One of the mistakes marketers often make in trying to reach their target audiences is over-relying on organic distribution and under-relying on paid distribution. For many B2B firms, LinkedIn is the most important channel for sharing content with the people they need to target. As with other social media channels, a combination of organic (free) and paid distribution is usually the best approach to reach and influence your target audience on LinkedIn.
5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to influence your target audience
(4 of these are FREE, 1 of these is paid)
- Your personal profile (free): One powerful way to share your brand’s content is to publish personal updates on LinkedIn. These are usually short news items, such as links to new blog posts on your website, news items of interest to your personal network and brief status updates that are relevant to your target audience. These are automatically connected to your personal LinkedIn profile.
- Your organization’s company page (free): Just like personal status updates, you can add news items to your company page on LinkedIn. This makes them ideal for links to new blog posts, corporate news and other relevant online resources. Like any web page, you can optimize the content of your company page for key search terms so it appears higher in search results. That’s why you need to make sure your company page is complete, with a logo and company description, contact information and website link, as well as links to relevant content offers.
LinkedIn enables you to create up to 10 showcase pages that are connected to your company page. Each one contains an image and a caption. Some companies use them to highlight their products or business units. A more effective approach is to provide links to resources that are of value to your target audience – such as ebooks, worksheets and free online courses.
- Relevant LinkedIn groups (free): You should be actively engaged in any LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your target audience. Look for questions you can answer, share your opinions where it makes sense and publish links to your new blog content and other valuable resources. Don’t just focus exclusively on the last tactic, or you’ll annoy other group members. You don’t want them to view you as someone who’s only interested in self-promotion. A balanced approach is best in LinkedIn groups; being helpful and informative earns you the right to periodically share content links.
- LinkedIn Pulse (free): This tool enables you to publish long-form content on LinkedIn, which not only gets shared to your personal network, but also shows up in the news feeds of other LinkedIn members, based on an algorithm that matches articles to business professionals with similar interests. Publishing authoritative articles to Pulse is an excellent way to grow your thought leadership in your industry.Many marketers don’t realize you can also use LinkedIn Pulse as a tool to distribute existing content. Here’s an example: You’ve published a new post on your company blog, and want to draw attention to it on LinkedIn. Simply create a new article in Pulse, and copy and paste the first several paragraphs of your existing article into it. Then provide a link to the full post on your website.
- LinkedIn sponsored updates (paid): Using this tool, LinkedIn enables you to convert any status update into a sponsored update and to extend its reach beyond your existing network to people who match the criteria you specify.These powerful, highly-configurable filters may include:
• Company name, size, and industry
• Job title and seniority
• Level of education
• Relevant LinkedIn groups
Your company’s sponsored post will appear in your target audience’s newsfeeds just like a regular update – much less intrusive than traditional banner or pop-up ads.
Is LinkedIn promotion for you?
If LinkedIn is the social network where your customers and prospects gather, you should give serious thought to launching sponsored updates to extend the visibility and influence of your best content.
Do you dream of building a big following on one or more of the major social media channels? Don’t bother – it’s a waste of your time and it’s important you understand why.
It wasn’t always that way. During the last decade, the bigger your social networks were, the more people you could reach. Many of your posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social channels got a decent number of likes and shares. As the volume of messages on these networks has grown exponentially, that’s no longer the case.
The social networks are changing. In order to support these massive numbers of users, the major social media networks have turned their attention to growing their revenues. In many cases, they’re reducing the number of followers who can see your free updates. If you want to be seen by your target audience, you must now pay for that privilege.
Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium and other channels now decide how much your content is visible to the world. Lately, those numbers have been going down:
- Posts to your Facebook company page are now shown to only 2-3% of your followers. That’s abysmal!
- Twitter and LinkedIn, have been modifying their search algorithms to de-emphasize organic (free) content so they can serve more paid advertising in your streams.
Don’t build your house on rented land
In today’s online world, there’s a real danger to “building your house on rented land.”
In other words, by publishing your content on platforms and channels you don’t own or control, you run the risk of them unexpectedly changing the rules and compromising your brand’s visibility. This is happening more frequently today. Imagine, for example, the Fortune 100 consumer products company that invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building a million-person audience on Facebook – only to discover that only a fraction of this massive audience can see its updates. That big investment is now practically worthless!
A common-sense approach to social media
In this constantly shifting environment, your best bet is to focus your content on platforms and channels that you DO own. Your website is the first and most obvious place to do that. What does this mean from a tactical standpoint?
- Your website should serve as the hub of your online presence. Think of your social media accounts as spokes joined to it. Your posts on these channels should always lead visitors to your website – for example, to download a new report, read a blog post or learn more about a new product.
- Because your free posts aren’t likely to reach as big of an audience as before, you should consider selectively using paid promotion to ensure that other potential customers can see your most important updates.
- Your ultimate goal should be to provide these visitors with such great value that they will subscribe to your enewsletter. As you may have already guessed, a list of confirmed email subscribers is another asset you own and control. You can communicate with them whenever you want, within reason.
Subscribers versus sales leads
One final note: You may believe you already have a list of subscribers because your website is generating sales leads. But they are not the same. A sales lead is an inquiry about a specific product, service or need that a prospect has. It doesn’t explicitly give you permission to communicate with them on an ongoing basis – any more than meeting someone once at a cocktail party means you can call them every week. A subscription, on the other hand, gives you explicit permission to communicate with them over time.
Now that you better understand what’s at stake, it’s time to make some adjustments in your content distribution strategy. Focus on building your house on solid ground – the web properties and assets you own and control. Good luck!
Are you disappointed that your social media posts seem to just disappear into the vast ocean of the internet, leaving nary a ripple? If you’re like most marketers, there’s a very good reason why your updates are being ignored:
You’re spread too thin.
