I wrote an off-the-cuff post the other day with some observations from my role at LinkedIn evaluating and advising on our clients’ content programs. People liked it and wanted more, so I’m writing more here.
After all, content and media are close cousins. Content, in its broadest definition, includes the media and advertising you produce but it’s really much more holistic than that. Some would say that ALL marketing is content marketing, and I tend to define content as all of the “stuff” you create that helps illustrate the value of your brand to the market at large.
LinkedIn is a bit of a unique platform. We’ve got 610 million members worldwide, and they’re incredibly intent driven. That means they come to LinkedIn with a purpose – not just to mindlessly waste time – and they’re looking for content that helps them get better at what they do. While our legacy and DNA is in the talent and careers space, we’ve really evolved into a business-minded content platform fueled by insights, information, and inspiration from across a number of sectors in the business world that help professionals get work done better.
When I work with our clients to build and improve their content programs on our platform, there are definitely a number of themes that pop up over and over again, so I figured I’d share them in a handy listicle here that you can save and reference later when you’re building your own. These principles apply whether you’re a solopreneur or a Fortune 100 company, the variants will always be in the execution.
So here we go.
1. Business content still needs personality.
Yes, it’s “business”, but the people on the other end are still…people and it’s critical to remember that emotion still plays a role in B2B decisions (we’ve even got data to show that). Every brand has a personality that’s appropriate and relevant for their own purposes. But heavens, B2B does not have to be stiff and boring. Use conversational language, not jargon. Speak directly to your audience. Have a sense of humor, and show the uniqueness of your brand and people. If everyone else is doing boring corporate messages, just imagine what a refreshing take on B2B content could do?
2. Your audience needs a next step.
If you’re creating content for a brand, you’re likely trying to fuel a journey of some sort. Give people something to DO next with each piece of content you create, even in the early stages, to help them get better acquainted with you (no, that does not always mean straight to a gated form). I call this “magnetic” content, or creating small, incremental ways to invite your audience just a little bit closer to learn more, get better acquainted, or to learn something meaningful. But if you neglect the “what’s next” part, you’re only capturing momentary attention that has nowhere to go next but somewhere that has nothing to do with you.
3. Don’t give up on proven success.
Content is a long game and it’s likely that you’ll get tired of your best-performing stuff long before your audience will. Remember, you see it all the time. 🙂 One of the biggest mistakes we make as marketers is to think that we’re our audience. We’re not. Give programs enough time to deliver meaningful insights about whether your audience is responding. A very transactional webinar registration might be able to tell you that in a week or two, while bigger thought leadership programs intended to shape brand perception and authority can take months – even years – to really establish traction. And when you find something that works? Use it. Use it until your audience tells you it’s not useful anymore.
4. The top of the funnel is not about “vanity”.
Brand awareness matters because if you put nothing in the top of the funnel or at the start of the journey or whatever other metaphor to get people educated about and acquainted with you and what your brand is about, you’ll not get the results you’re hoping for when it comes to conversion. Is brand harder to measure? You bet it is. Is it the only thing? But shortchanging it is like the difference between crash dieting and a healthful approach to weight loss. Relentless demand gen and “growth hacking” are only focused on the end result, but the discipline of brand marketing is about establishing the foundational habits that make those end results sustainable over time.
5. People are not linear.
Speaking of “funnels”, they’re a neat and tidy metaphor for a progressive relationship with a mythical prospective customers, but real humans don’t work that way. Content programs are like engines, not funnels. You need an ecosystem fueled by a varied, diverse selection of content that’s available at all times so wherever your audience is in their process, you’ve got the right thing for them.
6. Useful and consistent wins over clever, every time.
Content should be a resource for your customers, not just a means to YOUR ends or fuel for your agency to win awards. Focus on fewer things done better with your customers’ questions, challenges, and needs at the center. This is THE most important part of creating breakthrough content that stands the test of time. And no matter how many cookies get dunked in the dark, their long term impact will pale in comparison to the steady-eddy video series or annual guide that helps your customers get smarter and better.
7. Visual consistency is your friend.
The tiny logo on the top left of your LinkedIn isn’t enough to establish brand continuity. Work to make your images and videos look like they’re from the same brand. Take a look at EY’s yellow rhombus or Think with Google’s icon-driven, primary color graphics for some good examples of what I mean. Even stock photos can get a branded look and feel with a few simple but consistent elements that help keep you in the peripheral vision of the LinkedIn membership.
8. Don’t worry so much about the algorithm.
Relevance wins every time, and our engineers are continually working to adapt the feed and our algorithms to serve relevant, engaging content over “viral” posts with lots of activity (here’s a really technical look if you’re geared that way). “Game the algorithm” stunts – like mass tagging influencers or putting links in comments – feel desperate to audiences, too, and really don’t work long term. Did I mention how much useful and relevant matters? It’s the only true winning strategy to help your content get found.
9. Showing up sincerely – and specifically for LinkedIn – counts.
You can’t shoehorn content from other platforms onto LinkedIn occasionally – especially as an afterthought to check a box on your social media plan – and develop a strong footprint over time that stands out. Our members are discerning and respond to high quality content designed specifically for their experience here, so it’s worth the investment to think about what you’re creating, why, and to deliver it in a consistent fashion to show LinkedIn members that you value their time and attention.
10. Media diversity FTW.
Sure, hero images with some text are cool, and they’re the bread and butter of a lot of content on networks like LinkedIn. But video continues to be a favorite amongst our audience, and the rollout of LinkedIn Live (if you’re interested in the early program you can learn more here) shows that our audiences still love the dynamic format of video on our platform. If you’re using paid media, carousel ads are a great way to deliver a more storyboard-style message. And our native document upload format provides a cool way to deliver visual organic content that’s not static but not video, either. Check out how Hubspot and Uberflip have used documents as a LinkedIn-specific media format for quick-hit content. And hey, Netflix gets it done with plain text updates that ask fun, engaging questions of the community. Who says you need visuals to get engagement?
What excites me most about getting to work with our corporate customers at LinkedIn is just how much I see – with definitive proof in the numbers every day – what the impact of a consistent, well-thought out content program can do.
Showing up, regularly and in a meaningful way that’s relevant to your audience, beats clever, beats “viral”, beats trendy. LinkedIn members know and rely on the quality of content here more than almost anywhere else on the web, so delivering that quality pays big dividends.
What else can I help you learn about developing killer content marketing programs on LinkedIn? I’d love to hear your comments.