LinkedIn needs no introduction to B2B marketers, who practically live there these days. The site continues to go from strength to strength, and now has 90 million LinkedIn users who are senior-level influencers. Clearly, LinkedIn offers a significant opportunity to reach otherwise hard-to-access decision-makers.
In a hyper-competitive market, the dilemma of whether to openly share information about products and plans with clients and customers about your company's products or internal workings is a notoriously difficult issue for B2B marketers and product managers. Despite the concerns of showing too much, transparency and an open, engaged approach to gaining feedback from users can be invaluable for a company.
Who better than LinkedIn, then, to lead in this space? A recent blog post by LinkedIn's Pete Davies, head of its content products, has created significant excitement, confirming that LinkedIn is testing a new conversational format called LinkedIn Stories: "We're testing Stories.... The format will help kickstart the conversations and nurture the relationships that are core to everything that happens on LinkedIn."
Social Media Stories
The concept of "stories" was first rolled out by Snapchat and then added to Instagram's feature set, where it now forms a key part of those channels' daily experience now. Facebook has announced that Instagram Stories surpassed its competition by acquiring 250 million daily active users within a year of its launch. That's approximately 50% of Instagram's total number of daily active users, and 500 million users now use Instagram Stories every day, according to Sprout Social.
Other platforms, such as Facebook and now YouTube, have also played with the concept. It was introduced on Facebook in 2017, and YouTube Stories is available to Community users (those with over 10,000 subscribers). Pinterest also has Story Pins, and recently Kayvon Beykpour, product lead at Twitter, confirmed that Twitter is testing a new story-like feature, called Fleets. Fleets will disappear after 24 hours and cannot be retweeted or liked, and cannot be replied to publicly—only via DM.
How Will LinkedIn 'Own' This Space for B2B?
The concept of stories has been an effort to encourage more spontaneous sharing of daily occurrences across social media. Stories have evolved to see users posting content such as photos or short videos that offer a more lifelike snapshot of a real experience or a moment in their lives—a more ephemeral moment that does not necessarily live on past the 24 hours after posting.
The key difference to conventional social media content is that Stories, although very much part of 'personal brand, are typically less curated—less use of templates and filters and less permanency all round—and so it does not need to be so "perfect" because it won't live forever.
What B2B Marketers Can Expect From Linked Stories
Conversation is of course already a key component of the LinkedIn experience—it is as common for users to utilise the platform to ask questions, help or recommendations of their network, as well as use it to actively engage in—sometimes heated!—discussion and debate. LinkedIn has also launched a wide variety of new features for B2B marketers to generate and get prospects to engage with new content, including live video, newsletters, trending news, and reactions.
LinkedIn has been looking at stories as a concept for sharing experiences for a while. For example, in 2018 LinkedIn started testing a first iteration for university students in the US called Student Voices.
LinkedIn Stories will offer another way for people and brands to share their daily experiencing. With more and more "personal" content being seen on the platform—particularly as people share about life during the Coronavirus period. It will be interesting to see what people share using this new format: Will it be light, or will it find an entirely new use?
When discussing how the internal testing of LinkedIn Stories has progressed, Pete Davies commented that "the sequencing of the Stories format is great for sharing key moments from work events, [as] the full-screen narrative style makes it easy to share tips and tricks that help us work smarter."
Clearly, this format will present significant opportunity for B2B marketers. So how should they get ready to take full advantage of this new functionality?
What Should B2B Marketers Begin to Consider in Planning?
Storytelling has become an essential element of selling and marketing. The new LinkedIn Stories format, therefore, provides an exciting way for marketers to introduce more creativity, connection, and authenticity through sharing a more personal view of their work life.
LinkedIn is a platform designed to support members in networking, learning, and building relationships, and well as increasingly supporting them to become more productive and successful. That is fertile ground for B2B practitioners to consider.
How will you use it to grab people's attention and focus on your brand? If you have yet to significantly use video or images in your content marketing, this is a key opportunity to do so. Start testing images and video now, ahead of Stories' release.
Also note Pete Davies' comment on how the content could be potentially more "ephemeral and light." How might that approach be reflected in the use of the new Stories feature by users? Does it mean, for example, less serious business-facing content and more personality-led content?
Consider how to begin to use this format in an original way that suits your brand. If LinkedIn Stories start to mirror those on Instagram, with content becoming lighter in tone on the platform, consider how your brand needs to act in this changing context of how content is being delivered to users on the platform.
Finally, also consider whether Stories will become a tool for communicating your brand to younger audiences, as Stories on LinkedIn will give the platform a more familiar "sharing surface," which would encourage more engagement in your brand.
So, begin to pre-plan now. Consider these questions:
- Will you use Stories for on LinkedIn?
- What types of content will you share?
- What type of content production strategy will this require?
Good luck, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
LinkedIn Stories are (most likely!) on their way to you, so start preparing now to create and to consume. Get ready to unleash your creativity; this is sure to be a key differentiating format for B2B marketers.
There are many unknowns on how LinkedIn Stories will work—for example, how its algorithm will "treat" stories compared with other updates—but based on Stories' success on other platforms, it is a fair bet that it is going to be the main format for B2B marketers moving forward.
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