7 Steps to Successful LinkedIn Marketing

In recent weeks, we’ve explored how to develop a content strategy, how to set up a social media program from scratch, and how to use thought leadership bylines to earn media coverage. All of these content approaches complement each other and help reinforce a brand’s identity. But the power of the written, or recorded, word can only get as far as the audience you’ve built to consume it. Luckily, there’s a way to amplify the reach and impact of this owned and earned content that we find quite valuable and our clients are consistently curious about: LinkedIn Sponsored Content.

 Adding a paid element to your PR program helps bridge the gap between traditional PR and traditional marketing, which shouldn’t operate in silos anyway. We like to take a strategic view of LinkedIn promotion, using a step-by-step practice to develop and continually optimize a highly-targeted LinkedIn ads campaign that complements existing content development and organic social media initiatives. The approach outlined below helps identify hyper-relevant prospects, target them with the right content, understand what content to create in the future and serve your company’s ultimate marketing goals.

 Step 1: Identify Ideal Audience

As with any marketing process, you can’t succeed if you don’t know who you’re talking to or trying to reach. But if you know who the decision makers, influencers or buyers are that you want to influence with your content, you can target them at a granular level on LinkedIn. By combing criteria, you can hit a hyper-targeted user set and ensure you’re not spending money promoting content to users who will never make a difference for your bottom line.  You can target audiences in three ways:

  • Demographics – Job function, seniority, company name, geographic region, industry, etc.
  • Interest-based targeting – Group membership, skills, fields of study
  • Company audience data – Target account lists your sales team is using (Note, you’ll need a lot of names for this to be effective, but it guarantees a precise audience.)

Step 2: Define Campaign Goal and Associated Content Formats

Once you know who you want to read your content and ultimately to engage with your brand as a potential customer, you’ll need to define the goal of your campaign. This will determine the kind of content you promote. For content you don’t already have, you’ll need to focus on developing it as part of a comprehensive owned, earned and paid media program. For the following goals, you’ll want to emphasize the associated content:

 Brand awareness

  • Company blog posts on LinkedIn
  • Press releases
  • Long-form posts
  • Visuals/videos
  • Product announcements
  • Promotion of tradeshow attendance

Thought leadership

  • eBook, whitepaper, video, research
  • Industry commentary
  • Long-form posts
  • Guest blogs on other blogs
  • Industry trends or data

 Lead generation

  • eBooks­
  • Webinars
  • How-to guides
  • Blog posts with calls-to-action (CTA)
  • “Freemium” downloads/gated content
  • Industry-related reports

Step 3: Develop an Editorial Calendar

Once you know which content to share, set up an editorial calendar – this will help you to visualize the rhythm of content being published and ensure that you’re addressing different aspects of your brand’s value proposition. Having everything written out will also help make sure you share different forms of content to keep things fresh and engaging for all members of your target audience, depending on their interest, challenge, or stage in the buying process:

  • Awareness: Have realized and expressed symptoms of potential problems or an opportunity.
  • Consideration: Have clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity, actively looking for ways to address the issue.
  • Decision: Have defined their solution strategy, method or approach and ready to take the next step.

Step 4: Identify Assets and Messaging to Promote Content

Identify and/or develop compelling ad copy (150 words or less) and visual content that make readers want to click on or download the content you’re promoting. If you can’t sell your content, no one will read it no matter how informative or well-written it is.

Hint: Include calls to action, statistics, quotes, actionable text.

Step 5: Determine Ad Method

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content campaigns are promoted through paid channels based on posts you have also made directly on your Company Page. They are best used to attract new followers to the company website or landing page and drive engagement with company-specific content.

Company Page posts (status updates) can be promoted in the newsfeeds of both followers and non-followers whose demographics have been specifically targeted. This is a good option for posting blog content, articles about your company or to showcase commentary, award wins, customer or product announcements, and more.

Direct Sponsored Content

The direct sponsored content option allows you to post content directly in the LinkedIn feed without the content originating on your LinkedIn Company Page. This is useful if you don’t want the post to clutter your company’s LinkedIn profile page, but otherwise operates the same as sponsored content.

Website Ads

LinkedIn also offers more traditional website ads, which lead readers to the company website and often start at $2.00 per click and up. These are best leveraged for sending interested parties to your website to download gated content – whitepapers, e-books, case studies, webinars – for lead generation, or to product pages for direct sales promotion. If you choose this option, you should set up goal tracking in Google Analytics to count how many contact form submissions are received as a result of a given ad. Then judge what your cost per lead is and determine if it is delivering appropriate ROI.

Step 6: Set a Budget

Finally, you’ll need to decide what your total monthly budget for LinkedIn ads will be, and how you’ll allocate your spend – either emphasizing CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) if your goal is brand visibility, or CPC (cost per click) if your goal is lead generation or website traffic conversion.

LinkedIn Ads work on a bidding process, so depending on the audience you compete for, the price will change to show an ad. Bids are only processed at $.01 more than second-highest bid, so you can set your bids at the top limit of what you consider a fair value for the click or impression.

Step 7: Reporting/Continuous Improvement

It’s essential to monitor and analyze the key metrics of your campaigns on an ongoing basis. This review process is critical for finding opportunities for improvement to your campaigns, whether it’s improving reach, accuracy of targeting, CPC or CPM, website conversions, engagement and much more.

