How To Build Your Brand On LinkedIn, According to LinkedIn and Branding Insiders
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
There are many ways to build your brand on LinkedIn. To explore them all, Entrepreneur brought together experts on LinkedIn and brand-building for a powerful conversation on Clubhouse. Below is the transcript of that conversation, and you can hear the audio here:
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The participants were:
Jason Feifer: editor in chief of Entrepreneur, conversation moderator
Ting Ba: Leads product marketing for LinkedIn’s organic marketing solutions
Swan Sit: business advisor, board director, and former head of digital marketing at Nike, Revlon, and Estée Lauder
Kat Cole: business advisor, seasoned executive, and former COO and president of FOCUS Brands (which includes Auntie Anne's and Cinnabon)
Jason Feifer: Everyone knows that LinkedIn can be a really powerful space for building your brand, but how exactly can you do it? What are you overlooking? What tips, tricks, tools, strategies might you be missing? And we have exactly the people to answer that. So, first, we have somebody from LinkedIn. In fact, Ting Ba is a group product manager for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Ting is involved in connecting businesses of all sizes with organic opportunities to grow on the platform. And then we have Swan Sit and Kat Cole who, for people who are active on Clubhouse need really no introduction, but briefly: Swan’s an advisory board director, former head of digital at Nike. Kat Cole is an advisor, investor, and former COO and president of Focus Brands.
Both of you are really fantastic builders of brands — your own and others’. So really, really excited to be here. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m going to going here with a question to Ting, and then I’m going to turn it to Swan and Kat to fill in with their insights. But Ting, I want to start with a really broad, simple question, which I’ve never really heard addressed from somebody who is inside of LinkedIn and is working every day to help businesses grow on LinkedIn, which is how [laughs] do you successfully stand out on LinkedIn? A big, simple question, but one that I bet you have lots of great specifics to offer.
Ting Ba: Yes, I do, for sure, and thank you so much for introducing me. And just to introduce myself again, my name is Ting and I lead product marketing for our Organic Marketing Solutions, which is, essentially, all of the amazing free things you can do to build your brand on our platform. And I’m so excited to be here today. And your question is such a good one that I get asked all the time [laughs], which is how do you successfully stand out on LinkedIn?
And so I will share with you my best tip that I can offer, whether you’re trying to stand out as a professional or as a brand or an organization. And this tip is to build up your social proof. Now, I’m sure you all know this, but it’s really important that you don’t just speak on your own behalf, right, and talk about what you bring to the table or what you contribute; you really need social proof for others to promote and speak and advocate for you on your behalf. This is earned media, and for the most part, you can’t buy it; it really has to be earned. This is how you build a credible brand and how you get hired or how you grow your business.
Now, LinkedIn is an incredible tool to help you do just that, because you can literally bring together all of your professional communities to speak on your behalf. As a professional, I can build a LinkedIn profile that not only showcases my work history, the best of my experiences, but I can invite my past or my current colleagues to share what it is like working with me. And, as a business, I can do the same thing with my LinkedIn page. And with this page, I can build my brand, I can promote my business, and I can invite current customers and employees to share their experiences working with me. And I will say that these experiences are the most valuable and really worth sharing when you can do so through an engaging and interactive format, such as stories or livestreaming.
After a year of isolation, people love seeing each other, right? Whether it’s through livestreaming or through stories or through video. So, as an example, you could ask your top customers to share a short story about what they gained from using your products or services. Or, perhaps to build your talent brand, you can ask your employees to share a story about what it was like to work for your company.
I’ll just end with this last thought, which is that the most popular format right now on LinkedIn, that really helps people go viral, is going live, or livestreaming. It’s actually seven times more likely to get a conversation going than a regular post, and so you could use LinkedIn Live to really stand out, livestream to your audiences about upcoming product releases, your thoughts on industry and world news. Your audience wants to hear from you directly and not always just about your business, so make sure you keep the discussion dynamic and talk about thought leadership, your perspective on world news. That’s my best tip, is to really build up social proof.
Jason Feifer: Thanks, Ting. That is a great way to start. Swan, I want to turn to you. I’m curious about what you are thinking as you hear that answer from Ting. You are a great grower of communities. I’ve heard you speak about that so many times, and, of course, that is an organic process. That’s not something you can pay for. And so I love that Ting is focusing in on organic growth of a community and connections like that, and focusing in on who your community is externally and internally. Swan, what do you think about that? What have been your experiences in helping people grow organically?
Swan Sit: I love Ting’s advice, and I very much agree with it. The social proof is really important because ideas can stand by themselves, but having other people validate your experience certainly helps, especially ‘cause there is no fact checking on the internet when people talk about credentials. But, you know, let me give an example. If I post something and Kat Cole comments on it or vouches for it, this woman has millions of followers and is so well-known in both corporate and public arenas, so if she’s validating me, that immediately gives what I’m saying some credibility, right?
I do that very much, not only with my inner circle. I’m very generous about that with a lot of my contacts, right? So I think Ting is right, that social proof is important, but in terms of how to navigate it, I try to be as generous as possible. Because if you come from this mindset of abundance where you all help lift each other up, just because someone gets a like doesn’t mean I don’t get a like, right? All these things can get likes. So as we lift each other up and really help create a halo, I guess, around some of the better ideas and the people who have voices that need to be amplified, we ended up lifting each other up.
Now, that said, that also has to go hand in hand with interesting content, right? And interesting can mean different things from different people. It could be eye-opening, it could be deep and explorative, there’s a lot of different ways to put content out there. But I think before you even get to the social proof, it’s “What are the ideas?” And the one thing I’ve done differently on LinkedIn in recent years is before, it used to be just job updates, et cetera. Now I’m posting more thought leadership and ideas. And because that community is peer-led, it’s actually great to talk to my counterparts at different companies. Just because both might sell consumer goods, it doesn’t mean you can’t share ideas on leadership in the digital age, et cetera.
So I’ve actually put more thought leadership out there in the recent years than I ever have in the past, both as a way to kind of stand out and get some of that social credibility I talked about, but also just to crowdsource ideas and gut-check with my peers, like, “Is what I’m thinking correct?”
