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Jessica Greene on February 14, 2019 • 19 minute read
But does LinkedIn marketing—which has for so long taken a backseat to channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—really work?
According to the results of our latest survey, it absolutely does: 93% of marketers reported that engagement with their brand on LinkedIn has increased in the last year. Only 7% said it stayed the same, and not one person reported that engagement on LinkedIn had decreased.
To find out how our respondents have succeeded in growing brand engagement on LinkedIn, we asked them to share their most effective LinkedIn marketing strategies.
Here are the strategies they recommend for using LinkedIn to grow your audience, market your events, generate leads, and much more.
Late last year, LinkedIn released a change that gives everyone the option to switch their main profile CTA from “Connect” to “Follow.” The “Follow” CTA lets people see your updates in their feeds—similar to liking a page on Facebook or following someone on Twitter—even if you’re not formally connected on the platform.
This lets people use LinkedIn more like a traditional social channel and not simply as a networking platform. You can follow people whose updates you’re interested in, unfollow people even if you’re connected, and then scroll through your feed to see what the people you’re following have shared recently.
In turn, that means that marketers can now use LinkedIn in the same way that you use other social platforms. And that’s exactly how most marketers are using the LinkedIn: to grow their audiences.
“I know this sounds so basic,” says Kathy Heil of StoryTeller Media + Communications, “but the best tactic for LinkedIn is simply creating really valuable content that solves business challenges and is communicated in a helpful, non-salesy manner.”
Revenue River’s Eric Pratt agrees: “I think more leads come from you being present when there’s a need, not by forcing your products/services on people.”
“My experience with LinkedIn as a lead generation vehicle has been through staying active, joining conversations, sharing information, and being responsive when someone reaches out. I’ve never generated a lead by sending private messages, and I’ve never bought anything from someone that sent me a message.”
“Build your network, share without expectation of something in return, and be interesting enough to make people see value in your opinion and expertise,” Pratt says. “It won’t be instant, but the opportunities will come.”
Our respondents offered several tips on how to use LinkedIn to grow your audience.
“Your company page on LinkedIn can drive leads to your company’s website,” says DDI Development’s Alexandra Zelenko. “That’s why you should focus on maximizing the use of each element on your LinkedIn page.”
“Try to craft your company description so that it caters to your target audience, highlights your value proposition, and details the services you provide. This helps filter out unqualified leads and ensures that you’re conveying the right message to your best prospects.”
Editor’s note: Want to see a cool and easy way to target the right audience on LinkedIn? Download this free dashboard and get instant visualizations of your current network, including followers by job function, industry, company size, and more.
Once you’ve created the perfect profile, it’s time to start sharing your best content.
“LinkedIn is all about sharing content and connecting with other people in your industry,” says Blogging.org’s Zac Johnson. “This means you will need to create, share, and use content that other people like you will find interesting.”
“A great way to accomplish this is to compile a bunch of industry stats, reports, and/or case studies, then make a super guide and post it on your website and LinkedIn. Add a call to action at the beginning and end of this article, and watch the leads start pouring in.”
“By consistently publishing and sharing high-quality content that can benefit your professional network,” says Mike Schiemer of Bootstrap Business, “you demonstrate your value and industry authority. The increased visibility helps to generate leads, drive sales, and even attract job offers or contract work.”
“I have enjoyed all of these benefits over the years on LinkedIn and continue to do so every month,” Schiemer says.
Adam Mavrikos of Toast offers the following four-step process for growing your network on LinkedIn:
“Enterprise reps at Toast who are using LinkedIn this way find it to be very helpful and better than sending an email with a similar message,” Mavrikos says. “Let’s be real: LinkedIn messages are more fun to receive, especially if they’re meaningful and genuine.”
Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray recommends a similar approach: “Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to look for your target audience. Then, connect with your target audience by engaging with their content and inviting them to connect with you.”
