As the next step in my series on LinkedIn LNKD +% publishing, I’m sharing best practice advice today from five entrepreneurs who are doing it well. Additionally, I’ll address an assertion from a reader who responded to my last segment on LinkedIn publishing when it appeared on LinkedIn.
Says UK-based brand evangelist Gary Sharpe: “Cheryl, views are not sales, followers are not customers, comments are not orders, engagements are not earnings, virality is not profitability. There is no strong correlation between social media numbers and business success. ROI cannot be measured this way… So can you answer this question: how many more unit sales did the case you mention result in directly?[he was referring to case #3 in this article, the energy loss infographic] Because that’s the only thing that counts.”
For the situation in question, I went back to my article source, Ken Courtright, co-founder of Today’s Growth Consultant and IncomeStore.com. In this case, for the company that produced so much web traffic Google GOOGL +% temporarily de-listed the company, fearing fraud, we can’t pin a direct correlation between the massive web traffic and the amount of revenue the traffic produced in new sales. Why not? The company’s been acquired and the founder has drifted into the sunset (from this outcome, we can draw our own conclusions about the role his additional traffic and revenue played).
But Courtright pointed me to his favorite article on the ways posting drives revenue by Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, for Inc. Magazine. I’ll paraphrase the key points she makes in her article here:
Write for your target customer. The biggest mistake is irrelevant content. “Do not write for your peers or the world at large,” Campbell says. “Write for the customers you want to attract.” For example, if you run a handmade soap business, don’t write about politics, global warming, or the lessons you can learn about business by watching the Gator Boys (true story). Disjointed topics may interest some readers, but will they turn into customers? Probably not.
You must educate your customer in order to sell. Become the go-to resource for prospects, customers, and information-seekers to answers to their questions related to your type of product or area of expertise.
Have a prominent lead collection form. Include some way for people to get to your site and opt in. For a LinkedIn post, an endnote that includes a link to a webinar or free paper can do the trick nicely without interfering with the authentic and independent tone of your post.
Create an emotional connection. Your columns give you an opportunity to speak conversationally. You have permission here to wipe away the stern corporate face. On a LinkedIn post or blog, you can present a warm and welcoming visage. This helps to forge an emotional connection that is vital to triggering sales. Just don’t let it devolve into too many personal details, Campbell warns.
Connect your posts to your website. Your readers will need to be able to find you in your business context with ease.
Be easy to contact. Offer multiple ways for your readers to reach you.
Post at least once a week. When people ask Anita how she’s been so successful at growing the traffic on her posts, she says that her top secret is this: publish more. The more relevant content you add, the more reason you give others to make your blog or column a regular destination. (It creates more content for search engines as well.) As my own note, just remember that it is better to produce one post that is meaningful and well written than to publish 100 blogs poorly.
Link to other sites. Linking out to other sources gets those expert sources to take notice of you. It is also good form and builds your own authority by association. (Also, remember that plagiarism is never acceptable, under any circumstance. Be sure all quotes or facts are properly linked and cited. Grammarly.com is my own favorite tool to use for this purpose.)
Pay attention to comments. When you get comments from readers, respond. Many sales, partnerships and even topics for additional posts will result from those conversations.
Get people to subscribe. Remind readers frequently to sign up for your newsletter or to follow you for an update when you post.
Share, share, share. Actively share your LinkedIn posts on social media platforms beyond LinkedIn, and especially on Twitter TWTR +%, Facebook and Google+ (hey, even if you consider Google+ to be the “zombie” of social media platforms – it’s not really dead, but it’s not quite living—it is a good resource for localized businesses and—because it is Google—will produce strong SEO traction in Google results.)
Write guest posts for others. Step outside your own playground to reach new audiences. This demonstrates additional authority and shows courtesy in your willingness to support efforts beyond your own “home base” posting as well.
As to the question on LinkedIn about the direct correlation—most often the sales return from thought leadership posting is manifested in increased relationships, a growing rate and base of referrals, and a higher quantity and level of sales over time. Some entrepreneurs are able to measure every touch point with such exact precision they know, for example, that it takes an average of 27 touches to close each of their education and leadership development sales.
Sam Shank, CEO and Cofounder of HotelTonight, in a YouTube interview with Jeff Lu, of Battary Ventures (Image courtesy of Battery Ventures)
This is a company growing rapidly, that is thankfully not deterred by the mistaken logic that it’s not worth posting unless you can track a discrete number of sales that resulted from each article. (A company I know that holds this logic has devolved to “marketing” copy only, using a template to insert keywords, links and calls to action. Not surprisingly, this form of content has them “treading water.” They are not gaining increased following or authority and their revenue and marketshare is not gaining ground.)
Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes.com
However, for entrepreneurs actively using their LinkedIn posting activities in the hopes of generating more sales, here are some of the tips they provide. Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes.com says, “We’ve been very successful with Linked In’s platform,” he says. So successful, in fact, LinkedIn has actually interviewed Bremmer and posted about his success.