Jason Feifer: I love that. And I have been seeing so much of that on LinkedIn as well, and it’s really powerful stuff. And I love the point you make, Swan, about connecting with counterparts because it’s so valuable for everybody. And I love that it can happen in a public space where everybody can benefit, much like this conversation right now.
Kat, I want to turn to you. You call yourself a brand Sherpa, which makes perfect sense for this conversation, but also you have an enormous following on [laughs] LinkedIn. And so I’m wondering how you can build upon what Swan was just saying there about what kind of things you’re posting and you’re seeing people post, and the kinds of engagement that it’s getting, and maybe the ways that you’ve been thinking about how to engage more people and really tap into that abundance mindset that Swan was talking about.
Kat Cole: Yeah. I would only build on Ting and Swan’s comments, and I won’t repeat as to not be in raging agreement, but I am in raging agreement [laughs] with them on what they’ve brought up, which is to think about engaging on LinkedIn in three buckets. One is an advocate for your company. So that might be sharing your company’s posts, celebrating someone in your company’s promotion that shows up on your feed, talking about something going on in the industry, but related to your company. And that does a few things. That, of course, helps your employer feel really good that you’re using LinkedIn in a way that’s positive and not scrolling and scoping for your rapid departure. It’s really a great way to reinforce your alignment with your company. So bucket one of content on LinkedIn is on behalf of your company.
The second is what Swan mentioned, which is thought leadership. Your own thoughts, which could be connected to your role at your company, you may even mention your company in a lightly branded way, but it is more about concepts, principles, and ideas that are demonstrating who you are as a professional, and, and as a leader, if you’re in the leadership space.
The third bucket of content is also connecting to Ting’s and Swan’s comments around social proof and reciprocity, and that is recognizing and celebrating others. Commenting on others’ feeds, celebrating a success in a way that is great for you. And, just to watch out, you shouldn’t do that for anyone and everyone that you don’t know. There might be someone that has negative affiliations, that has some type of issues reputationally, and you don’t want to take this advice to the extreme and say, “Oh, I need to go compliment everyone that shows up in my feed.”
There still should be some thoughtfulness, because it does still connect to the first two buckets; your company, because you represent the company if you are with one, and your thought leadership, because advocacy of someone, whether it is a like, which is a lighter form of advocacy; a comment, which is next up on the hierarchy; and then a share and a comment, moving up on the “I am advocating for this person, this message, or I’m putting more of my brand in theirs.” Those are things that are just important reminders.
So content around your company, content around more principles, and thought leadership, and then engaging, celebrating, recognizing other people. When I look back, I wasn’t that strategic back when I joined LinkedIn, however long ago that was, but when I look at the patterns of my engagement and what has seemed to resonate over time, there is this interesting blend on behalf of my work, on behalf of my thoughts, and on behalf of others.
Jason Feifer: Kat, I totally love that answer. I have this Google Doc in front of me that is meant to organize my thoughts for managing this conversation, but it is now full of my transcription of what you just said of the three buckets. Ting, I want to put this back to you now because we’re talking about different kinds of content, and you are closest to it because you’re actually at LinkedIn. You’re able to see what people are engaging with and see the trends, perhaps at a level that others can’t. What kind of content are people engaging with on LinkedIn, and what kind of lessons can people take away for how to drive more engagement in that way?
Ting Ba: This is such a great question, Jason. And I will say that [laughs] I feel like this answer changes every few months. And so what I’ll share with you I feel is actually true not just of LinkedIn but of the world overall, as well as that we’re really at an inflection point where what people care about and what people prioritize is really evolving. So today, on our platform, we have more than 740 million people, and they engage on a daily basis. And what comes with that is this incredible opportunity for ideas to come together. And while there’s so much an activity, conversation, and interests unfolding, there are a couple of themes that I’d like to call out that I’m seeing.
The first theme is that we’re seeing members really shift to more one-on-one personal conversations on our platform. And one proof point of this is that messages sent on our platform have literally increased four X over the last couple of years. And I think we’re really seeing people shift away from a herd mentality, where everyone thinks the same thing, says the same thing, likes the same thing, and really focusing on building more meaningful long-term connections on a one-on-one basis. So that’s the first theme, is this one-on-one messages sent in a more personal setting.
The second theme I’m seeing is building upon having these meaningful connections. We’re also seeing this trend of people bolstering their community and actively contributing it with their own personal perspective. And, in fact, over the last year, we saw a 48% year-over-year increase in the number of conversations happening in our feed. And these topics were different than we might normally think. They were actually on world news, human interest topics, corporate social responsibility, and brands are really noticing those and are finding new ways to engage their audiences on these topics.
So I’ll give you a couple of examples that really come to mind that stood out. One example is there’s a small London-based nonprofit, a company called Female Lead, and they just shared this powerful image showing women standing together to take a stance to better the world for all women. And this post literally generated 7,000 reactions and over 200 comments shortly after it was posted. Another great example is that NASA livestreamed their launch, and it generated not just... I mean, it’s a huge event, but what was really interesting about how it was taken up and perceived on LinkedIn is that it generated such high-quality, meaningful conversations from those that actually work in that community, and there were over 7,000 comments and 14,000 reactions on that. So it’s just been really exciting to see how all these brands and other communities are coming together to connect in new ways on our platform.
Jason Feifer: That’s really, really interesting. And those numbers are totally fascinating. Swan, Kat, I’m gonna just toss it to both of you, see who wants to take it first. What trends, maybe, have you been seeing, or have you been seeing some more of the kinds of things that Ting just identified that are driving particularly special kinds of engagement?
Kat Cole: I think one would be connected to Ting’s comment on evolved content expanding beyond, I think Swan mentioned this as well, jobs and the company structure and headline, you know, PR Newswire posts, that finding the right tone and tenor to engage in conversations that matter to your workforce. And remembering that although LinkedIn skews professional, certainly that’s its purpose [laughs], you know, in the world, but you have to remember, with that many people, that they are also customers.