“Don’t be salesy,” Aufray says. “Share educational content your new connections will be interested in, and let the magic happen. People will thank you. They’ll ask you questions. Depending on those questions, create personalized messages where you learn about their problems and show them how you can help them resolve those problems.”
“This strategy takes time, commitment, and resilience, but I can ensure you it works like a charm,” Aufray says.
Posting your best content to LinkedIn doesn’t guarantee engagement, but Objective Management Group’s Dave Kurlan offers a tip for jumpstarting the conversation:
“I attempt to post teasers 2-3 times per week to either my latest article/video or a surprising finding/statistic. Then, I tag people who will get the likes going as well as contribute stimulating comments.”
You can also use this strategy to notify people who contributed to an article that it’s been published, as we do with our Databox community roundups.
“This is a golden era for LinkedIn Video,” says Orbit Media Studios’ Andy Crestodina. “LinkedIn’s algorithm is pushing video to the top of streams and only a tiny percentage of accounts are taking advantage of it.”
Crestodina offers the following tips for making a solid LinkedIn video: “Post an article, make a video that promotes it, add captions, mention contributors to the article, and use campaign tracking code to measure the traffic the post drives to your site.”
“It drives traffic, it drives conversions, and it lives for days,” he says. “As more people do this, it will get harder to get results, so take advantage of this golden era while it lasts!”
Accelity Marketing’s Cass Polzin also highly recommends using videos on LinkedIn: “Creating videos on personal pages has proven to be immensely effective for our organization. It started with our CEO creating videos regularly, which absolutely exploded. Now our entire team is encouraged to create biweekly videos.”
“We’ve had multiple clients sign as a direct result from seeing our CEO on LinkedIn. And our lead copywriter recently published a video that got 500,000 views. It helped her grow her connections greatly, and we saw increased traffic to our company page as a result.”
Advice Media’s Joe Sloan offers another suggestion for how to use videos on LinkedIn: testimonials. “We have video testimonials that show professional dentists (our target market) discussing how Advice Media improved their practice.”
“We’ve only recently started using LinkedIn,” Sloan says. “While we’ve found the audience is not as broad as Facebook, we get many more qualified leads by posting highly targeted videos to LinkedIn.”
Carole Mahoney of Unbound Growth also uses videos on LinkedIn but cautions against assuming everyone who engages is a lead.
“Since I started posting weekly videos to LinkedIn, I’ve seen a 50-75% increase in the number of views to my profile—and a corresponding increase in the number of connection requests I get. While I don’t consider these leads, I do consider them conversations starters.”
“When someone likes, comments, or shares my video post, I thank them in a private message. It seems simple, but the engagement I get has led to actual leads and other opportunities like speaking engagements. The shift in thinking is that rather than viewing LinkedIn as a platform to direct people to my website to fill out a form, I am engaging with them right where they are.”
“Perhaps this could be misconstrued as a light tactic, but nonetheless, I recommend authenticity,” says Uku Inbound’s Emma-Jane Shaw.
“I do believe that by being genuine and authentic in the way in which you engage with the platform, the content, and your connections is a great way to drive high-quality, genuine leads.
This should then drive more meaningful connections with your brand and the content you have to share.”
Ormi Media’s Natalie Athanasiadis agrees: “Skip the pitches and just speak to the people you’ve connected with like you would if you were at a networking event.”
“Because we’ve built actual relationships with people on LinkedIn, we’ve found that people who don’t need our services still send us referrals even though they’ve never worked with us! This is because we built that know, like, and trust factor instead of going for the hard pitch.”
“People on LinkedIn aren’t that different from folks on Facebook; they want to talk to real people,” says Big Sea’s Autumn Sullivan. “Your employees, and especially your company leaders, should share original, thought-provoking content. Use relevant hashtags. Engage with comments. Have a real conversation.”
“High-quality leads that align with your positions will come to you, and when you reach out to a prospect, you already have a foundation for conversation.”
