By DJ Muller
With more than 260 million users, LinkedIn has become one of the most popular social media sites for individuals to make connections and build professional networks. LinkedIn is a valuable service for businesses to recruit employees, provide relevant information to their followers and acquire new customers through word of mouth referrals.
Not only is it a powerful tool for businesses, but professional and trade associations are finding that LinkedIn is a great way to engage existing members and connect with prospective members.
In its 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, HubSpot cited LinkedIn and other social networks as top channels to drive inbound marketing in the coming years and that 43 percent of marketers have acquired a customer through LinkedIn.
So, how can your association get the most out of LinkedIn?
It all starts with your association (company) page. A LinkedIn company page is a great resource to showcase your association's benefits, events, and services and share relevant news and information from around the globe that your members might not find on their own. Plus, you'll give your followers the opportunity to share your content and extend your association's reach.
LinkedIn's best company pages of 2013 is your chance to learn from the larger companies and use some of their ideas for creating a great association page on LinkedIn.
The following are 10 tips to ensure you're getting the most out of LinkedIn for your association:
- Create your association page. If your association doesn't have a company page, create one right now. Follow the steps here to get your page set up quickly. You will need to verify that you are an official representative of the association during the process. Make sure you build out your association's page completely by adding a header image, logos, a detailed description about your organization, industry or profession served, website link, and featured groups.
- Maximize your presence. Add products and services to your page for key benefits and services, such as your annual conference, your government affairs efforts, or your training and certification programs. Once you've created your products and services, ask your members and connections to recommend them through the tools offered by LinkedIn. Having recommendations on each of your products and services allow prospective members to see who's finding value in your association. Also, add job openings to your page to let potential employees know that you're hiring. Your current members and followers may also see these openings and have the perfect candidate in mind. LinkedIn also recently created Showcase Pages, which allow companies to highlight brands, products, and services with dedicated pages that allow for specific content updates about each product.
- Update your personal profile. Like it or not, you and your staff frequently become the face of your organization. A professional-looking profile on LinkedIn goes a long way to present the image you want for your association. Make sure your profile includes:
- Professional photo;
- Concise description about you and your position at your association;
- Industry keywords and terms to further demonstrate your association's expertise; and
- Complete education and work history with description of each role at previous employers.
- Make connections. Your association is in the relationship business, and chances are you know many of your members personally. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn and grow your personal network. One note though: Resist the urge to use LinkedIn's "stock" connection invitation. Instead, write a short note telling the individual why you'd like to stay connected on LinkedIn. Once you've built up your connections, LinkedIn's "People You May Know" tool can help you find even more connections. Having more connections gives you more opportunities to get introduced through LinkedIn to people you'd like to know—future members.
- Engage your followers. When posting updates to your association and your personal profile pages, make sure you're following best practices to create content your followers will read, comment on or share. Make sure you:
- Use images. According to LinkedIn, posts with images have a 98 percent higher comment rate.
- Include links. Posts with links to other content have twice the engagement rate than posts without.
- Add videos. Adding a video in your association's page update can result in a 75 percent higher chance of that update being shared by your followers.
- Post frequently. Organizations that post 20 times per month reach at least 60 percent of their audience. That works out to about once per business day.
- Pose questions. When adding links to content, don't just post them and hope someone replies. Ask your followers questions like, "How will this new tax affect your association?" or "Has your business experienced similar issues as (resource provided)?"
- Attract more followers. First, invite your members and your connections to follow your association's page. Explain that you'll be providing valuable content and updates on your association page, making it easy for them to stay informed. Add a LinkedIn icon to your website and email signatures and link the icon to your LinkedIn association page. Give your current followers a reason to share your content with their connections. This provides your association with exposure to a greater audience and the opportunity to gain new followers. You can always view who is following your association by clicking on the number of followers near the top of your page. Try experimenting with sponsored updates to reach additional new followers. LinkedIn provides great segmentation tools to help you reach your target audience.
- Post in groups. Many associations have created groups on LinkedIn to provide members a dedicated community to ask and answer questions. Make sure you're posting your content and questions in your group as well. Even if you don't have a LinkedIn group for your association, you can join other similar groups and post your content and questions there. Before posting though, take some time to read through previous questions and understand the needs of the group's members. Then tailor your posts and content to provide them will valuable information. You'll gain access to a broader audience than just your members and you may even make some more connections!
- Follow your members' company pages. Stay up to date with what your members are doing and how they are marketing their company by following their company pages on LinkedIn. They will appreciate your interest in their business and will likely follow your organization's page, too. This helps you create a large base of fans to help share your association's content and posts.
- Share your members' posts. When you see posts on your members' company pages or their individual profiles that you find valuable, click that "Share" button and share the information with your network. Doing so builds on your relationship with that member and provides great information to the rest of your network. And, your members will be more likely to engage with and share your content in the future.
- Create and share valuable content. Many associations are trying to become more relevant for members as a key to their association staying in business for years to come. Rather than thinking about being relevant, focus on delivering value for your members. How can you do that? By providing great content and resources to your members and followers.
- Answer member questions. Your members ask you questions all the time via email, phone, and at events. Take those questions and turn them into content on your website or blog. Then share that content on your LinkedIn page. After all, if one member has a question, chances are that many more will wonder the same thing.
- Find questions they aren't asking you. Use LinkedIn Groups, Quora, Yahoo Answers, Twitter searches, and Google alerts to learn more about the topics that are important to your members. Review other industry or association websites to look for topics you can create content around.
- Use numbered lists. Developing titles for your content such as "Five Keys to Growing Your Business" creates a more concise and engaging headline for your members. You'll set expectations that your content will be a quick read and prevent them from guessing what the article is about. They'll be more likely to read and share your information if you deliver on this promise of short, easy to read content.
- Ask them. There's no better way to give your members want they want than by asking them. When you conduct electronic surveys or evaluations at meetings, always include a few questions about what kinds of benefits, services, and information will help them. You'll quickly build up a library of new content ideas.
- Share others' content. Providing great content on your LinkedIn page doesn't mean you have to do it alone, and, it doesn't mean you only have to share your association's content. When you find useful information on other websites or blogs, post that information to your LinkedIn page, and engage the rest of your association's staff to share your posts with their networks. Be sure to follow the best practices above and ask them questions about how that information impacts their business. Your followers will view you as a valuable resource and feel that your association is in tune with the needs of your members.
Just like many things, LinkedIn is what you make of it. Make sure you create a communications plan that includes updating your association's page and personal profile on LinkedIn. It's important to stay disciplined and keep posting to let your connections and followers know you're not only a great association but you actively use LinkedIn to share information and connect with your members.
Remember, the goal is to use LinkedIn to provide information your connections and members find valuable so they will share it with their networks and extend the reach of your association. By using the free tools offered from LinkedIn, your association can make more connections and drive growth for your organization.
DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International. He can be reached through his website at www.weblinkinternational.com or by phone at 877-231-4970.