And so the evolution of comms expertise and tone management that still navigates the, you know, call it appropriate to post on LinkedIn version of a message that also recognizes that those who are reading and listening are, at the same time, potentially customers or consumers, which then creates more space for mission-driven messaging, commenting on social, even political, economic, global issues. You know, that expansion creates a lot of opportunity for brands to resonate with potential employees as well as customers. It is also a hotbed for boo-boos [laughs].
And so, I do think there’s a light side of this coin and a dark. I focus more on the opportunity that brands who lean into the fact that there are so many eyeballs and highly engaged ways on LinkedIn and really take advantage of that to send either direct or subliminal messages that are more consumer-oriented, versus employment, are really making more of their time on the platform. And, ironically, when you speak to consumers, you’re also doubling down on finding the potential employees or making your existing employees really proud of who that brand is.
Swan Sit: Yeah. Violent agreement with both of what those guys said. The only word I’ll add is maybe vulnerability. I agree that you have to lock because there might be customers or potential vendors or investors, so you don’t want to put it all out on the table, because it’s still the most professional platform of those, but I think, after this year we’ve had, whether it’s the pandemic, whether it’s cybersecurity hacks, et cetera, brands being a little open, mea culping, if they misstep on something. I think we’ve seen a tone change where we just became more human even if we’re a corporation, and I think that vulnerability, at the right time, can be humanizing for a round.
Jason Feifer: You know, I have an observation that I don’t have any one of you in particular to target this. Just... so I’m just gonna say it and then be curious to see who wants to respond. But this conversation about where the line is and what draws engagement has made me think about an observation that I’ve had, which is, for my own content and others that I’ve seen, that if somebody posts something that takes a stand, is not controversial in what we might consider a dangerously controversial way, right? We’re not engaging with things that are gonna make people genuinely angry, but is enough so that people have a discussion about it, or some people disagree in a way that isn’t fighting. You know, the wonderful thing about LinkedIn is that I don’t see a lot of fighting the way that I see on other platforms.
But I’ll give you [laughs] a quick example. I’m gonna shout out. He doesn’t know this is coming, but [Terry Rice 00:17:14] is in the audience here. He posted this thing a couple weeks ago on LinkedIn. It’s very short. I’m gonna read it ‘cause it’s funny. He wrote, “Yesterday, I saw a post on LinkedIn that I strongly disagreed with. I kept scrolling and enjoyed the rest of my day.”
Now, that got about 30,000 engagements, because a lot of people disagreed with it, which is hilarious to disagree with a thing about how you don’t have to disagree with everything, but here we are in social media. But I thought it was actually pretty wonderful because, one, it helped amplify Terry’s wonderful voice, but also it sparked an actual conversation, instead of just people piling on and agreeing. And that, I think, also helped amplify it in the marketplace and drew people towards him, because they said, “Yes, I like that you’re taking a stand on that.”
And, again, he’s not saying anything that anybody would consider to be truly controversial, but it walked into a space where some people disagreed, and it started a conversation, and that seemed pretty valuable. I’m curious what any of you think about that kind of approach and that kind of content?
Kat Cole: I think, like many of these things, it is one of many approaches and techniques that someone or a brand has to decide what is in service of the greater good, of the discourse around their post and their brand. To Swan’s point, one of my most engaged recent articles on LinkedIn was about leading with a heavy heart, and I talk about having miscarriages as an executive and what I did as a leader. And it got so much engagement that it’s turning into a course and other posts, and all kinds of other things are coming out of it.
And so, I do believe that whether it is disagreement or emotional connection or heartfelt empathy and sympathy because of vulnerability, that these are things that cut through the product post, job posts, even though those things are real and helpful and interesting to some people, that in order to do what this room is about, which is actually build a brand who people actually want to hear from on a regular basis, there has to be more human coming through those posts, whether it’s disagreement, fallibility, mea culpas, or vulnerability.
Ting Ba: Thank you. I was not wanting to interrupt anyone, but I just really want to agree with what Kat said. I do feel that, regardless of what your goals are, whether it’s, you know, to get that next wonderful role or to find that next awesome client, putting all that aside, at the end of the day, this is a platform of professionals, but it’s also a platform of human beings. We have so many [laughs] things that are coming at us every day.
I think what a lot of people look for when they come to any platform is just connection. And if you’re just talking about product performance [laughs], or something great you did at work, it’s just not gonna land. I think it’s really important to share your full self, your full brand when it comes to LinkedIn. The brands that do that are the ones that actually really do stand out. I think maybe five, six years ago, it was more of a platform where you would see very buttoned-up content where videos are very highly produced, where everything is very much focused on the professional working environment.
You take a look at it today, you see brands sharing their work from home experience just through Blob video footage. You see people talking about really deeply personal topics that matter to them. Those are the things that really stand out, because those are the things [laughs] that everyone connects with. So I completely agree.
That being said, just to help you tailor your approach and perhaps not share something that could be a little bit too emotionally fueled or something that you may regret at some point, it is really helpful to have a brand or personal charter that you think through beforehand, what topics are deeply important to you that you are comfortable putting yourself out there for. It may not be every single thing, it might be some key things you really do have an opinion on, and so just kind of creating that personal or brand charter can really help to guide those conversations.
Swan Sit: Those are great points. I’ve also seen a separation as we’ve kind of danced around the corporate agenda and the personal agenda. If you’re an executive at a big brand, there’s space to be both. I’m on the board of Edgewell, and the CEO, Rod Little, posts quite actively on LinkedIn, news about the company, his thoughts on business, et cetera, but Edgewell itself also has social media content. So I think having those parallel lanes where the content maybe is coordinated, I wouldn’t say it matches, but coordinated around similar themes, et cetera, but letting your executives have a voice, gives the humanity behind a brand. And you can still hit those brand goals, but then maybe the executives can tell their slightly more personal stories. And I think there’s space to do both.