“Being active on the platform and connecting with people that are in your target market is the foundation of generating leads on LinkedIn,” says alldayPA’s Natasa Christofidou.
Why? Christofidou explains: “When you request to connect with potential leads, they’ll probably take a look at your profile. They’ll be more likely to engage in conversation with you if you’re an active member that regularly posts, engages, and has a personality shining through the screen.”
“Establishing a presence for yourself is a key first step. But once you have an active account and strong profile, you can confidently search for connections and start generating leads.”
Here are the specific strategies our respondents recommend.
“When searching for leads,” Christofidou says, “my best advice is to narrow the search down by industry and title. Once the search comes up with a list of connections, you can narrow down the results using the ‘People Filters’ function to specify things like company name and location.”
“By focusing your search results in this way, you ensure you’re connecting with the right people.”
“Message your new connections after they accept your request, or send them a message when requesting to connect. Either way, make sure it’s personal. Address people by their names, and mention something that you read on their profile as a conversation starter.”
“I’d strongly advise against cold messaging on LinkedIn,” Christofidou says. “You don’t want to annoy a new connection who could be a potential sales lead. I’d also advise not jumping in with your pitch or services right away. Those things are better received if they’re part of an organic conversation.”
“We browse our contacts’ contacts to find other likely leads. A contact will tend to connect us to other potential leads in similar industries or with similar needs. It gives us a natural icebreaker, too.”
Bright Inbound’s Sarah McIntyre says LinkedIn’s People Filters are also good for this tactic. “Filter by 2nd-degree connections and see if there are friends of friends or existing/old customers that you could do a warm, friendly outreach to. Then, start a conversation.”
Ironpaper’s Brian Casey recommends that you “search for a keyword you want to be a part of a discussion on, and then click ‘Content.’ This will show you a list of posts related to that keyword, which you can then interact with.”
“Including relevant and helpful links in these organic conversations drives traffic back to your website and can turn into leads.”
“We also monitor the ‘What people are talking about now’ area of Linkedin to jump in on active conversations. The featured posts on these topics are typically thought leaders with larger followings that create engagement,” Casey says.
Your marketing team doesn’t have to be the only group at your business promoting your content on LinkedIn (just like they don’t have to be the only people creating that content).
Lola’s Connor Gross says that “generating leads on LinkedIn starts with employee advocacy for the content your team is promoting. By having employees from your company share your content on their LinkedIn accounts, you’re amplifying the reach of your content and opening your funnel to more potential leads.”
“From there,” Gross says, “add a simple CTA on a post saying something along the lines of ‘like/comment on this post to learn more’ or ‘download our ebook by leaving a comment below.’ This allows you to figure out who is most interested in your content and product. Have your team reach out to them accordingly.”
Lola’s Collin Burke agrees: “I’m a big fan of LinkedIn’s Lead Gen Form feature. It allows people to fill out a form directly on LinkedIn without having to visit a landing page on another website. The forms are pre-populated with personal and company information, so people don’t need to type any information in the form fields—they can download content with just a few clicks.”
Because the forms are prefilled with user data, Tihanyi says, “they allow for minimal clicks and higher engagement.”
“I come across many people who are interested in our services but aren’t good fit clients—yet,” says Tanya Wigmore of InboundLabs. “By adding them to my network and passively updating them on the great things we’ve been doing for our clients, it keeps them thinking of us as a solution provider for themselves—and for others—when the time is right.”
“Interestingly, it’s often these not-yet-ready contacts that do the legwork for us and send us referrals for people in their networks who are ready to engage.”
And Louise Taylor of Unbridled Pty Ltd recommends just keeping it simple and natural.
“In my experience, lead generation on LinkedIn is improved by following these best practices:”
Finally, Taylor recommends a sentiment echoed by many of our respondents: “Be real!”
While some of our respondents cautioned against cold outreach on LinkedIn, others said it’s highly effective—when you do it correctly.