“If you write, short, witty and thoughtful articles, they can open doors.” In his case, when someone “likes” or comments on an article, they immediately receive a thank you note through LinkedIn messaging that references the article and includes a request to connect, based on the fitting details from their profile. Bremmer notes that he is unusual in thanking each “liker,” but notes that this practice also allows his team to look into the person’s second level connections and if it makes sense, to ask the person if they would mind making an introduction on his behalf to a potential customer. “Obviously we’re very careful with this, but we’ve had some great success with the strategy,” he concludes.
Most importantly, Bremmer notes that writing thoughtful articles shows the depth of your soul. As the indie band the Lumineers says, “It’s a long road to wisdom, but a short path to being ignored.” So, Bremmer says, you should be very careful what you publish and post on Linked In. Here’s one of his recent posts that has garnered a fair amount of energy with a bit of a tongue in cheek tone.
Sam Shank, CEO and cofounder of HotelTonight
Sam Shank, the CEO and Cofounder of HotelTonight, in contrast, is one of the top 200 publishers on LinkedIn and is a LinkedIn Influencer. I can see from his LinkedIn page he has 142,322 followers. His posts often achieve more than 100,000 views. The company declined to pin a revenue estimate on the LinkedIn posting activity, but an August, 2015 article on Skift.com notes the company disclosed more than $81 million in venture funding through early 2014 and has attracted a post-money valuation of perhaps $320 million. Clearly, the thought leadership activity has paid off.
“I’ve mostly written about my experiences building companies – lessons learned, how to do various things from naming it to raising money, and how to be a successful team member at a small fast growing company. I love the engagement I get on the articles,” he says. “It’s a very positive and opinionated audience. It’s very fulfilling for me to share my experiences and give people inspiration on how to achieve their own personal and professional goals.” Shank’s top posting tips for other entrepreneurs:
- Be authentic – share real stories, share successes and failures,
- Write for the audience – people are on Linkedin to further themselves professionally. So articles about how to help people do this—from career advice to how to be more productive—are naturally equipped to resonate best.
Jeff Corbin, CEO of APPrise
Jeff Corbin, CEO of the NYC-startup APPrise, also uses LinkedIn as a key channel for thought leadership authority and for lead generation. Jeff generally uses LinkedIn to cross promote blogs that he’s posted on his company blog at theEMPLOYEEapp.com. His LinkedIn blog pots typically receive 100 or so views, often from people he is not connected with who like the content. Today he notes there are more than 1,300 people subscribed to his blog. Every time he posts a new piece on LinkedIn, his page views increase by 30%.
In Corbin’s case, he actively participates in LinkedIn groups as well. In particular, theEMPLOYEEapp generates a lot of white papers and other value-add content that he shares within the groups and they result in lead generation. Most of his profile views, in fact, occur as a result of sharing content in groups. When Jeff does not post content in groups, he averages 35 new profile views a month, but when he posts he receives 90+ views monthly. Forty percent of these views result in connection requests.
Edda Collins Coleman, CEO of the 316 Group
Says Edda Collins Coleman of the 316 Group in Arlington, Va., “I have used LinkedIn publishing here and here for thought leadership and PR along with my contributions to The Hill and to Huffington Post. To my surprise, The LinkedIn posts have led to new business, new connections and additional partnerships.
“As an entrepreneur and creator of The 316 Group, a public affairs and social advocacy firm located in the Washington, DC area, I truly value all that LinkedIn has to offer, but the publishing feature has produced so much for my business, that I will continue to use it on a frequent basis,” she says.
Lauren Greutman, The Frugal Living Expert
Finally, a note from Lauren Greutman, a frugal living expert (IamThatLady.com) and author of Author of How to Coupon Effectively. She has used LinkedIn and Twitter, but primarily LinkedIn, as her conduit for engaging writers and produces as her primary strategy for obtaining PR.
“I’ve worked on developing relationships with producers,” she says. “Engaging them on LinkedIn and on Twitter is important. I think a lot of people are intimidated by producers, but they really have such a hard job to do. My goal is to make their life as easy as possible by knowing how to design my own prospective segments, give them great topics, and to be professional and on time with everything I’ve committed.”
“My goal is to make myself the perfect guest; the one they don’t have to worry about,” she says. “Then I keep getting asked back again and again.”
Greutman actually designed my LinkedIn profile page with broadcast producers in mind. “They can follow me, find out what I am about, see my video reel and know why I am good for their show,” she says. “I then reach out to them and see if I can help them with any stories. I also want them to know that if they ever need someone else for a story, I would be happy to find someone for them because I know so many people in the online space. My approach bears in mind that success in the press truly is a team effort,” she says. “I am not in for me. We have consumers that need help and I am willing to invest the effort to help producers find the correct fits for their show.”
In summary, then, it’s clear that 1) posting does produce revenue. Whether you measure it directly or indirectly, thought leadership creates credibility and authority, it widens your circle of influence, and it produces new sales (and often also a higher level of sales), and 2) There are unique advantages to the publishing platform and community available to every entrepreneur on LinkedIn. You should do all in your power to use that opportunity well.