This is Why LinkedIn Isn’t Working for You!
We’ve been managing our own, and client, LinkedIn profiles and company pages for several years now. I’ve always been a big LinkedIn fan and I’ve seen interest in using LinkedIn for business development grow significantly during the pandemic as opportunities to connect in person with clients and prospects has diminished, or disappeared in some cases. As we work with clients who are new to LinkedIn we tend to see a lot of the same issues that are hindering their ability to use this powerful business-to-business (B2B) social media channel most effectively. After working with a couple of new clients to help them develop and fine-tune their strategy, I thought I’d share some of the most common missteps I see and offer some advice for others who don’t feel they’re getting enough traction on LinkedIn (or other social channels—the same best practices apply there as well).
Top Missteps That May Be Holding You Back
1) Failing to gain clarity around your communication platform.
It’s important to know how you will position yourself and/or your company on LinkedIn. The more cohesive and consistent your messaging, the better your odds of building and engaging an audience. Some clients we’ve worked with change course frequently, resulting in inconsistent messaging that fails to resonate with their audiences. A lot of these shifts, I think, relate to their impatience or frustration about not achieving results fast enough (see recommendation # )
2) Not using the language your audience uses.
We work a lot with thought leaders, or those who wish to become thought leaders. Often they have certain “proprietary terms” they want to use to promote themselves and their services. But these proprietary terms are not yet known by their target audience. In traditional channels clever buzzwords could work. But the digital environment is different. The digital environment relies on search, and search engine optimization (SEO). For instance, suppose you’re a business consultant and you’ve come up with an acronym to summarize the core services you provide—S.W.A.T—which stands for strengths training, weakness assessment, attitude adjustment, and turnaround. Clever? Maybe. But useless as the platform for your online content. Why? Because potential prospects are not searching for S.W.A.T unless, perhaps, they’re interested in military-related information. You might use a combination of your proprietary terminology and the more commonly used business terms your audience is likely to use, but the SEO-terms should go in the headlines—not your buzzwords.
Once you’ve built a platform and a following you can start to introduce proprietary buzzwords, maybe. But until you have stick to the kind of words and phrases that your audience is likely to be using when they’re searching for what you have to offer. That can involve a lot of online research and the use of tools like SEMRush, SpyFu, and other services. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, on LinkedIn a quick way to identify terms people are looking for is to start a post, enter a hashtag (#), and begin typing in a potential phrase. LinkedIn will deliver up a number of recommendations based on what LinkedIn users are actually searching for. So, if I enter in #strengths, some of the first phrases that pop up are #strengthscoaching, #strengthsdevelopment, and #strengthscoaching. These would be some potential phrases I might use if I’m trying to establish my thought leadership as a professional coach. I wouldn’t though use them in hashtag format in my headlines or body copy (although I would use them as actual hashtags). Instead, I’d use “strengths coaching, ” “strengths development,” etc., because that’s how people would usually search for those terms.
3) Not taking an “outside in” approach to developing content pillars and messaging.
Your content pillars will be your primary areas of focus, generally no more than 3-5. They should be focused on your audience and what they need or might be looking for. As you work to build your profile and your content it’s important to consider what your audience is buying and not so much what you’re selling. As your target audience is looking for people/companies that can help them address their pain points, what kind of keywords will they be searching for? For me, it’s pretty simple—marketing, content marketing, SEO, social media, writer, HR. With those keywords in mind, make sure you’re using them frequently in your posts and your hashtags. That’s how you come up in search. Your words need to be simple as well, and specific, again, to what people are “buying” or looking for help with. So think like them and use the kind of words and phrases they’re likely using which align most closely with what you offer.
4) Using a heavy-handed sales approach!
Sales pitches turn people off on LinkedIn (and other social or digital channels). So we don’t use the heavy-handed approach. Yes, we reach out to people who represent our target audience(s) and include information about what we do and why we’d like to connect, but we don’t then follow up with message, after message, after message, once they accept our invitation to connect. We don’t have to. Simply making those connections and keeping our channel filled with informative and useful information related to the services we provide have led to an ongoing pipeline of prospects and source of new clients. That can work for you too.
5) Not sharing your LinkedIn space with other thought leaders.
Much of the content on my profile is curated from third-party sources and related to content marketing (what I offer). I post it to demonstrate that I’m up-to-date on issues related to my field and to, hopefully, provide useful content to my audience. I don’t post it to generate leads or clients. In fact, I don’t believe that most leads are going to come through my profile posts.
Where the leads come from is through people searching for help they need with, in my case, content marketing. Because I have a large following (15K) and because I belong to the maximum number of Groups (50), all relevant to my desired audience, I’m highly likely to show up in searches done where people are looking for content marketing, social media help, etc.—all terms I’ve optimized for in my profile. Once I show up in search it’s likely that people will then go to my profile and look at my posts which, hopefully, demonstrate that I know what I’m talking about and have the kind of background/credentials they’re looking for. Then they reach out to me.
That doesn’t happen overnight though. I’ve had my profile since 2009 and I’ve built it very organically—I haven’t used the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, paid or boosted posts. It’s the same approach we use with our most successful clients.
6) Using your personal profile to sell your services.
Do your selling, if you do it at all, on your company page. The company page is kind of like a website. We’ve found they work best for employee recruitment and, aside from that, just to post whatever the company/consultant has to offer. So that’s where your sales-related messages should be.
7) Worrying too much about how much traction your posts are getting.
This may be counterintuitive and contrary to other advice you’ve received, but because of the points made in #4, it really doesn’t matter. Posts don’t generate leads; they simply establish authority and support your brand. Your profile coming up in search and aligning with what people are looking for, or the problems they are hoping to solve, is what will generate leads and, ultimately, new customers or clients. To me, my LinkedIn profile posts are just the backdrop that let’s me demonstrate my knowledge about marketing in general and content marketing in particular and, from an industry standpoint, my expertise in HR. Many of my leads for content development are directly related to my HR experience and background.
That said, I will share a tip that does work quite well to get traction for your posts. Mentioning others. People (and companies) like being mentioned. When they are they have a strong likelihood of reacting in some way—commenting on, liking, and sharing your posts for instance. Where this comes into play for us is when we have an article published that includes input from a variety of sources. We’ll post that article and tag the sources and their companies. These posts, then, tend to get a lot of attention and traffic.
8) Expecting immediate results.
LinkedIn, and other social channels, can be a great source of leads and, ultimately, customers. But that won’t happen right away. Plan to spend at least six months, even a year, building up your profile and your followers before you expect to see measurable results. As I said, we’ve had our profile since 2009; we didn’t get immediate results. But we’re seeing exceptional results right now.
9) Not paying attention to your metrics.
Metrics matter but you need to be tracking the right ones. As I mentioned earlier, we really don’t have attention to how many people are liking, sharing, or commenting on our posts. These are “nice to have” results because they can help you grow your audience but our “need to have” results are inquiries, lead generation, and new clients. That’s what we track. What you track will be specific to you, but make sure you’re tracking meaningful metrics not vanity metrics.
LinkedIn prospecting can work very well. It does for us and it does for our clients. But it requires a different approach than you might be used to when using traditional sales or business development tactics. How many of these missteps may be holding you back? What other missteps would you add to our list?
Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.
(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)
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