“It is a must to start with a plan,” says Charles Musselwhite of Musselwhite Marketing. “Spend 30 minutes identifying who your perfect prospect is and what problems you can solve for them. Then, do your homework by reading their profile, visiting their website, etc.”
“It sounds like a lot of work—and it is compared to other tactics—but if you want to make a strong first impression, this is the minimum viable tactic.”
“We don’t stop there, however,” Musselwhite says. “We use lead magnets after we connect with leads to drive offline calls for proposal requests. We use one of our books for the first round of communication after a connection is made. We then follow up about every two weeks with different marketing lead magnets to spark interest and segment leads based on their interests.”
Doorbell Digital Marketing’s Ken Marshall agrees: “The most effective way to generate leads in a B2B space is through targeted and savvy cold outreach. To succeed, you’ll need to:”
“This approach works well,” Marshall says, “because it simultaneously builds up your network on Linkedin (which can set the groundwork for users to consume posts and other original content later) while also warming up prospects for future conversations.”
“LinkedIn is a great tool to grow your event attendees,” says Inbound Marketing Agency’s Adam Rowles. “First, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify your target audience. Next, connect with people with a message acknowledging their experience. Finally, invite them to an event or share valuable information that’s relevant to them.”
Rick Roberge agrees: “A client asked me how to get ready for a trade show in San Francisco. Here’s what I told him:”
“He had 12,000 results. Then, I gave him a short, non-salesy script, and he left with a lot of work to do. But he was excited because he had 12,000 people that know somebody that he knows and were probably interested in what he does.”
If you’re not getting the results you need with an organic approach to LinkedIn marketing, it may be time to consider advertising on the platform.
“We’ve used LinkedIn advertising for over four years to generate leads for both our customers and ourselves,” says TSL Marketing’s Ryan Nicholson. “We’ve yet to find another advertising channel where we can more precisely target B2B audiences.”
“The biggest lesson we learned through this work: to generate a volume of conversions, you really must have offers that are aligned with the personal/professional desires of your target audience. LinkedIn isn’t so much an intent channel as it is a ‘Me Channel’ and a ‘See Channel.’”
“People don’t log in to LinkedIn thinking that they’re going to solve the big challenges of their company. They log in for a lot of selfish reasons—job searches, networking, to see who viewed their profile, recruiting, etc. Because of this, your message really has to be specifically geared to the people you’re targeting and how their interests align with your products and services.”
“Ads that deal with soft skills like getting budgets approved or strengthening professional skills,” Nicholson says, “are more likely to get a volume of interest than ads with a ‘better, faster, cheaper’ product message.”
Harris Schachter of OptimizePrime agrees that LinkedIn ads are effective and recommends targeting job titles: “Of all the different criteria you can select from, job title is has been the most successful. People are very specific when describing their jobs, and that specificity gives you very specific targeting criteria.”
So we already know that 93% of marketers say their engagement on LinkedIn has increased over the last 12 months, but how does that equate to actual results? Our respondents offered some numbers to illustrate their successes on the platform.
Unbound Growth’s Carole Mahoney says that “LinkedIn is the third-highest driver of traffic to my website.” But more importantly, “it has the highest conversation rate from lead to contact.”
Ironpaper’s Brian Casey says that engaging with content by using LinkedIn’s content search and “What people are talking about now” features led to “a 300% increase in new contacts for one client in a single month.”
Lola’s Collin Burke says, “We’ve seen a form-completion rate of 15% with Lead Gen Forms, which is significantly higher than our website landing page conversion rates. The feature has allowed us to scale out LinkedIn campaigns, generating more leads at a lower cost.”
And Orbit Media Studio’s Andy Crestodina shared a screenshot of his analytics showing the impact of one of the videos he posted on LinkedIn:
“The results,” he says, “are way beyond any other type of post on any other social network.”
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