Over time quite a few social networking sites have come and gone; fading from prominence against the force of Facebook.
They have included household names like Friendster and MySpace and lesser known sites like Bebo. Even Google is on their second attempt to create a viable social networking alternative to Facebook but to date, has been met with little success..
There is one site, however, that took off and has stood the test of time and people's ability to belong to many online social communities simultaneously - LinkedIn. Ask a room full of business people how many of them are on LinkedIn and you will see just how well the professional network has done for itself.
LinkedIn taps into something most professionals are quite passionate about (or at least somewhat interested in) - their careers and connections. The "business-only" aspect of LinkedIn stands in stark contrast to the entertainment and social aspects of Facebook. For many, the professional environment of LinkedIn is just what is needed in order to partition their personal and professional lives (although many, including myself, have inextricably mixed the two).
There are clear reasons to be a fan - and no, I don't mean a Facebook fan - of LinkedIn. The professional network, however, was relatively slow to open its property and platform to companies and brands wishing to connect with others and to promote themselves in the way Facebook has with their fan pages. As a result, many believe LinkedIn lost some valuable time engaging companies, both large and small, interested in the possibilities presented in the platform. That has started to change - albeit slowly. More companies than ever before are building out and nurturing their presence on LinkedIn with company profiles, interacting with followers and exploring the variety of advertising opportunities available.
Whether your company has been there since the beginning or is about to test the virtual waters of the Web's most important professional network, let the following serve as a step-by-step guide to promoting your company on LinkedIn.
Create your Profile: Consider your LinkedIn Page as a Facebook Fan Page of sorts for your company on LinkedIn. Once you have admin access to your company page, begin by filling in the appropriate information on the Overview tab - and don't forget to use high-value keywords in your description for SEO purposes, as these profiles do get indexed!
Set Up a Products/Services tab: The products and services tab on LinkedIn allows a business to showcase its offerings. Elements you can post include a full list of products and services with an image, description and key features.
Encourage Recommendations: Once a product or service is posted, users can post recommendations of those products. You should encourage your employees and customers to endorse your products as much as possible.
Review Page's Analytics: As an admin of a company page, you're able to see the analytics behind your profile including your profile's unique visitors, page views, clicks on the products and services tab, members following your page, and the types of people visiting your page.
Alter Pages by Demographics: After you create a generic products and services tab, consider creating alternative pages for different demographics. LinkedIn gives company page administrators the ability to show targeted products and services pages to specific user/industry segments (job function, industry, seniority, geography, etc.).
For example, Overdrive Interactive shows a different product or services tab to someone who is in the marketing field than to someone in design. This enables a business to target a user based on a defining characteristic, proving relevant as soon as the user clicks on the tab, much like a landing page does in a search campaign.
Post Status Updates: Just like Facebook, LinkedIn status updates end up in the news feeds of those people following your company. LinkedIn recently announced that all companies will soon be able to target their status updates title, industry or company size.
Add a LinkedIn Share Button to Site Content: Encourage users who visit your site and/or blog to share what they read on LinkedIn. Adding a share button, much as a company would a "Like," "Tweet," or "+1" button enables users to easily share from your site.
Add a LinkedIn Follow Company Button to Your Site: This lets you build your LinkedIn followers right from your site and gives users the ability to follow your company without having to go to your profile. The button can include the number of followers the company has, or just the "Follow" button itself.
Promote your Page on other Social Channels: Encourage users on other social sites to become a part of your LinkedIn community. Post status updates and tweets encouraging users to follow you on LinkedIn as well.
Promote your Page in an Email: Much as you would any other social network, promote your LinkedIn Page in an email to encourage people who already have an interest in your company to follow you for more company and industry news.
Encourage Employees and Advocates to Follow your Page: Certainly the easiest group to acquire as followers of your profile is your employees. Encourage them to "show some school spirit" by reminding them often to follow you on LinkedIn. Do it with email, in individual conversations and, of course, at company meetings.
Set Up and Manage Groups: Have the thought leaders in your company set up groups around certain topics and spread the word every way they can to get people to join these groups? Of course, you need to realize that these groups need to be moderated and nurtured.
Join Groups: Because companies cannot join groups, it is wise to have individuals from your company join groups about your company and industry. When employees and brand advocates participate in groups, posting discussions and questions, they further increase the reach of your company.
Create a Poll within Groups: Creating an easy-to-answer poll within a group provides a way to receive quick feedback. This question can be used strictly for engagement, to gather information about group members, or to learn what the group would like to discuss. Then you can create white papers, blog posts, infographics and general content from the results of the poll.
Post a question: Users are able to ask questions of their networks and ultimately the entire LinkedIn network. This is an easy way to crowd source the LinkedIn community for valuable insights and opinions.
Answer a question: In addition to asking questions, employees and advocates should also answer them. This will establish the individual as a thought leader and bring other LinkedIn users to your Company Page should a user click on the employee answering the question.
About the Author: Harry J. Gold is the Founder and CEO of Overdrive Interactive.