In January this year, an executive at British gas exploration company BG Group was fired for having a LinkedIn profile that displayed his resume and willingness to accept job offers.
It was a strange turn of events, as LinkedIn has for several years been pitching itself not just to employees looking to switch jobs, but to companies looking to build community, attract talent, and sell their services. In 2010, the social network introduced “company” pages, giving the businesses that use it a place to build and promote their brand.
However, the feature is underutilised, LinkedIn experts tell LeadingCompany.
“It’s something that I have discussed with a number of corporations, but many aren’t really aware of it,” says LinkedInologist Jennifer Bishop, the director of Content & Copy Australia.
Michelle Prak, a social media consultant, says she hasn’t seen many companies using LinkedIn well from a branding perspective.
“But there are opportunities there, and I think they should be using it that way,” she says.
Why use LinkedIn’s company pages?
“Most companies will find a lot of their staff already have individual LinkedIn profiles,” Prak continues. “If you draw those together, they’re already painting a picture of that company.”
In fact, just having staff listing you as their place of work could mean you already have a LinkedIn company page. Once a certain number of people say they work with a company, LinkedIn generates a company page automatically.
Leaving such pages unused isn’t a good idea, because they will be found. Bishop explains how LinkedIn is a goldmine for search engine optimisation (SEO).
“The SEO power of LinkedIn is one of the strongest in terms of all social media,” Bishop says. “Usually if you look up a person or business, their LinkedIn profile is the first thing you’ll find about them… Search engines these days are looking for [currency] as well as relevance. With LinkedIn, there are professional conversations going on all the time. So search engines pick up on the conversations.”
If people are going to look at your company online, it makes sense to think about and control what they are likely to see first.
Who should use company pages?
Bishop says in her experience, professional businesses (accountants, lawyers, engineers) are often early adopters of LinkedIn’s newest features.
This makes sense, as they are providers of business-to-business services. LinkedIn is increasingly being used by the decision-makers of companies for personal profiles, networking and discussion groups. By marketing themselves well on the social network, B2B providers can be top of mind when a business is looking for their services.
Another group that can gain a lot from LinkedIn is businesses that rely on traffic and engagement, like those in marketing, PR, and other professional services. The reason LinkedIn is so good for such businesses lies in its news feed. On Facebook, the average page post only reaches 17% of fans (this increases if your posts regularly get lots of feedback). LinkedIn uses a different approach. Since March individuals have had the option of ‘following’ companies on LinkedIn. This means all that company’s posts appear on the timelines of all those who follow it, regardless of whether or not they engage with the posts.
Companies are also leveraging LinkedIn for recruitment. In fact, take-up of LinkedIn’s premium recruitment accounts (it costs $195 a month to post job openings on a company page, although entry-level jobs are free to post until June 2013) was credited by the company’s CEO Jeff Weiner as being responsible for its bumper profit this year.
How to use a company page
Filling out a company page isn’t all that different to using any other social network’s corporate profiles, though the format does allow a lot of detail.
But LinkedIn’s professional connection system means it’s important for companies to engage with all their employees instead of leaving the LinkedIn issue to their marketers. “Their staff profiles are the first thing you see,” Prak explains. “So staff profiles with no image, with few connections, don’t look good. It’s almost better for individuals not to be on LinkedIn at all rather than to have empty profiles.
“Companies should give guidelines to all employees on how they represent themselves on LinkedIn,” Prak continues. Things like having a professional photograph and engaging with the site in a professional manner are important, she says.
Bishop says the most common mistake is not taking the social network seriously enough. “People sometimes don’t understand the SEO power of LinkedIn,” she says.
She says companies need to engage in “proactive reputation management”, engaging employees on the importance of LinkedIn and how anything they say can and will be picked up by Google.