You should use the LinkedIn campaign manager to review all the metrics available on the platform itself, but also refer to your Google Analytics reports to see how successful you’ve been at driving increased traffic to your website as a whole or to specific landing pages on the site. There are also tools like LinkedIn Insight Tag to your website that will help you evaluate deeper insights about your campaign and users to continue improve your LinkedIn, content marketing, and overall marketing goals.

To learn more about how LinkedIn can help drive brand awareness and lead generation as part of your PR or marketing program, feel free to reach out to me directly – aid[email protected] – and don’t forget to follow Ketner Group Communications on LinkedIn and Twitter for more valuable tips like these.

 

To Press Release or Not Press Release, That is the Question

Little Mermaid
Image courtesy of Creative Commons

As PR professionals, our main goal is to drive and secure coverage for our clients. As Ursula the sea witch from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” says, “It’s what we do. It’s what we live for!”

In our last blog, we talked about the value of the modern press release and the benefits releases generate for PR campaigns. But according to our friends at NonProfitPR.org and as PR folks worldwide know, press releases are not always the best course of action and can often be just a big waste of time and money. See below for examples of when to not go down the press release path:

  • Announcing an event
    Many companies, private and public, often use a press release to announce an event such as attendance at a conference or the launch of a propriety event. Even though you’ve taken the time to craft a release and send it to local media, rarely will you see these releases published among general media. Instead, consider listing on a community page or industry calendar. You can also utilize social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to highlight the news of your event and motivate your network into action.
  • Announcing a great story
    When you have a great story to tell, look beyond a press release. Whether it’s to highlight a successful implementation with a customer or a longer feature story on a specific topic or trend, writing a release may give you some coverage, but there could be a better way to highlight this news. This is the perfect opportunity to give the scoop to a journalist to write a more in-depth story and publish your news. Not only do you begin to develop great media contacts, you end up with a great story about your organization.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Image courtesy of Creative Commons
  • Sometimes it’s just not newsworthy
    Some companies assume they have to send a particular number of press releases each month or year in order to engage in strategic public relations. It’s never a good strategy to send releases simply to fill a quota. Sending the media lots of non-newsworthy releases (awards, speaking opportunities, small product updates, etc.) could cause journalists to stop reading your news altogether. When this happens, even when you have something truly newsworthy, it’s possible you still end up with no news coverage through no fault of your own. It’s much better to objectively analyze the worthiness of your announcement from a reporter’s perspective and then decide if a release is really the way to go.

There are many ways to have your news heard beyond the press release. From utilizing social networking, industry calendar listings and even pitching directly to journalists, picking the right strategy can provide better coverage and more public awareness, all at a more efficient cost.

4 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Company’s Branding Without Spending Too Much Money

Have you ever gone into your closet at the change of a season looking for something to wear to mark the change (it’s finally chilly!)—and left disappointed? After ignoring your fall/winter clothes for the better part of half the year (in Texas), your clothes seem boring, blah and so last season. Well, instead of throwing on a pair of jeans and whatever t-shirt looks good with a scarf, refresh your wardrobe by mixing what you already have up a little.

The same concept is true for your company. A web designer once told me that companies usually spend a lot of time and effort building a website they’re happy with, then leave it stagnant. Then after two years, they’re unhappy with it again. I have worked with clients who are never completely happy with their company messaging and try to do a complete rewrite every year. I get that—the market changes, customer needs change, you find what works, what doesn’t—but there has to be a better and less time-intensive way to refresh a company’s brand without a complete overhaul of your website, collateral, messaging, etc.

1. Blitz your Blog. Reorganize and refresh the design of your blog instead of your entire website. Give your blog’s template a shiny new look—change up your categories, or add more. Putting more internal and external (promotional) focus on an interactive and ever-changing messaging avenue such as your blog will allow your company to respond more quickly to changing trends or hot topic industry news. And you’ll be less likely to grow tired of your website.

2. Create an evolving campaign. Evolving campaigns are brand initiatives that involve a central static idea with variable details/messages that change based on different tradeshows, product launches, customer events or promotions your company is planning. For example, take a look at our Be Spectacled campaign. Our central idea is our monocle man’s Be Spectacled slogan, which challenges our visitors to make their public relations program shine (with us, of course). Currently, we’re focusing our Be Spectacled efforts on NRF 2013, a huge retail technology-industry tradeshow. In the past, we’ve focused the campaign on South by Southwest Interactive. Our Be Spectacled evolving campaign lives in a prominent location on our homepage, and this helps our website stay up-to-date with our changing focus.

3. Quarterly reviews of messaging with sales team. The sales team is a great source of information when it comes to messaging. They’re out in the field every day speaking with prospects and customers, so they are loaded with information about the most common challenges prospects experience and can see first-hand what messaging points resonate with prospects and customers. Sales teams can point to the benefits your company’s services provide that are most important and helpful to customers. Sit down with your sales team every quarter to refresh company messaging. This ensures that it changes little by little instead of in huge chunks—which means less time and effort on the marketing team’s part!

4. Socialize. Social media can be an easy and cost-effective way to give your company a boost in chatter and activity. If your company is not on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook, yet, then you probably should be (with some exceptions). Brands should be involved with even more—Instagram and Pinterest are a must for brands right now. Ketner Group is even dabbling in some Instagram and Pinterest activities. Already in the social world? Change your social media profile photos and information. Something this little could provide you with a breath of fresh branding and is something your followers may notice.
On that note—follow Ketner Group on our other social pages—Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.