Jason Feifer: Yeah, that’s a really powerful point and something that I’ve heard people grapple with a lot, which is how much do they want the people who work at their companies, either executives or not — you know, just the average employee — to be out representing the brand and also, I suppose at the same time, building something of their own personal brand. And my personal feeling on this is that it’s always valuable because people connect with people. I mean, that’s the theme of the last 10, 15 minutes of this conversation, which is that people really connect with people, and the more that you put humanity out, the more that you build a community and people are invested in your success and in the success of anything that you’re affiliated [laughs] with, including the brand.
But there is, of course, that hesitation because you worry about the way that it might cloud somebody’s relationship or understanding with the brand. And so, Ting, I think that your phrase there of… well, now I’ve forgotten it, so please repeat it, but the kind of mandate that you would create for yourself and the boundaries of what it is that you’re putting out there, I think it’s a really valuable thing for people to be doing.
But I’m curious, for any of you who want to jump in to dig in a little bit more, about how a brand should be thinking about who it puts out there, how it encourages people to be personalities that are also tied to the brand, and then how to utilize that personal platform.
Swan Sit: A quick follow-up to that, Jason. It used to be that these big brands didn’t want people speaking out on their own brand. They... you know, if you work for Nike, they want you to talk about Nike. And my social media was private until I left the corporate world. That’s starting to change, because I think PR departments are starting to understand the power of social.
So what I’d recommend, if you’re working at a company and you want to build your own presence, bring up the ideas, bring up the strategy, and make sure PR — ‘cause, you know, sometimes PR is not as well-versed in the capability of social — I’d lay out, “This is what, obviously, we’re putting out there as a company. This is how what I would put out there helps blend credibility,” like the social proof, the first question we started with, to the brand to reaffirm, “Hey, we say that’s our culture, but here’s an employee who says, ‘I actually work and live by this culture as well. This thing’s real. It’s not just a PowerPoint.’”
So I think that’s starting to change. And if there’s resistance from companies, go ahead and put together a plan and make sure it’s in line and around the halo of the corporate brand, but that’s free media for them. I can’t see them wanting to say no.
Jason Feifer: You know, Swan, that’s a really powerful thing. Kat, I just saw you unmute so please go next. But I just wanted to say that reminded me of, I have a friend at a very large tech company, I won’t call it out, who has been building this great internal series of videos about how to build your career. And people there love it, and she wants to take it external, but she’s been concerned about going to the PR department or going to comms and asking to do that, because she doesn’t know if she’s gonna get shot down.
And I just think what you said there is very empowering, that “Yes, of course, companies want their employees to be doing this if they’re gonna go out and create really constructive conversations that are only going to be to the benefit of the larger company.” Kat, what were you gonna say?
Kat Cole: Swan hit on it with the range of experiences that anyone listening may have. And so I just want to honor that everyone is in a different place with different companies, different cultures, and different types of management and varying points of view on the tension and the complements between company brand and individual brand. And the reality is it is valuable for a person affiliated with a brand to have a positive personal brand. And those things, as Swan mentioned, completely feed each other, that is serving of the business.
At the same time, many companies don’t have this well-documented, how they think about it. It usually takes someone going too far with something to get in a little trouble and then some policies get built. And so I just want to honor that this is a very real question for people. And the point is to think about the extremes. On one extreme, you have “Head down, don’t post, barely have accounts, if I do, it’s locked only to my friends and family.” You know, that’s more old-school but still exists for some people.
And then on the other hand, you know, “I am synonymous with my company. I might even be a founder or a key executive of a very creative, socially oriented company, and so the company posts, I post, we cross-post each other. I can be as vulnerable and personal as I want to be. The company celebrates my vulnerability as an individual.”
These are the two extremes. And then there is a massive space in between. Just talk to your supervisors, stay in touch with your heads of HR and marketing, too. If you have questions, always... I always tried to find a balance of, again, liking, commenting, celebrating my company’s posts, and doing my own thing so that, on balance, if someone were looking at my time online on a professional platform, and this is... I’m talking about when I was in a situation like Swan where I’m employed by someone else’s large enterprise. It’s not my company, I’m not a solopreneur, right? There’s lots and lots of layers of ownership far from me, and they care about optics, especially as an executive.
And I’ve, much like Swan, always been the person who pushes the [laughs] boundaries of social engagement for executives, and is typically an outlier compared to my peers who have traditionally been 20 or 30 years older than me, and definitely not digitally native. And so I was usually the one that pushed the boundaries and caused the policies [laughs] to be developed. But then if you are comfortable, if you are digitally native, if you do have a strong belief around the benefits to the company, do your part to advocate for this, to encourage people to share their wins and their successes online and to celebrate it. It can be very positive for the company’s culture.
Jason Feifer: I want to take a moment just to reset the room. We’re halfway through here. This is an hour-long room, so we’re going for 30 more minutes. And for those who have joined us in the past 30 minutes, the name of this room, Growing Your Brand With LinkedIn, is a pretty good description of exactly what’s going on here. We are talking about exactly that. My name is Jason Feifer, I’m the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, and with me are three experts on exactly this. We have Ting Ba, a group product manager for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, and Swan Sit and Kat Cole, whose, uh, biographies are long and exceptionally accomplished, and who are great brand builders and perfect speakers for exactly how to do this.
I would encourage you to follow everybody who is on this stage. Also, very soon, we’re gonna start bringing folks up on this stage to ask some questions so that it’s not just me who has the pleasure of doing it. So, actually, Adam is on the stage because he is the kind of backend organizer of this. Adam, can you explain what folks should be thinking about and doing to prepare for asking questions? And then, before we get to questions, I’m gonna ask a few more of the panel myself.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks, Jason. We obviously want to be hearing from the audience here. We love the questions that you’re gonna have for these ladies on the stage. Go ahead and put your question in your bio. Once you’re done with that, go ahead and raise your hand. What we’ll be able to do is scan through those. It’ll just help us bring you up. It’s a hack. I think, and I learned it from you, Kat, when we were writing the article earlier this spring for Entrepreneur magazine. And so, at that point, we will be able to review all of them and we’ll bring you up on the stage.
