The diversity of people on LinkedIn runs the full gamut. From prime ministers, global industry leaders, high-profile influencers, celebrities, ASX and Fortune 500 directors, SMB owners, practitioners of all vocations, freelancers, junior staff, professionals, creatives, retired folk and the unemployed — the range is endless. Every industry, level, geography and role is found within LinkedIn’s 645 million membership walls and the 30 million company pages.
The value of LinkedIn and its influential impact is indisputable. With 10 million Australian members, there is a wild pursuit for a slice of the LinkedIn pie of opportunity. But how and who should manage and drive that pie is a conundrum for many SMEs, consultants and professionals.
As with all vital sales and marketing strategies, inaction or poor execution occurs due to ‘lack’. Be it lack of time, knowledge, training or resources (financial or staff). Lack can be singular or multiple. And ‘lack’ of any genre can be given as a smokescreen for another lack — a lack of belief in value. But that lack is a subject for another time, as I focus on those who are rightly sold on the merit of the platform and seek to leverage with gusto.
Similarly, many people have managed their LinkedIn activity in the past and are overwhelmed with the increased demands and the growth that the platform has delivered to their business.
With all problems, there are many and varied solutions that propose to solve the given challenges. Some are highly effective and others ineffective. Which leads me to the ‘cobra effect’, which is aligned to the concept of ‘perverse incentives’. It refers to when good intentions ultimately create negative outcomes and consequences which were unintended. And this is the essence of the discussion of personal activities and solutions on LinkedIn.
Unless you are a prime minister, senior government official, famous celebrity or global business superstar, you should personally be steering your own LinkedIn activity train.
Your profile should also bear in mind these caveats. In other words, unless you are of the aforementioned, personal profiles are best written and received when in first-person not third-person.
Personal profiles are the epicentre of LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman’s vision that “people would connect through social networks using their real names, and their online lives would be completely merged with their real ones”.
Shifting the responsibility of your voice and input can be risky as it is your personal brand and reputation at stake. How you connect, engage and contribute encapsulates ‘brand you’. The old cliche of know, like and trust rings the bell here.
It can be risky
Done-for-you services (taking over all connecting, engaging and content) that promise the world can be particularly risky, albeit contravening aspects of the LinkedIn User Agreement. It may seem an easy solution to reach business goals this way but quality is always more important than quantity across every aspect. And quantity of metrics is a risky motivator.
Many outsourced and done-for-you services integrate prohibited plug-in tools, click farms and content that is banal and even at times cut and pasted from global sources. Building networks in these services mostly uses automation tools which place you at risk of profile suspension or LinkedIn jail (where you must have an email address to send an invite). They can also integrate engagement on the posts they curate and or post which are not aligned, in your tone, have poor English grammar or at worst is often disjointed to the topic.
We can see where the buck has been shifted in a flood of motivational memes, vanilla or unintelligent comments on posts, automated invitations, curated cut and pasted content in pulse articles and message responses which show no gravitas or company knowledge. The list continues and most who pass the baton have no idea really what is happening under their name. I recall many instances where I took the courage to ask why someone in the technical sector would have a host of Buddha-type memes. They were shocked and assumed their outsourcing was on their business.
There are often outstanding posts from high-level members where engagement has been outsourced (or automated) as is evidenced in the banal responses that have no conversational substance.
Reflecting back to my original caveats, no-one would expect the likes of Scott Morrison, Richard Branson, Janine Allis, Cindy Hook and Jeff Weiner to answer all their own LinkedIn messages, would they? No, of course not. But for most, it’s a reasonable assumption. I still find it amusing to think many believe that Trump actually does his own tweets. He has a staff member to tweet in his exact voice so that the world thinks they are his own. That is the same for anyone in high office or position, but not for the majority of those I am addressing here.
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So what are the best practices in activity management, profile development and brand strategy? How can the lack of time, money and resources be managed smartly and efficiently?
- Set boundaries of time allocation. Just 15-30 minutes a day is easy for most to manage, but it does take discipline, and like any action, must be tied into a goal that is prioritised as a ‘must do’ not a ‘nice to do’.
- Obtain specialist help with the positioning, creation and development of your profile and personal brand messaging.
- Invest in training and coaching. There is a mountain of free online information to consume together with experts you can engage for a fee.
- Hire and work with content strategists, copywriters or social media marketing specialists. There is a range of fee ranges which will save time and money in the long run especially with content re-purposing. You don’t need to write all your own content or create the roadmap for your strategy. Hell, most people have no idea how to do this. It’s a collaborative effort and great content and strategy takes time and will amplify results. And do hire Australian-based people who understand the local landscape and language.
- Internal assistance. There is nothing wrong with having a trained staff member (or even your permanent Australian VA) help manage your inbox, build connection target lists and post up content. But they must be part of your inner circle and have training to support you correctly. Administration is not the same as engagement and brand activities.
- Company pages. Nominate an internal person as main administrator to upload and curate content and shares on the page. Given they are under the company brand the whole strategy should be part of the overall platform strategy.
- Use LinkedIn’s sales navigator or premium offerings to build lists to send connection requests to. Sure, they can be a little templated (but very creative and sector-aligned). If your internal person is doing this, put a LinkedIn update session as part of your weekly WIP meetings.
Your personal profile and brand is a golden asset. Like anything worthwhile, it takes effort, and as professionals, SMEs or consultants, the buck on LinkedIn does stop with you.