According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the average corporate marketing department is using an average of six channels to promote its content. Clearly, that’s too many to manage adequately.
What happens when you’re not focused
- If your target audience isn’t gathered on one or more of your favorite social media channels, then you’re wasting your time shouting at people who have little to no interest in your company and its services.
- You’re scrambling to keep up, so your updates aren’t as frequent as they ought to be.
- You rely on “spray and pray” to get the job done. You post your updates and move on. You don’t take time to engage with your audience. Thanks to your hectic pace, you miss opportunities to build relationships with and be helpful to them.
- You use a one-size-fits-all approach, instead of optimizing your messages for each social channel. This limits their impact and effectiveness.
In other words, you may be wasting a significant amount of time on social media activity that may never have a measurable impact for your firm.
A better approach: laser-like focus
A growing number of brands are finding social media success by focusing on one channel where its target audience is already congregated and “owning” it. Yes, it requires you to put all of your eggs into a single proverbial basket. But it concentrates your power at one focal point where it can do the greatest good, while at the same time minimizing wasted effort.
Here are some other benefits of focusing on one social network:
- Instead of high production, you can focus on quality – which is essential if you want your content to stand out. As you begin to get traction on one social network, you can gradually expand to include others.
- You’ll benefit from consistency. If your content is exceptional and is published on a scheduled basis, your followers will come to expect and anticipate it. If you’re trying to do this on five or six social networks, it’s almost impossible to maintain such consistency.
- You’ll learn more about your target audience, because you’ll have the time to listen to them and engage with them.
- You can also be more responsive to questions, because you will no longer be distracted with running from one channel to another to drop your updates. That can pay big dividends by helping you build deeper relationships with prospective customers.
Key questions to ask yourself
- Where do your customers congregate online? If they don’t gather on a channel you’re using, you’re wasting your time. Immediately eliminate it from your content distribution plans.
- Look broadly at what’s best for the business and your content initiative, not who “owns” which channel on your marketing staff. You’re bound to get some pushback from your team members as you make adjustments. But you must tweak your approach as your audience and channels evolve. Don’t get locked into a single approach because of people issues.
It’s time to assess your social media efforts. Remember, less is more!
Content marketing is becoming more important than ever, thanks to the major social media channels moving from chronological to algorithm-based feeds.
This major change leaves you with two choices: Pay a premium so your content will be visible to your followers, or create experiences that are so valuable that your followers will share them for you.
In the past, when you published content and promoted it on the major social media channels, you could expect a decent amount of organic engagement. Maintaining a social presence was fairly easy, because you had a free pass to promote your brand as much as you wanted.
But all that has changed – and so must your content marketing strategy.
The move to algorithm-based social feeds
Since the advent of social media, most feeds have been chronological, displaying the newest posts at the top. Other than a few promoted tweets and posts appearing at the top of your feeds, not much has changed during the last decade.
But in recent months, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have announced that they are replacing their chronological feeds with algorithm-based timelines. In each case, the developers have claimed these moves are in response to the glut of content that is exceeding users’ ability to interact with it.
Their motives are not entirely altruistic, however, Moving to algorithm-based feeds enables them to present a greater number of ads and paid placements, based on each user’s preferences, demographics and past viewing habits.
What’s driving this sudden change?
All of the major social media channels are under pressure to increase revenues. That means they are experimenting with and tweaking new monetization models on a more frequent basis. Here are several examples:
Facebook pages: Organic reach of Facebook pages has steadily declined to the point where it is currently at a meager 2%. Unless you pay to promote your updates, they will be all but invisible to your followers. More recently, Facebook has announced two new paid promotion products: Instant Articles (promoted articles) and Canvas (rich media ads). Both appear in the news feeds of users.
Instagram: This Facebook-owned photo sharing channel just announced that it is moving to an algorithm-based feed. It’s also likely that Facebook will roll out Instant Articles and Canvas on Instagram in the near future.
Twitter started experimenting with “while you were away,” a set of curated tweets from people you follow and have interacted with in February, and has rolled it out as the default for all users as of mid-March.
Even Google is getting into the act. The search engine giant has recently done away with sidebar pay-per-click ads, and has added a fourth one to the top of the search results page. This reduction in advertising real estate means that you will be paying more for your pay-per-click ads with Google.
In addition, Google recently announced that it is going to start showing a Twitter-like selection of content at the top of search results pages. Presumably, these will include ads.
The bottom line is that the major social media channels are evolving into media companies, with all the attendant cost structures and pressure to generate revenue and profits. In a sense, they are turning into gatekeepers, controlling which messages get communicated via their platforms.
How should content marketers respond?
Many brands will choose to pay the premium so that their content will still appear in the news feeds of their followers. That’s the easy – albeit expensive – way.
But there is another way: By producing content that is so valued that your followers will feel compelled to share it. By doing so, they will help you bypass the social media gatekeepers, and will ensure that your messages get distributed to a wider audience.
It’s time to step up the quality of your content game – or toil away in obscurity. If you don’t have a documented strategy that includes audience personas, a detailed buyer’s journey for each audience segment and content mapped to each key step of those journeys, now is the time to do so. You’ll also need a “content tilt” – a unique point of view that differentiates your content so it gets the attention it deserves.
Finally, don’t overlook paid promotion. With a glut of content clogging up channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s getting harder for your content to break through the noise. Some element of paid promotion is a must for your messages to achieve the reach they deserve.
It’s time to develop your plan
Do you have a documented content strategy, customer personas defined and content mapped to it? If not, now’s the time to develop a comprehensive plan to take your content initiative to new levels of effectiveness.
To learn more, download our new content marketing eGuide, Making the Leap to Better Waters: Growth Cycle Marketing – a proven strategy for generating sales.