So, again, put your question in your bio, raise your hand, and we’ll bring as many up as possible. We just want to make sure that all the questions are aligned with the topic and that it’s best for the expertise that we have on stage. Just to make sure, we’re not gonna be pitching anything. Don’t take a lot of time with your intro, and no double questions, no two per questions, but we’ll get you up. Thanks so much. Jason; back to you.
Jason Feifer: All right. Thank you, Adam. So let’s dive back into some specifics of ways to use LinkedIn. We’ve covered quite a lot about the humanity of connection, and I loved that conversation that we were just having about the tension and philosophy behind having people or companies go and build personal brands. But we have so much to cover that [laughs] I want to bring you back to some tactics on LinkedIn. And so, Ting, I want to turn to you. What are some best practices for LinkedIn pages, whether we’re talking about the volume of posting and ways to use analytics and so on?
Ting Ba: That’s such a good question. It is one I get asked all the time. And if you think about the question “What’s the best way to use LinkedIn?” It’s... there are so many ways to take that. And so when I think about that question, I think the real question behind it is “What kind of content works on LinkedIn,” right? People want to stand out, they want people to interact with them, they want to get noticed, they want to grow their own following. And so it really comes down to the content. What’s gonna work? And this is such a big question because, oftentimes, people will feel like they do understand what content works in other platforms, but when it comes to LinkedIn, it becomes this huge mystery of what’s gonna work about content strategy.
So I will give you my tips on that, and I like to think about it in three parts. First of all, when to post. When should I be posting? When are most people engaged? When and how frequently? So that’s the first piece. The second is, what should I post? What is the actual topic that will make the most sense and resonate with my audience? And the third is how to post. What hashtags should I be using? What format should I be using? So I’ll hit on those three topics.
So the first is around when to post. I’ll just share that over the past year, our members have been spending more time than ever on the platform. And if you asked me this in 2019, I used to say, “You should post once a day, Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00.” But [laughs] after 2020, it’s really about posting all seven days of the week. I’ve seen brands of all sizes literally doubled their page following by amping up their posting strategy and posting on the weekends as well. That being said, I would still post during the workday, 9:00 to 5:00 PM during that workweek, and then I wouldn’t post more than, say, past the late afternoon on the weekends, ‘cause that’s when we tend to take the highest engagement.
I have a great example for you, which is Harvard Business Review. They started January 2020 with six million followers, and by July they had 12 million. And I asked their social media manager, “How did you do this?” And they said, “We literally just took her posting strategy and did it every day.” And so [laughs] it really can be that simple, but the key is that you have to understand what content your audience cares about.
So that’s the next piece I wanted to hit on is now that you know how frequently to post, it’s about what to post. Now, when you’re just starting out and you’re really not sure what content is gonna resonate, you’re gonna have to experiment and test a bit to see what topics resonate. And that is a really broad piece of advice, so I will share with you a feature that can really help in this area, in terms of narrowing down on that playing field.
And this feature is called Content Suggestions. This is a very powerful like algorithm that helps you get a sense of what content your target audience is interested in. So this feature is found at the top navigation of your page, and all you have to do is literally create some filters to narrow down on your target audience.
You can narrow down on what industry they work in, the level of seniority they’re at, their location, their exact job title, and with every filter you’re making, you’re literally [laughs] seeing in real time, “This is the articles that they’re reading about. These are the topics they care about.” This is a powerful tool to help you fill out a content calendar for a couple of days, also think about what hashtags you should be using. So that’s really gonna help you identify what to post, that Content Suggestions feature.
And my last tip is, now that you’ve identified the topics and you know the time frame you want to post, your last step is really figuring out how to post, meaning what format, right? Because there’s so many formats you can use. It could be a text-based post, it could be a video, it could be a story, and so my answer to that is, really, you should try for a mix. But there’s two golden rules that I really want to make sure you walk away with.
The first golden rule is any post that you share, whether it’s text or video, should really end with a question or an open-ended opportunity for your audience to engage back with you. Never just link to a third-party article or a stock image with your thoughts and leave it at that. It’s just not very engaging. You really want to end with a question, ask for people’s opinions, and you really want to make sure that you are investing the time to respond in a timely basis. Those are the posts that will really help you get distribution in the feed.
And the second golden rule I want to share with you is that, it’s not gonna come as a surprise [laughs], but after a year of isolation, people love seeing each other, right? The human interaction is really important. So whether that’s done through showing people through video, through stories, or livestreaming, those are really the formats you want to really favor the most. These are our most engaging formats, and as I mentioned before, especially LinkedIn Live. It’s seven times more likely to get an interaction going, and people just love seeing each other interacting in person. So those are my tips for how to best use your LinkedIn page to stand out.
Jason Feifer: Thanks, Ting, those are really great. And, boy, have I learned [laughs] the hard way, one of those tips that you shared, which is posting a link and just my own thoughts. It doesn’t really go anywhere. I used to try to use LinkedIn as a way to just promote my own writing, and it doesn’t do anything. But as soon as you start actually engaging with the community, it blows up.
I want to follow up with one thing by, by putting it to Kat and/or Swan, and then we’re gonna start to hear from some of the folks that Adam is bringing on stage, and that is that Ting talked about experimentation, which of course is really important, but if somebody is unsure of exactly even where to begin experimenting or what experimentation looks like, it can be hard to try to put that into practice. And so I love taking something like that and putting some color to it. And Kat and Swan, I’m curious, either from your own personal experiences or brands that you’ve worked with, if a good object lesson comes to mind of an interesting experiment that was done that you found drove engagement in an exciting or surprising way.
Swan Sit: On LinkedIn specifically, or generally in social?
Jason Feifer: Well, we’ll take LinkedIn if you’ve got it, but if not, I’ll take generally in social.
Swan Sit: Let’s do LinkedIn ‘cause this is the room and we have the benefit of having Ting here, so I was taking furious notes. I think the recommendation that she gave about looking at that data is really smart, because I think we always post from our gut and we’re like, “This feels good today,” but to really dig into the analytics makes a massive difference. It was impressive to hear how Harvard Business Review, just by taking their strategy and doing it every day, made a difference.
