If you’ve been in digital marketing for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of LinkedIn as a viable source of lead generation.
And you’ve probably gotten lots of messages from people you don’t know, looking to “connect.”
But as a brand, when I’ve looked at LinkedIn in the past, I’ve never been sure where to start. They have groups, slides, status updates, InMail…and in my mind, it’s more of a free-for-all.
I’m not sure how to use it, other than the cold email approach used by consultants or B2B enterprise sales people looking for leads and consultations.
And that approach just isn’t going to work long-term if you want to build a company brand and not a personal one.
So I started to wonder…
What scalable lead generation tactics are there for brands on LinkedIn? Which specific features are worth investing in to incorporate into your brand’s social media strategy?
Like most business owners, I’m willing to invest in something if it gets me results.
In this article, stick with me as I go feature by feature to figure it out. I’ll also throw in some case studies about which features are benefiting which brands. Then we’ll use these criteria to disqualify some of the LinkedIn features you can do without.
Let’s dig in.
Feature #1: LinkedIn Groups
Description: LinkedIn has countless professional groups that are free to join with an account. At any time, you can search for a new group using the LinkedIn search page or by clicking this handy directory.
As you can see from the directory pictured above, groups range from super specific (Lean Six Sigma, Harvard Business Review) to general (Retail Industry Professionals Group, Consultants Network, Social Media Marketing).
By joining a group, you can start discussions and engage in current ones. You can also connect with professionals across various industries.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: To use LinkedIn Groups for lead generation, marketing resource IMPACT Branding & Design recommends participating in groups related to your industry and/or groups appealing to your buyer personas.
Once you’re approved for these groups, you should post tailored, relevant content to appeal to potential leads.
Neil Patel, in an article he wrote on Forbes, says starting your own LinkedIn group is beneficial because you can include your own content that’s tailored to your leads.
Case Study: Technology company Swip Systems produces intelligence and automation, cloud solutions, infrastructure, and mobile and software development. The company wanted to find prospects in new ways, so they started their own group on LinkedIn.
It was a slow start, but the group eventually grew to more than 3,800 members.
While running the group, Swip Systems also redid the LinkedIn account for its CEO, Tom Swip. This led to thousands of targeted prospects becoming connections.
By using other features like LinkedSelling, Swip Systems had a 447% increase in ROI. They also added over 6,500+ prospects to their sales funnel.
LinkedIn groups can get you leads for your brand, but it’s better if you create your own group. That way you can be seen as an authority, members naturally want to know more about you, and you have a more direct line of communication with group members than if you were in someone else’s group.
Also, it’s important for key employees to make connections with group members on LinkedIn as well.
Feature #2: SlideShare
Description: LinkedIn has a sort of “YouTube for Presentations” section of their site called SlideShare. These are like PowerPoint presentations and can include images, video, text, and links that you flip through.
Once you make a SlideShare, you can post it on LinkedIn’s website. According to LinkedIn, more than 70 million use the site monthly.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: With a sizeable audience, the lead generation potential is huge. The main way to get people’s eyes on your SlideShare content is through the effective used of keywords in posting your slide decks.
If a user searches for a specific keyword and your slideshow is the first to come up, they’ll likely click on it. If your content is relevant and actionable and appealing, they could check out your website, sign up for your mailing list, and become a lead.
Case Study: Traffic Generation Café, a marketing resource, tried SlideShare and had great results. Site founder Ana Hoffman says she was unaware of SlideShare before this campaign.
Once she learned what it was, she was curious to publish on there, so she did. Her article was about gaining Twitter followers. She amassed 3,500 views in the first two weeks of publication.
Within a year, and after uploading several more presentations, she had a cumulative view count of more than 395,000.
To spread your brand’s content to a new audience, SlideShare is a free and effective option. It can work for lead gen, but your content must stand out amongst the endless sea of slideshows. And remember: keyword usage is crucial here.
Feature #3: Publishing on LinkedIn
Description: If you’re not that into the slideshow format, you could always write good old-fashioned content in the form of blog posts, how-tos, and more, then publish it on LinkedIn.
