LinkedIn Has Opened the Content Marketing Floodgates

Linkedin Centipedes at 2010 Bay to BreakersLinkedIn has gone Tumblr on us and B2B content marketers are drooling. Finally, you can publish directly on LinkedIn, along with people like Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

It seems like the perfect opportunity, but it is brand new territory. What should you expect going in? How should you approach it?

Although it has only been available for two weeks, and only to a handful of people, here are my initial expectations.

1. B2B Content Marketing Will Flood LinkedIn

LinkedIn is already a must-have partner for nearly every large B2B marketing program. The combination of audience and targeting consistently put it in the consideration set and LinkedIn is already a solid traffic source for many B2B marketers.

So what will B2B content marketers do once they have the opportunity to publish on LinkedIn? They will RUN to the opportunity. Hundreds of executives will begin publishing on LinkedIn as part of their company’s content marketing effort.

As more individuals and companies get on board, there will be an uptick in the amount of marketing content in the LinkedIn stream. That means more competition for every marketer that gets involved.

2. Get Ready To Pay

As a marketer, you will need to pay on LinkedIn, just like you do on any other social platform, if your content is going to be widely seen. As more marketers get on board, competition for space in the stream will increase and just like we have seen recently with Facebook, visibility of your content will decrease.

LinkedIn already has a solution in place and waiting: Sponsored Updates. The bid-based, extremely targetable content promotion is perfect for increasing distribution of articles to specific B2B target audiences.

For LinkedIn, increased demand will mean increased revenue and potentially higher rates for Sponsored Updates as well.

3. Create Lots of Audiences

The saga continues to repeat. Every time there is a new platform available, you have to create another audience. You have an email list. You have a Facebook page. You have a Twitter following.

Now you have a tough decision to make on LinkedIn: what audience will you build? On LinkedIn, publishing is tied to an individual’s personal account. Someone who could leave the company. Someone who could publish personal interest articles in the future. Someone who can take their audience with them. Yikes!

Here are the three options most marketers will be choosing from:

  • A single spokesperson. A single executive can develop a personal following that benefits the company. This approach is particularly relevant for small companies where this can be the owner or founder.
  • A group approach. By slowly building an audience for multiple individuals in the organization, each individual will naturally lean towards different topics or types of content. If one person leaves, there is a smaller audience impact. This approach will work well for companies that insource their content marketing and have individuals publishing under their own names already.
  • Build the company following. Instead of actively building the audience of an individual or individuals, large companies will invest primarily in building their company page. Any new contributor to the company’s content marketing program will have the full benefit of the company audience that has been developed.

Even the company following isn’t anywhere close to a perfect solution for companies. A significant audience will still be built over time for the most active participants or contributors. Within larger organizations, expect this to be a barrier to full-fledged adoption of publishing on LinkedIn.

4. It Doesn’t Tie To Your Site

Eventually, you will want to get people back to your site. LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy.

With LinkedIn publishing, your content lives in the LinkedIn content well. You cannot surround your content with links to other content, current promotions, or other elements you would include on your own blog or even your Facebook page.

Initially, you will need to carefully include links to additional relevant information directly in your article and you will not be able to rotate out links or promotions the way you can on most sites.

5. LinkedIn Will Favor On-Site Content

We may never know if LinkedIn actually favors on-site content in order to keep people within the walls of LinkedIn, and driving LinkedIn ad revenue, but expect people to accuse LinkedIn of favoring on-site content.

As LinkedIn becomes another place where we find content that is being algorithmically recommended to us, LinkedIn will have more information about what content is well received, and what isn’t, when it is on their site. With on-site content, LinkedIn will be able to see comment rates and share rates, quality signals it can’t pick up for off-site content.

So is it favoritism? Or just better insight into the difference between good and great content for you? I’ll tentatively vote the later, but either way expect strong content on-site to have an edge.

6. Brace for Backlash

Like on any other social media property, the audience’s voice is nearly as loud as yours. They won’t like your disguised self-promotional content and they will let you know.

As I write this, the top post today on LinkedIn is How to Get a Job — No Matter What! The article has about 75,000 views in less than a day and is a pitch to buy books or training (for as much as $299) to help you land that job. The comments aren’t friendly.

With nearly 200 likes on his comment, Victor said “I believe this type of commercials should be clearly marked as that at the beginning.”

Another top comment says “Buy my book on “Why This Is Not An Article” for just $299.99.”

Ouch.

Should You Publish On LinkedIn?

Yes!

Despite the uncertainties and potential concerns, if you have the chance to get in early, do it. But do it with helpful, not hard selling, content. All you potentially lose is a couple of articles, a small price to test a brand new opportunity on a platform like LinkedIn. You have a lot to gain, particularly if you get in before LinkedIn is overrun by other content marketers.

Other Changes to Watch For

Note these may already be in the works, or even in place, I have not discussed these items with LinkedIn.

I expect to see a number of additional changes as LinkedIn rolls out this program, including:

  • Individuals, not just companies, will be able to promote updates on LinkedIn.
  • Companies will be able to publish on LinkedIn as well.
  • LinkedIn will sell companies the advertising space surrounding content published by their employees.

Your Turn

Will your company be publishing LinkedIn? Share your view on the program and how you will approach it in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive via Flickr cc

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  • carmenhill

    Eric, I think you can also expect a flurry of articles about SXSW…the release is perfectly timed! And I expect I’ll be guilty ;)

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Looking forward to it!

  • http://4eyesmarketing.com/ Jonathan Beaton

    Erica, great stuff as usual. My only hesitancy about publishing on LinkedIn is the fact that we would be adding value to a platform that we do not directly own. Whereas creating content and publishing it on our own sites is adding value to something that we do directly own. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely see the positives but my suggestion is to make sure to use it in such a way that it indirectly adds value to something with more permanence and/or personal ownership.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks. Yes, this is a big issue with any off-site publishing. Remember Posterous? As we see more companies move towards publishing off-site as well (Forbes BrandVoice is still a great example in B2B), I think this will increasingly become part of the mix. Although a LinkedIn-only approach could be interesting for a scrappy challenger…

      Thanks for adding an important point!

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  • Mark Salke

    Hey Eric,

    Thanks for this post! Re: #3, I think I’d take the group approach. It builds credibility to have lots of voices contributing. What do you suppose the real impact of #4 is? Being able to link to and share content would be nice…

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Mark, you can link to your site from within your articles, but it is then fixed at a point in time. It isn’t ideal, but I think it will be ok for many marketers. A guest post or contributed article somewhere is no different. That and I think LinkedIn will change it.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Jesse Kaellis

    No, I don’t think I would take this fabulous opportunity, but if my publisher want’s to…

  • http://www.funnelholic.com/ Craig Rosenberg

    So my first LinkedIn post got picked up by Pulse at got roughly 1000 linkedin shares and 10K views. For a little blogger like me, that was A-Mazing. Next post did not do as well. Everyone will be worried about “not driving traffic to their site” but I got tons of newsletter subscribers in the process.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      That’s awesome Craig, thanks for sharing. I didn’t have access as early as you did or I probably would have posted this on LinkedIn as my first test.