My larger story, I think, could be applied to LinkedIn. I’m trying to figure out how it worked. But when I was at Elizabeth Arden, some old company, 100 years old, and people had heard of it, but it wasn’t relevant anymore. They knew it was luxury beauty, but their grandmothers’ luxury. And we were also in the face of a lot of competing new brands, but also so many beauty brands, everything looked the same.
So what we thought we’d do, ‘cause we went back to the idea that social is about people, and I know LinkedIn’s a little different so I’m kind of asking this brain trust group up here to see if this would work, but social was about family and friends. We went to see what our loved ones were doing, not what brands were pitching us. I think with the onslaught of advertising, we sometimes feel that social’s a little less personal. So we relaunched Elizabeth Arden’s social media on Instagram in the first person. We said, “If Elizabeth Arden — this hero of a woman who lived over 100 years ago, the first woman on the cover of Time magazine —were alive today, what would her Instagram look like?”
So we created a fictitious character named Liz Arden, ‘cause she’d probably go by Liz today, she’d be in a cool downtown loft, equal parts businesswoman and creative, and we actually started posting in the first-person voice. I don’t know if that would work on LinkedIn, because someone to expects professional brands, but for brands that have a little bit more personality, like the GEICO Gecko, I would test maybe actually doing it in the GEICO Gecko’s voice and see what happens, see if people respond, because it actually would stand out quite a bit on LinkedIn. And if you’re doing it authentically with something that’s already part of the brand you’d have a shot of kind of expanding the voice a little bit beyond, but the corporate voices.
Kat Cole: Yeah. And it goes back to this point of recognizing and respecting the fact that the professional audience and target are also consumers. And, and this humanness, again, I think I already shared what, what one of my best performing posts was, and it was around leading with a heavy heart through all the challenges of 2020, using examples like having a miscarriage while being an executive, navigating that as an executive while I was still running this huge corporation.
The company’s best posts were the ones that were behind the scenes. You know, video of the chefs in the kitchen. And when you think about it, you think, “Well, is that really going to attract a chief of technology officer for the company?” The reality is that that has more likelihood of conveying the heart and the why, and some of the what of the company to attract someone to its culture and its industry and its purpose than a text post about looking for a CTO.
And so those types of posts that are, again, the humans, more rough cut, like Ting said, more behind the scenes, seem to outperform something more organized and scripted on behalf of the company. And then from a personal brand standpoint, always the ones that outperform have that thread of vulnerability and openness that we were talking about earlier.
Jason Feifer: I love all that. I’m gonna just add very quickly an interesting insight that I have found for myself, which is that experimentation doesn’t necessarily have to just take place on a social platform, even if it ultimately helps you in a social platform. So, for example, as I speak with entrepreneurs, individually or in groups, I share different things and I tell different stories and I notice what they’re responding to.
And then I try that stuff out on social media [laughs] and I, I found, for example, one time, I was speaking to a group at a conference and they asked me about pitching media, and I just pulled out my phone and started sharing emails that I had received. And people, like everybody, sat up because they wanted to see what was in my inbox. I didn’t realize that my inbox was interesting to anybody, but that gave me the idea to start experimenting with sharing things... never calling anybody out by name, but just sharing tactics or quotes or things that are landing in my inbox. I’ve seen a tremendous engagement with that because it feels like you’re getting something that you might not get elsewhere. So something that goes offline and then goes online.
Let’s start moving to some of the questions. I’m gonna take them in the order in which people showed up in the room. So, apologies if I mispronounce your name. [Swetanshu 00:41:22] I believe…
Swetanshu: Hi, how are you all doing?
Jason Feifer: Hey, well, welcome to the room. I see, from your bio, you’ve got an interesting question about the social media algorithms.
Swetanshu: Yeah. I think I alluded to all the panel members, and the entire conversation was really insightful. I want to ask the question from a more analytical and technical point of view. The thing is that a lot of times you are working with a brand and you are trying to create more and more engagement for your posts for that particular brand of business, but then, suddenly the algorithm of that particular, be it Instagram or LinkedIn, so we’re specifically talking about LinkedIn, so maybe LinkedIn, one day [inaudible 00:42:06]. We don’t want video content to do well or we don’t want posts which are redirecting people to other websites to do so well, but then we want more text-based posts. These are the various changes that the algorithm does at times. So do you still think that just like Harvard Business Review, that the consistency of posting or just going out there day after day, doing the same thing again and again of just quality content posting works, if the algorithm changes everything on that?
Jason Feifer: Ting, I’m gonna put that to you. That’s a really interesting point he makes. We come up with these strategies based on what the platform seem to be rewarding, but, of course, things are changing constantly. So help people to think about that.
Ting Ba: It’s such a good question. And just to play it back, what I heard was really that when you work for a brand and you’re in social media, you really want to create winning engagement for that post. And specifically LinkedIn, you know, sometimes it changes the feeds, right? Sometimes the algorithm is rewarding text-based posts, maybe, sometimes it’s rewarding stories, you’re just really not sure what is actually gonna be consistently the best. And so should you be doing the same thing, right?
And so if that’s the question, then what I want to share with you is two things, the first of which is, the algorithm by far always consistently rewards those posts that have high comment density. That has been consistent from day one, and I’ll take a step back and share what comment density means. What I mean by that is that, a tip I was sharing earlier is you should always, with any post, never leave it open-ended. Always ask for an answer. Ask a question, ask for an opinion. And the key is if they’re in a very timely way, respond back to any comments that you get. That kind of real-time comment density is really what helps brands stand out in the feed.
And I’ve seen so many examples from brands that are simply just doing text-based posts, but I think, to the points of the other panelists, like Kat and Swan, those posts are very human-centric, very vulnerable, asking for opinions on topics that are outside of a working environment, about things that are, perhaps, happening in our world, right? With the pandemic and asking people, “What do you think about that?” A simple text-based post showing true vulnerability and asking for responses and immediately responding back, that kind of real-time engagement is what has always consistently been rewarded in the feed. And so I, I just want to make sure that that point is clear, that engagement is what we want to see, and that’s why we reward it.