It’s viewable from your profile’s Articles section so anyone who sees your profile can find your work.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: Besides showing up on your profile, here are few other ways you can reach new audiences with content there:
- Make sure your profile visibility is public instead of private. If it is, then users can search for your content even if they don’t have a LinkedIn account.
- If someone sees your article on LinkedIn but doesn’t necessarily follow you or isn’t in your network, they can still share it. They can also follow your work to see your future content. This will appear in their newsfeeds.
- Your followers and connections will also get immediate access to the content. They may get notifications or see it in their newsfeeds.
Case Study: Didit.com, a services testing site, decided to try out LinkedIn’s publishing feature. They wrote an article on Google Glass in 2014, which is available to read here. The article went live on a Friday.
The article, as a think piece, generated momentum into the weekend. In fact, by Sunday night, Didit.com’s article had 23 Facebook comments, 19 tweets on Twitter, 63 comments and 213 thumbs ups on LinkedIn, 408 LinkedIn InShares, and over 12,000 views.
Publishing on LinkedIn can work to generate leads for brands—but you have to make sure you track your own bottom-line results. 12,000 views may sound like a lot, but what will that mean in dollars for your company?
Feature #4: LinkedIn LeadGen Forms
Description: LeadGen Forms are forms for lead generation that LinkedIn fills in for you based on a lead’s profile information.
You can alter the LeadGen Forms as desired, as seen below.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: First, you create an advertisement with your Sponsored Content (more on this later) that includes a CTA. Then, wait for your leads to start clicking your ad.
From there, they’ll be brought to the lead gen form. This autofills their location, job title, company name, and contact information. That may increase the likelihood of the leads submitting the form since they don’t have to do any work.
When new leads come in via the lead form, they get redirected to your website, your LinkedIn content page, or a landing page.
Through LinkedIn’s built-in marketing and advertising, you can toggle to the Campaign Manager and manage your leads. If you use a different marketing automation platform or customer relationship management software, like Zapier or Marketo, LinkedIn can sync to that as well.
There are even analytics for lead generation, including lead conversions, lead form fill rate, and cost per lead.
Case Study: IT infrastructure company IR was looking to home in on its target audience. They used LinkedIn’s LeadGen Forms and Sponsored Content.
First, they found their audience through the geotargeting filters LinkedIn offers. Then, they created their LeadGen Forms and ran these with their Sponsored Content.
The company saved money, lowering their cost per lead by 44%. Not only that, but they had two times higher conversion rates.
LeadGen Forms are a crucial part of lead generation for brands on LinkedIn. That said, these work best with Sponsored Content, so you have to be willing to pay to get leads.
Feature #5: Sponsored Posts
Description: If you’d like, you can take the content you wrote and pay for it to become more visible. This is known as Sponsored Content. This is one form of native advertising available on LinkedIn.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: There is a slew of perks you get when you pay for Sponsored Content that can aid you in lead generation.
You can use LinkedIn’s conversion tracking for reviewing lead growth. With audience targeting and posting on mobile or desktop devices, more eyes will be on your posts allowing you to build your reach.
To control the money spent on the campaign, you can choose from cost per impression and cost per click while adjusting your budget.
HubSpot posted some of its best offers to its users as Sponsored Content. This appeared amongst LinkedIn’s other organic content.
This major lead generation campaign worked in HubSpot’s favor, netting them significant leads. In fact, they found that compared to other platforms, they generated 400% more leads using LinkedIn.
As a source of online lead gen, Sponsored Content on LinkedIn can work best for your brand when combined with LeadGen Forms.
Feature #6: Messages/InMail
Description: If you’ve ever used LinkedIn before, you know you can send and receive messages. If you’re like me though, you probably don’t check your inbox often because you’re busy and it’s usually filled with spam messages.
There are also limits on your free messages. If you want to reach out to someone, you must be connected. Otherwise, no dice.
That’s where InMail comes in. By paying for a Premium account, you can send messages to anyone, whether you’re connected or not.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: As you can see from the above image, LinkedIn lets you write targeted messages to potential leads. You can choose the salutation and even the message category to increase your open rate.
Most of the time, those who pay for InMail use it to recruit for jobs, but there are a lot of other uses available, such as lead generation.
