There are several methods for staying connected with your colleagues, partners, or existing or prospective clients on LinkedIn. But do all of these techniques have the same value and purpose? Here’s a quick comparison:
- When you send a private message, you can only manually contact one person at a time.
- When you publish a post on your feed, 10% to 50% of your network will see it.
So, posting is essential for reaching a wider audience.
Producing content in order to boost the size of your audience is easy: positive messages, good managerial practices, Steve Jobs quotes, showing support for a certain cause…but the impact that this will have on your sales remains to be seen.
For Social Selling, content is key
Why, you ask? There are several reasons:
- It’s a good way to initiate a very informal dialogue with your target audience. If they react by liking or commenting on your post, you’ll be able to start a conversation with them.
- If you post regularly, you’ll win the trust of your followers, and some of them will look to you as an expert in your field.
- This will give you an insight into the thoughts of your target audience. The tone of a comment, a share, or even a rebuttal are indicators that will give you a better idea of your prospective clients’ expectations, as well as their state of mind.
- This in turn will enable you to enhance your own marketing actions.
So, in a social selling approach, posts are used to elicit a response from a target audience in order to bring them into your selling routine.
What is a selling routine?
This is a series of tasks designed to make an unknown (or little-known) individual in your network respond to you, to get them to accept a telephone call or an in-person meeting. These talks will be used to discuss their needs and bring them through your sales funnel.
In a selling routine, the direct approach of cold-calling or emailing yields fewer results than indirect approaches designed to build up trust between you and your prospect – e.g. by initiating contact with them through a social media post.
Basically, this routine involves regular posting or frequent content-sharing. Unfortunately, the problem with selling routines is that they involve complex processes designed to get reactions and engagement from real-life humans, so the mechanisms can quickly go awry. You need to continuously measure conversion rates, test improvements and rework these routines to prevent these tactics from wearing thin.
How to post effectively
It’s tempting to reuse content found on Google or other search engines, by simply sharing it, along with a small comment, on LinkedIn. On paper, this sounds like an endless supply of content that is easy to showcase and offering marketing employees an easy way to prove their expertise. But sadly, in my experience, it doesn’t always work; LinkedIn frowns upon people sharing external links, so it penalises the sharing of rehashed content (steps taken during 2017 suggest that traffic to these posts is 5 times less). So you need to consider each channel individually (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and not necessarily share all of your content in the same way.
It’s tempting to use curation tools which allow you to schedule posts in advance. Examples show, however, that several businesses overuse these platforms (by scheduling reposts at all hours of the day and night). In my humble opinion, this doesn’t create engagement (you can never replace quality with quantity), especially since LinkedIn seems to differentiate between high-quality authors and other kinds of posts. By regularly posting original content (even if it is inspired by content shared by your company or by experts in your sector), you will gain a larger audience and win more engagement.
It’s tempting to ask your employees to be brand ambassadors and relay content that has been approved by your marketing team – but these efforts rarely pay off. You really need a huge audience and frequent posting to garner enough engagement; even having all of your best–trained employees on the case will not achieve the desired results. It’s better to make good use of a couple of profiles right from the start (perhaps the CEO and a few team members), outline a list of encouraged themes, and help them to find the right tone and frequency in order to understand what works. Then get organised so that you find the right posts early on, to ultimately boost your audience.
It’s tempting to rely on the effects of scale when posting on LinkedIn, by thinking that ten or twenty employees posting would be better than two. However, in order to build up an audience, not everyone necessarily needs to have things to say. As mentioned in the previous point, it’s better to ask your team to interact with posts from only two or three of your employees. It’s more effective to act collectively, and discourage your employees from producing their own content if they don’t have the means or the time to do it regularly. On LinkedIn, it’s all a matter of consistency and technique.
There are, however, good posting formats that take up less time. If your marketing team prepares a list of 50 questions reflecting customer queries as their requirements evolve, it’s entirely possible to coordinate posts between a marketing team to get your audience to think about them and react.
This resource, combined with other elements already in place, could produce one or two posts per month and per team member, and each person could make use of these openings to get the audience more interested. In my view, this requires significant planning (inbound strategy) and must be implemented in tandem with document resources that can be shared with likers or commenters to create a 1:1 response. These tactics would be structured around certain themes for discussion, with regular interactions with the liker or commenter, in order to develop your relationship with them and eventually reach out to them via telephone or in person.
How to avoid “snack-size” posts and engage your audience
Long posts are not always straightforward to publish. They need a very structured approach, take much more time and are only read if they quickly achieve a high engagement rate from your audience. But fortunately, there are alternatives.
One suggestion for a simple posting format would be to start a discussion with a two-paragraph question in order to stir up responses from your audience. Another variation involves asking 3 related questions across 3 different posts, published a week apart, and inviting members who engaged with the first post to respond to the second (for example, by combining it with your typical customer path). I sometimes test another variation which involves identifying 3 or 4 posts on a certain subject and mentioning their authors and their arguments to get them to interact – provoking a discussion in the process. Take care not to fall into the trap of capturing an “easy” audience (with Steve Jobs’ quotes, posts on recruitment or management practices, etc.), because this will attract visitors who are not necessarily business-minded.
The second stage, when your authors are used to the process, is to hold a “content production weekend”. This could involve producing lots of 2- to 5-minute videos on key subjects, and then only keeping the 50 best ones. You can add infographics, credits, gather articles related to the video’s text, and then publish it all on social media. And if your team are up for it, why not suggest that they spend more time in front of the camera? This is a good way of helping them produce their own content, which can then be published on LinkedIn throughout the year.
Advice for beginners
- Work on defining your target audience – this will be your ecosystem. Identify influencing members within your ecosystem and make friends with them. Analyse the themes that these influencers post about and find out which ones work best.
- Structure this approach by carrying out a LinkedIn check-up.
- Don’t rush it – and don’t post anything until your editorial plan and your selling routines have been tested and are all in place.