The second thing I want to share is that you don’t want to always — I hope I didn’t miscommunicate — you don’t always want to do the same exact thing every day, right? I know Harvard Business Review was an example where they amped up their content strategy, but the content strategy was very dynamic, right? One day they were doing a LinkedIn event, another they were sharing an article that performed extremely well and asking people’s opinions, the next day was maybe an employee-focused post or something focused on talent. It should be dynamic, right? And it shouldn’t be the same topic, the same format every day.
You do want to experiment. I think if you use the Content Suggestions feature, you’ll see that the interests that people have change literally maybe hour to hour. Maybe look at your analytics; you’ll find that different weeks, different things are resonating. And so it’s not about being consistent, it’s about posting every day, experimenting, and also really having that real-time engagement. That’s really what’s gonna help you stand out in the feed.
Jason Feifer: Fantastic. We’ve got few more …
Swetanshu: Got it.
Jason Feifer: ... questioners, and I want to move through everybody before we end our time. But Kat, Swan, did you have anything to add to those?
Kat Cole: No.
Jason Feifer: All right. Well, Lucy, let’s turn to you. Welcome to the room. Lucy, I see, from your bio, you’re opening a design studio, trying to identify how best to address the challenges of your audience. Tell us your question.
Lucy: Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me on the stage. I heard that this was sort of answered already a little bit, or you touched on this topic already, but, basically, I’m struggling a bit to identify what challenges my audience is facing. I’m beginning my activity and in the process of really trying to get into the startup world, really, and trying to understand how everything works. And at what point does working on your brand become an important problem for a startup?
I want to understand this better, and my question is [laughs]... basically, how do I stalk my audience in a respectful way, obviously, in order to answer this question just by the clues that they might be leaving online, if that makes sense?
Jason Feifer: Yeah. Well, so a funny a word you used, how do you stalk your audience? Well, look, social media is, of course, a great place to get to understand your audience and see what they’re talking about. Ting, Kat, Swan, who wants to take how to best understand the thoughts and needs of an audience and then engage with them?
Swan Sit: I think it’d be great for Ting to weigh in on using some of the analytics tools. I mean, she referenced a few earlier about the features at the top right search and filters that really can help you get down to who to follow and then what to learn, and then you can learn from there, you can post and engage with them as a supporter or a fan or a follower, and then you may develop some reciprocal relationships from there. But separate of the analytics, I think there’s an even blend of post and comment.
When you start, you won’t have all of these target folks following you, and that’s okay. You want to leave breadcrumbs, a trail of knowledge, that when someone does discover you, they see weeks or months or years of depth and contribution and thoughtfulness. So don’t be afraid to regularly post pieces of your areas of expertise. If you’re working with clients, celebrate your clients and what they’re doing via your relationship. That’s another way to do that, as long as you have their permission. And so, you know, speak when you don’t think anyone’s listening, because more people are than you realize. And then engaging as a fan and a listener and a commenter of those that you find in whatever magical search tools [laughs] Ting shares, I think those, too, are good ways to start.
Lucy: Yeah, I—
Ting Ba: Thank you, Kat.
Lucy: Okay. Thank you so much. This is actually super encouraging because it’s very hard to, obviously, keep that consistency when you feel like no one is engaging. So this was really, really inspiring and encouraging. Thank you, again.
Ting Ba: I’ll just follow up really quickly and share a couple of immediately actionable features that you can try to help you really uncover what it is your audience cares about. And I think it’s such a great question, that you’re asking, because you that’s really, I think, a core part of building a brand [laughs], is knowing your audience and how to talk to them.
So, I’ll mention again that Content Suggestions is this really powerful feature that is like a real-time algorithm that you can use to really showcase what it is your target audience cares about. You can filter by their location, their industry, their job title, and literally, in real time, see what articles they’re reading about. So that’s a really great way to uncover some of that.
Another way is through hashtags. I think hashtags are such a powerful way to understand what’s trending. On LinkedIn, you know, hashtags are used in the same way they’re used on other platforms, and you can definitely click and discern hashtags to see, what are the conversations that are happening? What are the trending ones? What conversations are driving the most engagement, right? And so that is another really great way to do it.
And then analytics, obviously, is always something you want to be staying close to. I would say on a weekly basis, you should be checking your analytics to see what kind of content is resonating. We have some really robust analytics to show you who’s engaging on some very unique levels based on their professional status, their level of seniority, demographics that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. And so, definitely, check the analytics associated with your page ‘cause you’ll learn so much from that.
Kat Cole: Swan, what were you gonna add?
Swan Sit: Oh, I think Ting just dropped a bomb. I was taking notes, so [laughs]...
Kat Cole: [laughs]
Jason Feifer: [laughs] Perfect. All right. Well, let’s move on to our final questioner. Lucy, thanks for the great question, Ting for the fantastic answers. [Sourav 00:50:30], apologies if I’ve pronounced the name, you are asking a very tangible question that I think lots of people are wondering about, about generating leads. So welcome to the stage. How can we help you?
Kat Cole: And Sourav, it looks like you’re new to Clubhouse. Welcome. Just push the microphone button at the bottom right. There you go. Now we can hear you.
Sourav: Yeah. Thank you so much, Katie, for that. And Kate, and sorry if I pronounce it wrong.
Kat Cole: That’s okay.
Sourav: I am Sourav. I own a food business here in India. My business model is more of B2C currently. I would like to take it to B2B. And I would like to know if LinkedIn is a good platform to generate leads for a business which is mostly looked after like a B2C model, and if I was to take it to a B2B type of a thing, if LinkedIn is a good platform and how can I generate leads for that?
Kat Cole: As someone who ran a lot of food businesses [laughs], I can share from experience that, certainly, your catering customers are on LinkedIn and, often, the people who are the buyers, the heads of HR who are organizing company meetings and events whenever we get back [laughs] to these things, they’re there, right? They’re very active on LinkedIn. And so I would encourage you to use what Swan and Ting mentioned earlier. From Ting’s perspective, using video, behind the scenes and photos of your beautiful catering spread, show a real event in progress. That is going to be more enticing to someone in a company looking for catering than simply posting, “We do catering. Here’s our link.”
