The complete guide to content marketing on LinkedIn

We all know that LinkedIn is the social network for professionals, and a valuable tool for recruiters across the world. What you might not have realised, however, is the potential of the platform when it comes to content marketing.

As LinkedIn has evolved, opportunities to share content have increased, and with a growing, interested audience to market your services to, the site really should be an integral part of your content strategy.

How does LinkedIn differ from other platforms, such as Facebook, when it comes to publishing content? Well, for starters, posting cat memes and sharing photos of your dinner is actively discouraged. Quality content is placed on a pedestal, as Andrea Fryear of Ceros notes: “members are more likely to share professional content that builds their professional brands, strengthens their professional networks, or helps them sell to their networks. Marketing content will be shared more if it fulfils these needs.”

Here’s our complete guide to getting the most out of LinkedIn:

Content types

When planning your content marketing strategy on LinkedIn, it’s important to think about what you want to share, and what your goals are. This will dictate the eventual guise your content takes – do you stay short, or do you go long?

Short status updates

The easiest way to penetrate your audience’s consciousness is through the LinkedIn status update. Updates are shared with your network, and when someone likes your status, it is disseminated among their followers too. Status updates are a great way for you to release the latest company news, link to content published elsewhere and offer your reaction to news pieces or blog posts in your industry. Hubspot recommend posting a status two to three times a day – just enough to establish yourself among your connections, without coming across as too ‘spammy’.

LinkedIn even offer a handy guide, informing you how you can get the most engagement out of your status updates. These tips include encouraging your audience to get in touch or comment via a call to action, posting regularly (“Companies that post 20 times a month, on average, reach 60% of their followers with 1 or more updates”, the guide says) and implementing different ways to monitor performance. What better way is there to provoke comment than this example from Network Sunday?

Long form posts

The other main form of content found on LinkedIn is the long form post. LinkedIn has evolved from a professional networking site to become a bona fide publishing platform and, with 414 million users, your content could get a lot of traction if those in your industry pick up on it and decide to share. Long form posts can act as both a content creation and a content redistribution tool, according to Jayson DeMers of Forbes,  as users can publish fresh content or choose to repurpose their existing blog posts to reach a new, interested audience.

Longer posts, if implemented correctly, are beneficial as they portray you or your company as ‘thought leaders’, eager to share your knowledge and benefit from the experiences of others in your industry. Your connections will receive a notification when you publish a post via Pulse, so it’s easy to see how a well-written piece that adds value to the conversation can quickly spread like wildfire. Hubspot recommends publishing in this manner once or twice a week, for maximum effect.

One particularly good Pulse example comes from Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently. In this article, Snow discusses the importance of building a business’s story by delving into the background of Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling. Now, whether the post spread (over 400,000 views and 3,000 likes to date) due to the link with the star of The Notebook or because of its powerful message (“the more personal a story we share, the closer it can bring people to us”) isn’t clear, but it shows the potential ‘thinking outside of the box’ can deliver – it’s a good post, with a tangible example and a valuable takeaway for the audience. And that is, ultimately, what you’re looking for.

Content distribution channels

Once you’ve decided on the form your content is going to take, you’ll need to choose the optimal channel through which to distribute it. There are five common options:

Personal profile

As a business owner, you’ll ideally have two presences on LinkedIn: a personal profile, through which you can establish yourself as an experienced and knowledgeable figure in your sector, and a business page, which represents your brand and also unlocks extra features, such as sponsored updates. The majority of your content should be published through your personal account, but remember to cross-promote posts and updates from the business, your employees and others in your industry for maximum effect.

Business page

Storytelling is a buzzword in content marketing at the moment, and a LinkedIn company page provides you with the perfect opportunity to get your message across. You can connect with employees and encourage them to share your company material, post job opportunities and update your connections with ‘news from the factory floor’.

IT firm TEKsystems are a good example to follow. They are prompt at interacting with users via the comment section on their posts, while the firm’s content contributors are encouraged to respond to feedback via their personal accounts, helping to expel the traditional image of companies being ‘faceless.’

Luke Brynley-Jones, founder of Our Social Times, says “94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to share content, making it the most popular B2B social media platform.”  With this statistic in mind, it would be madness for your business not to be present in some way.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are places where those in your industry can interact, make contact and establish themselves as thought leaders in their sector. While some of the content you share may be irrelevant to a percentage of your followers, distributing as a participant of a special interest group ensures that you’re preaching to an audience who are interested in what you or your business has to say. Digital Marketing and B2B Marketing are among the most popular groups, with tens of thousands of members, but joining a smaller group, such as LinkedIn Business Strategists, could also be beneficial, as your content is less likely to get lost among all the noise.

