LinkedIn provides an unrivaled branding and visibility opportunity for companies that harness the true power of LinkedIn and engage their staff. It is one of the most valuable branding tools you have—and right now, it's a competitive advantage.
Very few companies have effectively implemented a comprehensive LinkedIn branding plan.
Some companies don't even allow their employees to access LinkedIn. Some 10% of US employees work for a company where access to LinkedIn is blocked (access to other social media tools like Facebook and Twitter is even more restrictive), according to a study by Statista. Those companies are missing out on major opportunities to bolster branding, grow revenue, increase visibility, and turn employees into engaged and committed brand ambassadors.
Here's why your company needs a comprehensive LinkedIn program.
When someone looks at a profile of one of your employees, it not only speaks to their personal brand, but to your company brand as well. Help your company's employees build stellar LinkedIn profiles and reinforce the brand with every visit each of their profiles receives. When clients and business partners see nothing but high quality and consistency among the various profiles they view, their impression of the company is enhanced.
Ironically, technology-driven social media has made business more human. The more your employees use LinkedIn to engage with your brand community, the more connected they become to the company's identity. Externally, as the human elements of your brand are enhanced, you make it easier to build emotional connections and trust with customers, shareholders, prospective employees, and other constituents.
Your people, not your products, create a customer-centric company. As a marketing leader, your job is to build a trusted organization that has strong emotional bonds with all stakeholders, and the route to achieving that is through your people.
"Companies that have a greater proportion of their employees on LinkedIn have more followers on their company pages," states a BrightEdge study. "In fact, 9 out of the top 10 brands with the most followers on LinkedIn have at least 60% of their employees on LinkedIn."
"Employees are 70% more likely to engage with your Company Updates," according to a LinkedIn report [PDF]. When your employees "Like" and share status updates, they make them visible to their connections. That is proof that every employee has the potential to be a brand ambassador.
The more views your company page has, the more potential followers. And when employees comment on your communications, the visibility of that item increases. The more company page followers, the higher your page will rank in LinkedIn search results, sparking greater reach and potential interaction with your content. When you teach your employees how and why to share content, you're creating greater visibility for your marketing messages and thought-leadership. When you show them how to engage in conversations and use LinkedIn groups, you help them grow their network as they grow the company fan base.
If you don't have your employees on LinkedIn and you aren't encouraging them to share your content—articles, promotions, videos, press releases—you're limiting the reach of your communications.
Make your company website more valuable to Google.
When your employees point to your website in one of the three links in their contact info, this becomes additional vectors to your company website and inbound links to your homepage—upping its Google power. When every employee does this, you will have that many more inbound links—helping your ranking in Google searches and directing people to your website (that your time works so hard to maintain!).
Think of each employee's LinkedIn page as a product page.
By showcasing your best assets, you're saying something about your company and the quality of your people—making the best talent want to work there. When I talk about this with some clients, it sparks fear. They think that featuring your people makes it easier for them to be poached.
If you want to manage your business from the side of fear, this could be a concern. But when you help engage your people in LinkedIn and help connect them to the company, you're building stronger bonds that will make them more interested in staying. Helping them use LinkedIn actually supports retention, not attrition!
I've been working with clients on building these programs for a few years and have learned some best practices. Here are some of the most valuable:
- Create guidelines, not rules. An employee's LinkedIn profile is not the company's property. Help your employees build their authentic brand and link it to the company—guidelines help with consistency and help avoid conformity.
- Give them tools. When you make it easy for them, they'll be more likely to focus on LinkedIn and will build a profile that will be valuable to them while supporting the company brand.
- Get your leaders' profiles in order first. They set the scene and the standard by creating top-of-the-line profiles and provide credibility to any company-wide LinkedIn program you build. Then get the whole marketing team on-board. Then reach out to the rest of the organization.
- Get them when they arrive. New hires will be impressed when you integrate a module on LinkedIn profiles into your onboarding programs.
- Teach them well. Create talent development programs specifically focused on personal branding and LinkedIn. This will give your people the skills they need to build an exceptional profile and use LinkedIn to bolster the corporate brand and do their jobs better.
- Make it fun. Use incentives and competitions to encourage individuals and teams.
Fear impedes success... and fear is what's usually behind a company's resistance to engaging their people in LinkedIn. If your focus is on attrition, you'll be ruled by fear, and your worst fears will come true: You will likely lose your best talent. Instead, if you focus on loyalty and engagement, you can maximize LinkedIn to expand your company's reach exponentially, while building stronger relationships with your people.
As a marketer, it's up to you to lead the initiative. Doing so will be a tremendous brand-builder for you. Implementing this type of program moves you outside the normal company hierarchy—giving you the opportunity to connect with people throughout your company.