So I would encourage you to use pictures and videos, maybe even going live at one of your upcoming catering events. Again, whenever the world gets back together, go live while you’re setting up, “Hey, this is Sourav. I’m so excited to be setting up a catering event for this company. They’ve ordered these things. Here is my favorite.” You know, walk over, show them, and encourage people to visit your website and give you a call for catering. I mean, that’s so human, it’s so personal, and you know that your audience is there.
Ting Ba: I really love that, Kat. And I just wanted to add real quickly, I know we’re going close to time, but I do really want to emphasize that LinkedIn is a really awesome way to generate leads, especially if you’re in B2B. I will share that B2B sales cycles, they tend to be longer than B2C, because, you know, I’ve seen it take anywhere from two weeks to maybe even several months before you can really convert what you might consider a follower or a customer. Obviously, ‘cause B2B products tend to carry a higher price tag, but also, for B2B buyers, whatever they decide, whatever catering service or product they decide to purchase, it affects an entire organization.
So there’s usually multiple people you have to influence instead of a single person. And so, long story short, just be prepared for the fact that B2B takes longer than B2C to really influence an entire community of people, and LinkedIn is a really great platform, actually, for the B2B journey. And to really generate leads, it does require, from my perspective, a holistic, organic, and paid strategy, where to catch those exact point, you’re putting your brand out there visually, you’re showing what it’s like to actually be a catering customer, and the amazing food that you’re resourcing, and the beautiful design and setup, right?
And you have to spend, I would say, time on really building that brand. It’s gonna take more than one picture. It’s probably gonna take, I would say, several months of really building out a brand so that these individuals you’re targeting really start to get a sense of who you are and what you stand for. Once it gets to that point where, you know, the brand is recognized, you can then consider running some ads, right, in the feed, that allow you to actually generate leads. So running ads through Lead Gen Forms.
But, at that point, I think the key is that these audiences are not seeing these pictures or hearing about your brand for the first time; they’ve seen it and they are really interested in learning more. At that point when you run an ad or you run a Lead Gen Form ad, at that point, they will actually leave her information, right? So you really do have to invest in that organic experience that Kat was talking about to really showcase your brand, and then supplementing that at the right point with paid, I think, is just such a solid strategy for generating leads on LinkedIn.
Sourav: Kate and Ting, all points noted. Thanks for your recommendations. One thing I would like to ask, so, for me to use these strategies, would it be recommended to have my brand page or shall I do all these things from my personal account to keep the personal touch?
Kat Cole: Such a good question. I’ll provide a quick answer to that. We generally do recommend that if you are running a business, you use a page, in contrast to your profile, because there are some very specific, powerful features you can only get through a page, such as the Content Suggestions feature. You don’t normally get that through your profile, so not being able to see, in real time, what people care about, that’s something you only get through a page. And so if you are a business, I definitely recommend creating a page.
The number one, I always say, pushback I get from that is people say, “Well, I have tens of thousands of personal followers. I have nothing if I start with a page.” And so, we have built a feature called Invite To Follow, which allows you to invite your personal connections to follow your page. So that is a really great feature to consider.
Jason Feifer: Well, we are very close to the end of this just value-packed hour, and I know everybody has been furiously taking notes. I want to offer just a few quick things to note, and then I’m gonna ask Ting, Kat, and Swan for a kind of final word each.
The things to note here is that this room was brought to you by Entrepreneur magazine and LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. A couple of people have DM’d me asking about the recording, how can they get it. If anybody is interested, just DM me on Instagram or LinkedIn. Uh, actually, I guess LinkedIn is the more appropriate thing to say here. DM me on LinkedIn. Why did I say Instagram? And I will to you when we have it.
And then finally, is there any other housekeeping? I don’t think so. So here’s what I’d love to do in the two minutes remaining. Ting, Kat, and Swan, if you all could share maybe one thing that you took away from most of... that you jotted down most furiously [laughs] today.
I’m gonna go with something that Kat said at the very beginning, which was dividing up the content into... that you post into three buckets, bucket number one on behalf of your company; bucket two, thought leadership, in relation to your company maybe; and bucket three as social proof and reciprocity. I thought this is just a really powerful way of thinking about content. Ting, why don’t I go to you, to one thing people should definitely take home today?
Ting Ba: Yeah, thank you. I took away so much from each of these speakers here, but one thing, and I don’t know if it was said explicitly, but one theme I was starting to get was, don’t overthink it. Building a brand comes down to the things that you care about, and that could be things that are professional as well as things are deeply personal. Don’t overthink it, share your actual perspective on things, be human, be vulnerable, and I think that’s really gonna help you, over time, when you are really bringing your full brand and your full self, whether it’s as a professional or as part of the organization.
Jason Feifer: Kat?
Kat Cole: I think two things for me. One was the reminder, from Ting’s point of view, of just how LinkedIn has evolved the analytics that are very easy to access, to be more thoughtful when you’re putting the time and energy into a post you hope has some impact. Probably worth the extra few clicks to be thoughtful about the analytics side. And so that was just a good kick in the butt for me, Ting, so thank you. And then, I think the reminder from Swan, the vulnerability and the humanness, you know, how important that is. Those stuck out to me the most.
Jason Feifer: And Swan, a final word from you.
Swan Sit: [laughs] I kind of agree with that. I doubled down on the LinkedIn analytics, didn’t realize there was so much there for us to access, but also, I think Kat and I agree on that vulnerability, and the example she gave is the best one I’ve heard of being vulnerable. We don’t mean fake vulnerability; we mean the hard stuff. And so to write about that must have been freeing but also challenging. So that example is really gonna stick with me ‘cause anything I also... I’m like, “Oh, is this right?” Well, if Kat can tell that story and move people and make them feel not so alone, then all these other stories have a space, too.
Jason Feifer: Well, thanks to you all. This has been such an informative, powerful hour. Ting, Kat, Swan, thank you so much. Adam, thank you for being our wonderful backend. To everybody at Entrepreneur and LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, we really appreciate you all and have a great day.
Swan Sit: Thanks, guys.