I recently attended LinkedIn’s Finance Connect in NYC for the third time; I am always interested to learn what has happened since the last conference, what they will announce during the current one, and what they will hint at for the future. This year was no different. The platform continues to grow in membership, time spent and dominance in B2B activities. According to LinkedIn, 1 of every 3 professionals in the world is on LinkedIn, with 200,000+ professionals joining daily. Those same professionals have also driven the growth of 1.5M discussion groups.
What’s New at LinkedIn
What really stood out this year was the theme of CONTENT. Granted, this was something discussed at the previous Finance Connect, but monitoring trending topics and LinkedIn’s new Content Measurement System are just two examples of the emphasis content received this year and will continue to receive from LinkedIn. Last year, LinkedIn’s Executive Editor Dan Roth (formerly of Fortune, Wired, Condé Nast Portfolio and Forbes) walked attendees through their Influencer Program, and even had a few of their nearly 500 influencers present to talk about their experiences as contributors to the LinkedIn platform. The fact that LinkedIn has an executive editor also makes it clear just how important they view quality content and curating in relation to their objectives.
This year the Influencer program was discussed again; we learned of its growth and the impact it has had on LinkedIn as a platform, helping to enrich the user experience, increase time spent and foster sharing and conversation. According to LinkedIn, the average Influencer post drives more than 31,000 views and receives more than 250 likes and 80 comments. Last year, Dan also moderated a discussion with Citi’s Linda Descano, who talked about the critical role that content played in their strategy with Women & Co., a website with financial, career and lifestyle related content targeting professional women. What is worth noting is that the content found there is not just that of Citi’s but also of other content partners. Obviously the content is non-competitive, but at least it is not always about Citi and their agenda. They are leading with value for their audience, which is the approach all organizations should take.
At this year’s Finance Connect, Descano was back to present a Citi case study based on their experience with Citi Connect, a managed discussion group on LinkedIn for professional women. The case study highlighted the role that “social media and content marketing plays in weaving a brand into the social fabric of online communities.”
Far More Than Just a Recruiting Tool
Many people have viewed LinkedIn as nothing more than a job board or the online equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce. While LinkedIn gets a substantial amount of revenue from their recruiting solutions and job-related services, the platform sees six times more engagement with content versus jobs. Brands are devoting more time and energy to LinkedIn, which translates to 2.7M company pages so far and the use of company updates, Slideshare and Groups to distribute company news and content. LinkedIn has established connections to 1.3M publishers for LinkedIn Today. Add to that the acquisitions of Slideshare and Pulse, the news aggregator, and you have the makings of a content juggernaut.
The day before this year’s conference, LinkedIn held some workshops focused on case studies in areas such as social selling, something we specialize in at ArCompany, and, again, CONTENT. Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently, a content marketing service provider, eluded to who some of Contently’s clients were and made it even more apparent just how critical content is for reaching and influencing your target audience.
Content: the Beast that Must be Fed
I know this may seem obvious, and content is something I have evangelized in the past, but I was struck by just how blatant the message about content had become. I have often said that “content is the beast that must be fed.” Many organizations find keeping up with content demands to be the most difficult part of their social media and marketing endeavours. LinkedIn recognizes that and took the opportunity to introduce their new Content Measurement System to help brands make the most out of their content, better understand the right content they should be using, and target it more appropriately. Brands get a sense of engagement and reach, and are more related to their content. The system is tied to buying advertising and, while the emphasis of the conference was on content, you could not help but realize that, just like with Facebook, we will be increasingly forced to pay to have our content seen by our target audience.
Trending topics information provided by LinkedIn also helps brands with their content marketing strategies, or at least informs them of what content is resonating with LinkedIn members by providing the top 10 trending topics in a given week. Sometimes it is hard to stay on top of the volume of content we face on LinkedIn and other channels, so trending topics help us catch up. While I came away from the conference even more assured of the importance of content marketing and the value of content to social media strategies, it is LinkedIn’s most recent announcement that came after the conference that has me the most intrigued.
LinkedIn has announced LinkedIn Publisher. The Influencer Program has 200+ participants, but, with the introduction of LinkedIn Publisher, every single member of LinkedIn has the potential to become their own influencer. Essentially, once the program is rolled out to everyone, LinkedIn is enabling each member to publish their own content and convey their thought leadership.
To date, people have used their own blogs, embedded media in their profiles and shared complementary content to establish themselves as curators of content and experts in their respective areas. In the case of their blogs, people hosted them elsewhere and readers had to leave the LinkedIn environment to read them; but now with Publisher, readers can stay within in the LinkedIn environment and authors get the supporting analytics to track their progress regarding their professional branding efforts. Makes me wonder what impact they will have on blogging platforms if users can now blog within LinkedIn with a more captive audience.
Many people expressed surprise and frustration with recent changes to the LinkedIn platform surrounding Signals and the ability to search updates, but perhaps we simply need to learn to be patient as LinkedIn shutters some capabilities and replaces them with more intriguing and possibly more powerful solutions. Finance Connect’s emphasis on content and the introduction to LinkedIn Publisher have me intrigued.
I have applied for early access to Publisher, so I am waiting with fingers crossed. I, like everyone else, will get access to Publisher eventually, but I am keen to start using it now — so LinkedIn, if you are reading this now, pretty please can I have early access to Publisher? This is my current frame of mind as it pertains to LinkedIn and content. I would love to hear your thoughts about LinkedIn and its role in your own content activities, so comment below or drop us a note at ArCompany.
A recognized senior social strategist, speaker, and blogger. He has held senior strategy roles with wireless, e-business, financial, and social CRM service providers, helping clients remain competitive by embracing social media and digital technologies.