What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social media platform and app aimed at business and employment. It’s primary purpose is to be a professional networking tool and user profiles act as an enhanced online CV. It also offers a range of job advertisement tools, online learning tools and LinkedIn Groups. This blend of professional- and employment-focused tools is fairly unique, meaning LinkedIn currently has few legitimate competitors.
LinkedIn revolves around its ‘Connections’ mechanic. Similar to ‘Friend-ing’ on Facebook, users can opt to ‘Connect’ with other users. This offers full access to the other user’s profile, content and opens up the ability to send them instant messages. Individuals who are directly connected are considered to have ‘1st Degree connection’. However, content that is posted by a user on LinkedIn may also be delivered to 2nd and 3rd Degree connections (i.e. the Connections of your Connections), widening your potential network.
In addition to offering personal profiles, LinkedIn offers Company Pages.
- 25 million UK users
- Among online UK adults aged 18, the % who use LinkedIn
- Gender: Male 37%, Female 29%
- 18-24 – 38%
- 25-34 – 46%
- 35-44 – 46%
- 45-54 – 32%
- 55-64 – 29%
- 65-75 – 18%
- 75 – 10%
What it does best
- Professional networking as an individual – LinkedIn functions as the only dedicated social media platform for professional networking. The social media aspects of the site make it easy to interact with other professionals, answering questions, building relationships or just celebrating the successes of those in your professional network. In other words, the site facilitates the sort of interactions you might get at any traditional networking event. This is where the platform really shines. Find a guide to networking on the platform here.
- Sharing business news and success – LinkedIn allows users to share text, image, url and short video content through its platform. This allows users to share what their business has been getting up to and updates on their professional lives.
- Connecting with potential leads or partners – LinkedIn has a detailed database of individuals and companies and a powerful search engine with which to find them. This makes LinkedIn a great place to find and contact new sales prospects or potential partners using social selling techniques.
- Creating a profile for your business – A LinkedIn Company Page displays basic information about a business, such as its size, website, address and any LinkedIn members associated with the business. It also features its own feed, which can be updated with text, weblinks, image and video content. This content is delivered to the feeds of anyone who has chosen to follow the company’s page. See some how some businesses have utilised Company Pages here.
- Discussing business with individuals – LinkedIn Groups allow individuals to discuss and network with others of a similar industry or interest. This function has recently been integrated better into the LinkedIn website, with group posts showing up in a user’s central feed. If you join groups frequented by your prospective customers, you may be able to build relationship with prospects by answering questions they ask in the group or respond to issues faced by their sector.
- Instant messaging – LinkedIn has a solid instant messaging service for members, which allows users to send messages to one or multiple 1st Degree connections. (However, this tool is not available for Business Pages, meaning it cannot be easily used as a customer service tool.) Individuals with Premium (paid for) accounts can also pay to send email-style messages via InMail to users to whom they are not connected.
- Long-form expert content – LinkedIn Articles, previously known as LinkedIn Pulse, allow users to host longer-form blog style content on the site. This is an ideal place for thought-leadership or think pieces. These articles may show up on the feeds of 1st degree connections (and beyond). Use of hashtags can also increase their reach. However, it is not possible to browse LinkedIn Articles and you are reliant on the LinkedIn algorithm to deliver your article to an audience.
- Digital advertising – LinkedIn has a huge suite of advertisement tools with good targeting options. In addition to display advertising and sponsored posts, LinkedIn also offers a direct mail route in the form of sponsored InMail. LinkedIn Premium for business can also add some supplemental tools to Business Pages to make it easier to analyse its performance and find new leads.
- Recruitment – LinkedIn hosts a job listing service and has the ability to process job applications in-platform. This, combined with the site’s online CV-style profiles, makes LinkedIn a great place to post jobs and proactively find candidates.
What it does less well
- Professional networking as a business – While LinkedIn offers Company Pages as a way to give your business a presence, the functions of these profiles are rather limited. There is little you can do with them beyond host up to date information, share job listings and share updates. There is no business inbox for instant messages and it is not possible to interact with users as your Company Page, so you cannot ‘network’ under the guise of your business. Users need to network on a personal basis – through their personal LinkedIn profile – to make waves on the platform.
- B2C marketing – LinkedIn is designed for B2B communications, meaning its primary audience is business professionals looking to network. With this in mind, the results of B2C communications efforts or marketing may vary. If your product is associated with business in some way and/or would be attractive to a business person, LinkedIn may provide a great way to reach your target audience. For other B2C products or services, success on the platform is possible but this needs to be approached thoughtfully. See some great examples here.
- Limited reach of content – LinkedIn acts as a closed network. While this makes it an intimate setting to keep up with your business contacts and make new ones, this does limit the reach of content. Typically, LinkedIn updates and Articles are only delivered to 1st Degree Connections. This can only be extended if your Connections interact with your content, meaning that a lot of content is likely to reach a small audience. This problem is heightened on Business Pages, which only deliver content to users who have followed the page. Overall, this means that it can be hard for organic content to find a wide audience.
- Customer service – LinkedIn has little capacity to handle customer enquiries as there are many limits on its instant messaging tool and InMail. InMail is pay-to-use, which limits its usefulness, and instant messages can only be exchanged by those who are Connected. Business Pages are missing a messaging feature entirely. Consequently, this is a function better handled by other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
It may work for you if:
- You are looking to promote your business, share business news and network as an individual on behalf of your business
- You wish to target business professionals or network in a B2B environment
- You want to share long-form business-focused articles to promote your thought-leadership skills with your own professional network
- You are looking to develop one-to-one relationships with potential customers or partners, rather than reaching a wide audience organically.
- You want to use the platform’s excellent database as a lead generation tool