Case Study: E-signature transaction management company DocuSign was having trouble getting leads to go where they needed them to go, namely, the top of their sales funnel.
They also wanted to create a funnel these leads could follow to the transaction stage where they became customers.
They decided to start a LinkedIn InMail campaign. This campaign had a few steps for success, including:
- Using public relations professionals to ensure the wording of each InMail message was targeted.
- Making a LinkedIn ad that would run in conjunction to the InMail campaign.
- Creating three landing pages to redirect leads based on the InMail content.
DocuSign opened what it called three significant sales funnel pipeline opportunities. They also had 350 community signups.
While some marketers have had success with InMail, with spam email such a problem, this is one LinkedIn feature you might want to skip.
Feature #7: Status Updates
Description: Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only social media channels with status updates. LinkedIn has these, too. These are available on your profile by clicking “share an update.”
Again, most of the time, a LinkedIn user will make an update to let those in their circle know they’re looking for a new job.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: That said, these status updates can also be used for lead generation.
Neil Patel wrote a great post on LinkedIn about making status updates that people will want to read. In it, he discusses the benefits of posting a status update. He says it allows others (even those outside of your connections) to see your name, title, business, photo, and even visible engagement metrics.
Neil writes that a general LinkedIn user’s feed is 80% status updates. He also says that if you make a post on behalf of your company, you could end up with impressive referral traffic numbers.
In the article, a LinkedIn study was cited that found that you can target most of your audience (60%) by making 20 monthly status updates.
Case Study: Salesforce.com wanted to engage its followers more efficiently, so members of their company posted targeted status updates on LinkedIn. These updates had localized content that would appeal to Salesforce.com’s regional audience.
To determine what kind of updates to make and when, Salesforce.com reviewed the industries and locations of its audience. Updates were made often to “build buzz” but never to the point of annoying the audience.
SalesForce.com had quick results, enjoying 30% more follower engagement in just a week’s time.
Follow social media etiquette for best results with LinkedIn status updates. That includes segmenting your audience based on location and interests and writing catchy copy with images and/or videos.
Feature #8: ProFinder
Description: The last feature we’re going to focus on is LinkedIn ProFinder. If you have a project that needs to get done and you’re looking for professional freelancers for the job, this is what you should use.
You can choose from the services you need.
Services are broken down into some of the following categories: home improvement, photography, insurance, real estate, legal, business consulting, and software development.
Once you find the service you want, click it and you’ll get quotes from several pros in that field. You can then decide which freelancer you want to work with.
How Brands Use it for Lead Generation: As of this writing, you can’t use ProFinder for lead generation. It’s good for finding freelancers (or listing yourself if you are one) and building a potential long-term professional relationship, but that’s about it.
This is one of LinkedIn’s newest features, so its capabilities may change over time to include lead generation that is relevant to brands.
Case Study: When Krista Gray at lifestyle resource Brit + Co used ProFinder for tracking down freelancers, she had a mixed reaction.
In her case, she reported few matches, mostly because the freelancers were lacking certain skills or industry experience or they weren’t clear enough about their interests.
Gray did say most freelancers got back to her very quickly, which is a perk. That said, she wasn’t pleased with the quality of leads.
At this time, ProFinder probably isn’t a useful tool for brand-based lead generation. You’re better off using LinkedIn’s other features.
Without a doubt, LinkedIn has a lot of features. This platform is useful for more than just job-seeking, though. When it comes to lead generation, a handful of LinkedIn’s features can help your brand reach new audiences and bring in leads.
- LinkedIn groups and status updates can all generate leads if approached with a marketing mindset, but in many cases may be less scalable compared to the “one-to-many” reach of other features.
- SlideShare, published articles, and Sponsored Posts are great lead gen methods that are extremely scalable for lead gen and can attract your target audience on or off LinkedIn.
- LeadGen Forms and Sponsored Content go hand-in-hand and are probably the most ROI-focused combination of social marketing features LinkedIn offers.
- ProFinder and InMail, at this point, are not worth your time as a lead gen tool.
Which LinkedIn feature do you find most compelling for growing your brand or generating your leads after reading this article? Let me know in the comments below.
Keep Hustlin’, Stay Focused,