LinkedIn Pulse

Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform and is the channel to use if you wish to distribute longer content and reach a wider audience. Some of the world’s most influential people post through Pulse – even Bill Gates uses it! Quality content posted through this medium can invade the newsfeeds of thousands and help start a conversation, with you or your business right at the centre.

Sponsored updates

Sponsored updates are only available on business profiles, but they allow you to target your audience precisely. Try your posts organically on LinkedIn before you pay to use this platform, and use content that has gained the most traction. Use LinkedIn’s aforementioned guide to tailor your updates in the most effective way and this article from Adstage form inspiration from good examples of sponsored updates in the past.

Finding a balance

Like any successful content marketing strategy, you will have to find a balance between these five channels, a need recognised by Post Planner’s Rebekah Radice, who implores you to “stay top of mind by consistently sharing relevant content to your LinkedIn page and taking advantage of expanded reach through LinkedIn Pulse. And don’t forget to cross-promote within your LinkedIn Groups and via your personal profile.”

How you approach content marketing on LinkedIn will depend on your particular niche, the identity of your audience and, perhaps most importantly, the story you want to get across. For us, Jason A Miller’s quote, which can be roughly paraphrased as ‘users spend their time on Facebook and see their time on LinkedIn as an investment’, rings true, so ensure you’re always offering them something valuable, and work from there.

Image courtesy of Nan Palmero

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5 Fantastic content marketing idea generators

As a content marketer, you’ll be all too aware of the daily struggle to generate fresh, shareable content. You might be an expert in every aspect of the products or services you provide, but if you can’t come up with content that will be read and shared by the right people, you’re going to struggle to remain relevant.

Fortunately, you don’t just have to go it alone. Make use of the following 5 tools to generate ideas for content that will prove a hit with your target audience.

Alltop

Use this for: Jumping on the newsjacking bandwagon

Newsjacking’ should be a word you’re familiar with by now. It involves taking a current news story and then putting your own twist on it, so it resonates with your audience. If you’re struggling for ideas for your content, this is a great way to tap into people’s interests, establish your brand as an authoritative voice and get your personality across. A good site to use for newsjacking is Alltop, which ranks the most popular stories and sites from across the web.

You can also get a run down of what’s being talked about in your industry, as Alltop lists posts from the most influential brands and bloggers. A quick search for ‘content marketing’, for example, throws up blogs from the likes of Joe Polizzi at Content Marketing Institute and Copyblogger, as well as insight from more niche corners of the internet. If you scroll through the variety of titles on show, you’re bound to find an article or two from which you can take inspiration.

BuzzSumo

Use this for: Informing and inspiring shareworthy content

BuzzSumo’s primary purpose is to inform you how content is performing online, giving you an insight into how to tailor your future output. As the Content Marketing Conference succinctly puts it, BuzzSumo ensures ‘your content is getting the attention it deserves’. Although you’ll have to pay to use the full version of the tool, it’s indispensable if you want to stay on-trend with current topics and viral content.

The BuzzSumo Content tab is particularly bountiful if you want to discover what the most shared items of content are for particular keywords. Simply enter your search term, and BuzzSumo will scan the major social media platforms and, for Mike Kaput of PR2020, “the result is a priceless trove of data that tells you exactly what content resonates with audiences searching for a particular topic or keyword.”

BuzzSumo can also let you know who the top influencers are in your particular field, allowing you to identify guest posting opportunities and keep your finger on the pulse in regards to the topics being discussed by thought leaders.

Quora

Use this for: Adding colour and character to long-form blog posts

In this article for Cornerstone Content, digital marketing manager Dustin Christensen vouches for the all-round value of Quora as an ideas-sourcing platform, saying ‘Though it’s more of a platform, I use Quora to not only find content marketing ideas and topics, but to discover and engage with experts that I might not find otherwise. It’s a great way to generate content ideas, while also demonstrating one’s own insight by answering relevant questions with unique value.”

Quora allows you to track topics, search by relevant keywords and also add your own input, giving you an idea of what questions people are asking about the particular subject area you’re based in. You can extrapolate these questions, and their answers, to form a crowd-sourced blog post, or you could simply use trending topics as inspiration for your content marketing titles. This Buffer post offers further insight on how Quora can be utilised as part of your marketing strategy.

