Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | 7 min read
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to build and sustain an audience that drives your business. I know from personal experience: in the past year I’ve used LinkedIn to gain more than 16,000 followers, write articles that received more than 440,000 views, and help start my own strategic communications and brand management firm.
A solid LinkedIn company page and regular publishing are a great start to succeeding on LinkedIn, but in order to truly take advantage of everything the platform has to offer you’ll want a team of employees advocating on your behalf.
Here are 5 tips for laying the foundation for employees to become brand advocates on LinkedIn.
If you haven’t created a culture where people love coming to work every day, you’ll never have a culture where people willingly get online and talk about your brand. Companies with exceptional cultures have employees who can’t wait to talk about the work they do – and who they do it for.
I know a customer service manager at a company with a famously amazing culture. She tells me about it all the time. She’s the very definition of a brand advocate, simply because she loves going to work every day.
Brand advocacy must be inspired by a fantastic culture before it can ever be shared online.
Make sure your employees know what your company’s goals are, and then communicate exactly how LinkedIn brand advocacy can help the company achieve those goals. If you’re looking for a 10% increase in sales next quarter, explain how the connections they make on LinkedIn, and the information they share with those connections, moves the needle on key metrics.
Not only does explaining the larger vision of your brand advocacy efforts help your employees understand what brand advocacy is all about, it also helps ensure they buy into the concept.
After you connect your company’s goals to each employee’s online advocacy efforts, connect these efforts to their individual goals.
Do they want to be promoted? Do they have a specific career path in mind? Beyond just collecting a paycheck, why do they work for you?
Incorporate being a brand advocate into the employee’s goals and performance plan. If they want to be promoted into a leadership position, let them know what you expect of a leader when it comes to brand advocacy.
Also, show them how successful brand advocacy can grow a company and create opportunities that don’t even exist yet. And when an employee starts to experiment with online brand advocacy, recognize and celebrate their efforts.
What? How to “use” LinkedIn? It’s simple, right? You just send a connection request to people you would like to connect with. Occasionally you might send a message to someone you used to work with (or someone you’d like to work with).
Sure, you can use LinkedIn that way, but you’ll be missing out big time. There is an art and science to using LinkedIn to get maximum value from the platform.
Here are some quick tips you can share with employees that will help them build an audience for your brand:
Brand advocacy requires an audience. You can build that audience by implementing some of the recommendations listed above.
Think of LinkedIn as an auditorium. Even if your employees want to shout from the stage, you still need butts in the seats for it to be effective.
LinkedIn has several features that can build your audience and help your employees be brand advocates. One of the most valuable – and high impact – is the ability to post long-form blogs through the publisher tool. That means that employees can talk about your company in more than just 140 characters.
If done right, the LinkedIn publisher tool can be an incredibly effective brand builder. So, make sure your employees are doing it right. Encourage them to create content that informs and inspires. Let them know what is – and what isn’t – okay to write about when it comes to your company.
Then turn them loose.
Effective brand advocacy is about authenticity, not company PR statements disguised as employee opinions.
Making the most of LinkedIn, at the enterprise level, requires building an audience. However, it’s difficult to convince your audience that content created or shared by an enterprise isn’t just another form of marketing that they need to tune out. It’s also difficult for companies to build genuine relationships with people.
That’s why you need your team to be brand advocates.
Individuals have a far easier time building trust with other individuals. Think of the following theoretical LinkedIn status updates:
“Our employees love coming to work because genuinely care for them.” –XYZ Company
“I work for an amazing company! When my spouse was ill, they gave me the additional time I needed while he recovered. They put our family first.” –Jane Doe
Create a culture and a company worth talking about, and then encourage your employees to tell that story. Doing that will help build the audience you need.
About the Author: Dustin McKissen is a marketing strategist and blogger. His posts receive some of the highest levels of engagement on the LinkedIn Publisher format. He is also a Certified Marketing Executive and holds an MBA and a Masters in Public Management, and lives in St. Louis with his wife and three children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.