LinkedIn is different than most of the social networks out there in that it’s exclusively business-to-business (B2B).
There are no cat pictures or celebrity gossip or gifts; it’s all about business. That means that it’s a powerful tool for getting more clients, as you’ve probably heard over and over (and over) before.
But most of that advice focuses on creating a strong profile and utilizing the groups feature of LinkedIn. While that may have worked well in the past, many LinkedIn groups are nothing but spammy pitch-fests now.
However, the publishing feature is still fairly new, and it can be used as a great way for freelancers to experiment with content marketing. Developing a full-fledged content marketing strategy can feel time consuming and difficult, but LinkedIn’s publishing feature is a great way to get some traction quickly.
What is the publishing feature?
The publishing feature lets you write what are essentially blog posts inside LinkedIn’s platform. You can add photos, videos, and formatting. Here’s an example:
People can “like” and share your LinkedIn content easily from inside the site, and they can also comment on it to ask questions or get clarification. Again, you’ve essentially got all of the functionality of a blog, inside LinkedIn.
How to get it
LinkedIn was previously approving users on an individual basis but has closed applications for the time being because they’re now rolling out the publishing feature for all users. To see if you have access, log in to your LinkedIn dashboard and look for the pencil icon in the status update box.
If you don’t have access, you should soon, so keep reading to find out how to maximize the publishing feature when you do get it.
The dangers of relying on any one social network
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of using LinkedIn’s publishing feature to get clients, it’s my duty as a responsible writer to tell you that you should never rely on any one social network to get all of your clients for you. Your goal should be to leverage a social network to get the best results possible, for as long as possible, but always with a backup plan.
If you don’t have a backup plan (or other ways to get clients), then you’re putting your business at stake. What if that one social network changes the way it publishes or shares your content? This is the boat many small businesses found themselves in when Facebook changed its algorithm so that only a small portion of viewers saw each page update. And you want to avoid being in that sinking ship.
This means, while you’re working on getting clients via LinkedIn (or any other social network), you need to also:
- Get their personal contact information and store it in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. (Here are five suggestions.)
- Follow up with people regularly, whether they’re previous clients or they expressed interest in working together (just not at this time).
- Set up an opt-in form on your website or portfolio and collect email addresses for future email marketing efforts. This is especially helpful if you’re planning on expanding your content marketing efforts outside of LinkedIn.
The benefits of LinkedIn for content marketing
That said, what are the benefits of experimenting with LinkedIn for content marketing and getting new clients?
It’s exclusively B2B
As mentioned above, people don’t come to LinkedIn expecting anything but business. If they’re logging in, they’re interested in business-related content. So they’re much more likely to read a post that looks interesting on business topics, as opposed to the likelihood of them clicking through from Facebook (which they may have logged in to specifically for the purpose of looking at family photos).
You’ve already got an audience
Most professionals have been building connections on LinkedIn, even if slowly. I didn’t log in to LinkedIn on a regular basis for years, but I still had people sending me connection requests. I would occasionally send requests when I did bother to log in.
One of the hardest parts about starting to blog is that “speaking into the void” feeling. Getting people to go out of the way to visit your home base on the Internet and read content that you wrote can be difficult.
With LinkedIn, however, every time you publish a post, your entire network gets notified.
This can help you get more eyeballs on your posts, faster.
It benefits LinkedIn for people to see your posts
It’s in LinkedIn’s best interest to keep people on their site. Which means they’re basically hawking your posts to people as much as possible, especially if someone has already shown that your post is high quality by liking, sharing, or commenting on it. There’s a scrolling sidebar of posts in the Pulse feed, a notification of popular posts on your homepage when you log in and the aforementioned notifications.
While there’s no hard data on it yet, it’s my personal theory that LinkedIn showcases your first posts especially heavily among your network. My first long-form post on LinkedIn got 756 views, and the next two averaged in the 250-300 range, but after that there was a sharp decline. I did get client inquiries from the first few posts–so it does work!
It makes sense that they’d want to get users hooked on writing posts for LinkedIn with high views from the get-go. The takeaway is to stack your highest quality content at the beginning of your LinkedIn publishing ventures to get the best results.
How to write content for LinkedIn that will get you clients
As just mentioned, the benefits of LinkedIn publishing won’t do you any good if you’re not:
- Publishing quality content. It’s worth it to spend a few hours crafting and editing your content because the goal here is to get you clients.
- Being strategic about your posts. After all, you don’t want to just put something random up without a plan, even if it’s quality content. Everything you publish should have thought behind it.
With that in mind, here are a few tips.
Write for clients–not your peers
This is one of the most common mistakes freelancers make when they start writing. They write about problems they’ve had and overcome in their own business or other content that applies to people in their field. Even if the content is good, they don’t get clients from it because the people who are reading it are other Web designers or developers, not people who want to hire someone for those services.
Instead, you want to write content that your potential clients would be interested in. For example, a Web designer would want to write an article titled “Three Ways Bad Design Is Killing Your Profits,” not “Six Ways I Upped My Web Design Income.” Once someone realizes that bad Web site design has a real effect on their bottom line, they’ll start thinking about how to improve it, and that smartypants designer is going to be at the top of their list.
Have a call to action at the end
If someone reads your post and loves it, you don’t want to leave them hanging–you need to give them a next step. If you don’t give them a next step, chances are that they’ll read the article, love it, maybe share or comment, and then click away into the abyss that is the Internet. Potential client, lost. And that’s where the call to action comes in.
A few suggestions for your CTA
You’ll want to refine these to be extra persuasive and to fit your business (here’s a good starter guide), but if you’re looking for ideas to get you started, here are a few:
- Book a consultation. You can use a free (and awesome) tool like Calendly to create a scheduling link for a 15- or 30-minute consultation and prompt people to talk to you to learn more about who you are and what you can do for them. It might seem like a waste of time, but chances are, you’ll learn a lot about your potential clients (that you can use to market more effectively to them), meet new people and get new clients.
- Read more about what I can do for your business. Create a landing page on your portfolio site that gives a brief description of what you do, with easy ways for them to get more information (such as links to examples of your work or client case studies) and link to it at the end of the post.
- Sign up to get updates. If you follow the earlier suggestion and decide to set up an email list to market yourself with, you can link to a page that has an opt-in form and prompt them to sign up for your newsletter or updates.
Craft a compelling headline
LinkedIn shows your post to a lot of people–but only the headline. You can write the best content in the world, but if the headline doesn’t make them want to click and read, you’ll be shouting into an echo chamber.
Quicksprout has a great infographic on the formula for a perfect headline, and Copyblogger has a series on writing magnetic headlines. Using those two resources, you should be well on your way to writing better headlines.
Don’t forget to share it elsewhere
LinkedIn might be advertising your posts to people in and out of your network, but you should do your best to boost them as well, including sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Further reading on using LinkedIn to get clients
Looking for some next steps while you wait for access to the publishing feature? Here’s some further reading:
The Principles of Beautiful Web Design, 4th Edition
Docker for Web Developers
HTML5 Games: Novice to Ninja