantage of Groups:

Whether you want to create and manage a group or simply take part in an ongoing discussion, LinkedIn groups offer an easy way to network with industry peers around the world. Recommend that your employees join groups for your industry’s professional associations, local networks, or those devoted to interests in their field. Groups offer two key benefits. First, they provide opportunities for thought leadership where employees can post to discussions based on their own expertise. And second, they enable employees to share positive information about your brand from news articles, company blog posts, and other online sources.

5. Integrate Your Networks:

LinkedIn can potentially be a top driver of Web traffic when properly integrated. As your company likely does with Twitter and Facebook, prominently display a LinkedIn icon throughout your website. With the addition of the new “follow” feature, users can start following your company through your profile page, so encouraging them to click through to the site will increase the number of people who decide to join your network. Make sure you highlight LinkedIn on each social networking site your company engages as well – be it Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

6. Consider Direct Ads:

As was mentioned in Six @ Six a few weeks ago, LinkedIn’s Direct Ad capabilities enable advertisers to target audiences by criteria such as company size, job function, industry, position, and geography. The value of targeting your ads based on these criteria is immense and companies should also consider purchasing direct ads to enhance and protect brand reputation. LinkedIn ads can be connected to your company’s profile, therefore increasing your legitimacy and creating an additional opportunity for users to find out more about your company, products, services, and employees.

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