No Longer Your Mother’s Employment Database, LinkedIn Proves Powerful for PR


In March of this year, the professional social network LinkedIn hit a key milestone in its eight-year history: 100 million users. So far in 2011, the company has successfully gone public and unveiled a number of new products. So far so good, right?

However, there have been murmurs in the press that LinkedIn could be losing its luster. In the IPO filing, the company admitted that those 100 million registered members is higher than “actual” members. And consider that 100 million members is just a drop in the bucket over at Facebook, which has more than 600 million users.

Indeed, much has been said of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube lately. But what of LinkedIn? Is this platform known for job networking the ugly social stepchild? While PR pros have tightly embraced the Big Three platforms, doesn’t LinkedIn deserve more than just a little hug?

While Jesse Goldman, head of marketing and business development at workplace productivity software maker Rypple, believes LinkedIn is a popular outlet for driving brand awareness, “I’m not sure it’s being used to its fullest as a communications tool,” he says. So just how can LinkedIn be used to its fullest PR potential? PR News aimed to find out.

Goldman is one communications pro who is sold on LinkedIn, calling it a “one-stop shop to build community, engage with it and raise awareness of the brand.”

Just how does Rypple do that? It has its own community, Agile People Manifesto, through which it shares its webinars and interviews with thought leaders in the industry. In addition, Goldman and other Rypple employees participate in related LinkedIn groups—not unlike what goes on at Facebook. But Goldman says there is one big LinkedIn feature that differentiates the two: recommendations.

On Rypple’s company page, people can write endorsements of the company (there are presently more than 100). Goldman believes the barrier of entry for LinkedIn is greater than Facebook’s, and therefore the quality of recommendations is greater. Then, of course, those recommendations get shared on other peoples’ networks.

Krista Canfield, senior manager of corporate communications at LinkedIn, agrees that recommendations is a powerful viral component of the platform. She says it’s even more effective when a company sets up a “Products and Services” tab at the top of its page, and encourages clients to recommend specific offerings that are listed on that page. Canfield says to check out HP’s company page as an example.

Think LinkedIn is just a online employment destination? Think again. A March Hubspot survey of nearly 700 business professionals (76% of them from B2B companies) shows the platform to be more powerful than Facebook and Twitter in garnering customers, and is right up there in effectiveness with the company blog.

The ability to make LinkedIn followers aware of products and services is also a differentiator from other social platforms. Sharing that information at first made Goldman a bit uncomfortable. “I didn’t want to be too sales-y,” he says. “But people don’t seem to mind.” In fact, LinkedIn is a moe powerful direct customer acquisition tool than Facebook and Twitter (see chart).

LINKEDIN TO MEDIA

There is a plethora of other uses of LinkedIn for PR, including media relations. In fact, Canfield teaches a course for journalists in the use of LinkedIn. Clearly, if it’s an effective tool for journalists, it should be for their PR pro counterparts.

With its roots as a database, LinkedIn is a viable alternative to subscribing to media relations services. According to Bill Corbett, president of Corbett PR, it’s surprising how easy it is to research and interact with reporters on LinkedIn. “There used to be that wall where it was hard to get to know them,” says Corbett. Now, many journalists are on LinkedIn, and their profiles are filled with useful information on their interests, “so you know what to pitch and what not to pitch,” says Corbett.

Speaking of pitching, Corbett has found that LinkedIn’s “InMail” tends to be just as or even more effective in reaching connected journalists than regular e-mail. When pitching to a reporter in his network, Corbett sends it via both platforms. In addition, LinkedIn status updates make it easier to track reporters as they move from one gig to another—this is important considering today’s fractured media landscape.

David Hattery, senior account executive at PR agency SunStar Strategic, has another media-related tip: If you’re on a reporter’s LinkedIn page, scroll down to the bottom right and check out the “Viewers of this Profile Also Viewed” box. “I’ve found many new reporters that way,” says Hattery.

Canfield cautions to tread carefully with journalists on LinkedIn. “When you make a connection request, remind the journalist how you know them,” says Canfield. And don’t pitch a journalist on LinkedIn without reading their profile first.

COMPETITIVE EDGE

Connecting with reporters isn’t the only LinkeIn activity that provides distinct PR advantages. Canfield says to connect with companies you want as clients or customers. And if you’re a PR agency, follow other agencies.

Just remember, says Canfield, to sync up your LinkedIn page with your Twitter account, so that popular platform will trumpet new product announcements, special offers, interesting articles, etc.

Corbett offers other suggestions to make LinkedIn work for your PR programs:

• Make sure there’s a connection to your blog. “People can read your profile, but a blog is really where they get to know you,” says Corbett.

• For better SEO, ensure that your organization’s profile is filled out to 100%, and that you’ve included keywords in the profile.

• If you’re putting on a live event, consider forming a LinkedIn group that addresses the event topic.

Bottom line: Don’t ignore LinkedIn as a PR tool. It’s awareness building, customer acquisition and media relations strengths shouldn’t be underestimated. PRN

CONTACT:

Jesse Goldman, jesse@rypple.com; Krista Canfield, kcanfield@linkedin.com; Bill Corbett, wjcorbett@corbettpr.com; David Hattery, dhattery@sunstarstrategic.com.




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