It may be the world’s de facto social network for B2B professionals, but LinkedIn’s content marketing lead says the company has had to overcome all the same challenges as its customers in creating the right approach to storytelling and engaging an audience.
Speaking at Content Marketing World 2018 in Cleveland, Megan Golden said the company created its first editorial council about a year ago to address the fact that those in different teams across its business units were creating what she called “one-off content.” These could be eBooks, blog posts or videos but threatened to dilute the core messages LinkedIn’s content marketing team, which Golden leads, was trying to communicate. “It was also economically inefficient,” she said.
The concept of an editorial council is not new, but Golden said it has become core to informing LinkedIn’s content marketing strategy based on a wide cross-functional membership. This includes leaders from product marketing, demand gen, events, PR, its EMEA and APAC teams, sales leadership, the brand team, customer marketing and its vertical solutions teams.
Besides ensuring strong representation from across LinkedIn, Golden said the editorial council follows a specific three-phase process: intake, where ambassadors come up with 10 to 15 ideas of themes; synthesis, where LinkedIn’s content marketing team winnows those ideas down to a short list based on outliers and trends; and execution, which are the ideas that turn into content based on discussion by the council. The group meets once a month and typically pursues two to four “blockbuster” ideas, Golden said.
One project that came out of the council, for instance, was based on a goal of getting LinkedIn customers to be more self-sufficient as they adopted the platform.
“This meant we wanted to move away from thought leadership content and more to how-to content,” she said. “We (employees) are power users of our own product, so we can tell the story on how to run successful campaigns.”
The strategy was based on one of LinkedIn’s content marketing core principles, which is that good content marketing should be based on familiarity, focus and flexibility. LinkedIn has been publishing its Sophisticated Marketer Guide for years now, for instance, which means it already had a built-in reputation among customers. So the team made even more focused how-to content in a series called The Sophisticated Marketer Sessions, which included a one-pager, a video, a blog series and even a decal that participants could receive after consuming enough of the content.
Golden said LinkedIn’s content marketing team has also debated when it’s best to pursue paid vs. organic reach for its content.
“We’ve concluded that organic reach amplifies paid. You still invest in the best organic content, but then you’re confidently using insights on what was helpful and investing in paid with that,” she said, likening the complementary nature of the two approaches to peanut butter and jelly.
Paid vs. Organic: The LinkedIn View
LinkedIn already knew its blog posts were driving customers to try its paid services organically, for instance. The company built on that with an Inmail campaign that drew 24% net new subscriber to its blog in a month. It then identified one of its best-performing blog posts — a post that referenced Seinfeld character George Costanza — and pinned sponsored content to its page that drew more than 650 new subscribers.
Besides looking internally, Golden said LinkedIn’s content marketing team sees strong lessons from other B2B brands. This includes Schneider Electric, which emphasizes strong visuals, and recruiting firm Hays.
“They seek to be genuinely helpful by knowing their audience,” she said of Hays, noting posts that discuss thorny career issues like how to talk about failure during a job interview. “They’re not just talking about how crazy good their products and services are.”
Consulting firm EY, meanwhile, is a great example of how B2B brands can achieve the consistency of consumer brands like Coke. Just as everyone would recognize the manufacturer of a bright red can with a white ribbon going down the side, Golden pointed out how EY often uses the same yellow hues, a geometric shape to frame content elements and dramatic photography across everything from its microsites to its white papers. “All of this is collectively helping to build a memorable brand across an explosion of channels,” she said.
LinkedIn A/B Test Results
Finally, Golden shared some of what LinkedIn has learned by A/B testing various content marketing approaches. Here’s a run-down of the findings:
- LinkedIn posts with a shorter caption has an 18% boost in conversion rate over longer ones.
- Posts with stats saw a 37% higher CTR and 162% more impressions than those without.
- It pays to call out audiences specifically. LinkedIn saw a 19% higher CTA and 53% conversion rate for calling out “marketers” in posts, for instance.
LinkedIn has also seen the use of “guide” versus “eBook” lead to better performance, Golden said, and that darker-hued creative on a LinkedIn post stood out amid the lighter hues of its feed. She encouraged other marketers to be similarity curious about all aspects of their content and audience behaviors.
“If your’e not constantly testing, you’re leaving money on the table,” she said.
Content Marketing World 2018 wraps up Friday.