Laura Hamilton: LinkedIn an integral part of corporate life

When Becky Carlson, head coach of a small-town female rugby team, wrote a passionate article titled An Open Letter To The Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting on her LinkedIn page, she couldn't have known it would surpass Ban-Ki moon's as best-performing LinkedIn post of the day.

LinkedIn can help give your firm 'social validation', writes Laura Hamilton of the Freer Consultancy. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images
LinkedIn can help give your firm 'social validation', writes Laura Hamilton of the Freer Consultancy. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

It’s the extraordinary example that Jaime Pham, content marketing evangelist at LinkedIn, used to illustrate the platform’s democracy at PR Fest 2016, held at Edinburgh creative agency Whitespace last year. Carlson’s comments resonated with her peers and journalists, Pham explained, because it wasn’t just a marketing exercise: it was from the heart.

The upshot is that it’s not just high-profile influencers like Adriana Huffington and Bill Gates that gain traction on LinkedIn – every professional and business can. Acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion (£20.4bn) last year, LinkedIn is the networking tool for professionals with more than 100 million active users worldwide and 500 million users overall. The platform was described at the time of the acquisition as “the connective tissue for enterprises” by venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.

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Like its social media cousin Twitter, LinkedIn has become an integral part of corporate life – building connections, followers and networks as well as supporting business, sales and marketing strategies. But it would be a mistake to see it as a platform on which you merely need to be present or “net neutral”; instead, you need to engage and have the right content.

LinkedIn needs to be underpinned by strategy and fed by a combination of planned and reactive content, whether it’s a individual’s or company’s profile. It has become a competitive advantage for businesses who do it well, investing the time and resources required and hitting the right tone. LinkedIn isn’t only a message board; increasingly it’s a forum for ongoing discussion and narratives and used to emphasis your brand values like Carlson’s impassioned plea for college athletes to take a less entitled attitude to college. Like more traditional media coverage, it helps to build a story and becomes a key branding exercise; in many ways it has become the new press release.

We have been advising the Scottish Business Network on social media strategy at an important time for the networking group as it embarks on international expansion. While networking in person is imperative to any business, translating those skills to digital often involves a different approach to marketing.

Social media is less dry than a corporate website, but you need to strike the balance between alienating customers with whimsical humour and boring them with corporate cliches.

Business LinkedIn profiles should not only feature news and achievements, but also position the brand as an authority in its industry. Op-eds, thought pieces and comments on trending news create variety.

Encouraging your employees to post and write articles on their personal LinkedIn pages is important too. Collectively, your employees have on average ten times the connections than your company has followers. And, crucially, the posts about positive experiences in the workplace give your organisation social validation with authenticity.

It’s also a platform where you can address concerns that your company has, like when US retailer Target wrote an article called “The Truth Hurts” on the back of its employees complaining to now defunct online blog news site Gawker about bad treatment in 2014. The transparency displayed won back naysayers; a sincere and brilliant crisis communications success.

Don’t be afraid to be personal as long as it’s relevant to your brand. If corporate responsibility, for example, is important to your work, and you have an interesting story to tell, then tell it. Just stay away from memes – keep that for Facebook.

Laura Hamilton is a digital media consultant with the Freer Consultancy