Soovle

Use this for: Researching keywords and optimising content

Soovle is a search engine combining the top results from the likes of Google, Bing, Yahoo and Wikipedia. It comes in useful if you want to research how people are currently searching for your target keywords, so you can optimise your content accordingly. Just search for two or three of your main keywords, and the search engine will return with the most common entries across all the main sites. You can save your results for future reference, and if you’re still at the content planning stage, we’d suggest diversifying your entries, making a note of these keywords in a spreadsheet, and running them through one of the title generators covered above, so you can come up with multiple pieces of content that target as wide an audience as possible.

This useful video from the Social Ghost gives you further insight into how you can use Soovle to search for potential content marketing ideas.

TweakYourBiz Title Generator

Use this for: Piquing interest and generating shareworthy blog titles

There are plenty of tools on the web which throw up blog title suggestions if you enter a couple of keywords, with HubSpot and Portent being two of the most popular. I prefer TweakYourBiz, however, as the results are organised into different article ‘types’, including how-to’s, listicles and question-based titles.

Of course, the generator works off an algorithm, so some of the suggestions will be nonsensical. If I enter ‘social media marketing’, I’m confronted with ‘Get more and better sex with social media marketing (it would be interesting to see how that would work!) but the generator also suggests ‘5 creative ways you can improve your social media marketing’ and, interestingly, given how active and confrontational he is on Twitter, ‘what Donald Trump can teach you about social media marketing’. You could easily plan and write two blogs based on these titles and, as the generator comes up with hundreds of possible options, you could keep returning again and again, which is especially useful if your keyword focus is quite narrow, or you find a particular term generating plenty of interest among your audience.

Now we’ve introduced you to our reliable brainstorming sites, how do you come up with fresh, interesting ideas for your content? Share your tips with us in the comment section below…

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The relationship between content marketing and PR

It’s tempting to see content marketing and public relations as entirely different concepts; as x and y on the same timeline, if you like. Public relations is labelled as an outdated, dying art, while content marketing is the new trend that every business must now focus exclusively on. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between. Content marketing and PR borrow aspects from one another to achieve their end goals.

The differences between content marketing and PR

Both public relations and content marketing focus on the relationship between a business or organisation and its core audience. As Tamara Franklin points out in her blog for Calysto

“at their cores, content marketing and PR are both storytelling disciplines.”

It is in the way in which they tell their stories that these disciplines differ. Traditional public relations is centred around how you portray what you have to sell, whether it’s a product, a business or even a person, to the media, who face the public and tell your story. It is therefore very closely linked to, and shaped by, journalists, broadcasters and other outside influences, who have a large say in defining the reputation, good or bad, of a business. This is why we often call exposure gained through public relations ‘earned media’.

Content marketing removes the media from the equation, jumping the gun and communicating directly with end users the ‘stories’ that they want to hear. These stories effectively sell the brand, while simultaneously educating the audience. Content marketing places power, not in the hands of what PR people call ‘organisation stakeholders’, but directly with the organisation itself, with ‘owned media’ (corporate blogs, social media accounts, company websites etc.) acting as the initial channel of distribution.

Adapt to survive?

While public relations and content marketing are fairly similar in terms of end goals, the advent of the latter practice has meant that PR executives have had to adapt to keep up. These professionals now employ the tactics used by content marketers to tell their tale. To quote Emma Gilbey of Mediavision Interactive:

“In the past, PRs had to rely on a product, press release or the brand itself to tell a story and captivate journalists and influencers. Now, with strong content, PRs can tell a real story in order to secure press coverage.”

The notion of ‘earned media’ has shifted

The mainstream media is one of the most influential ‘noises’ in everyday life. On the whole, people believe what they read in the papers, hear on the radio and see on the television. They are less inclined to believe an announcement posted on a corporate blog, by the director or chief executive of that corporation. As Jean Spencer, writing for Content Marketing Institute bluntly puts it:

“corporate blogs carry a stigma of self-serving promotion, and the general public is still more likely to trust traditional news outlets.”

Therefore, public relations professionals, due to their contacts with influential media personalities, are still useful in terms of getting that big ‘earned media’ break for your company. However, the way in which they do this has changed slightly, and that’s down to content marketing.

Content marketing has proved that, if brands publish quality content that holds value for the consumer, this content will soon gain traction and could reach mainstream media in a more organic way, such as through writing guest blogs for publishers. This is a content marketing tactic now commonly used by PR professionals, as communications director Frank Strong recalls in this blog post. Strong is not alone in terms of having to think outside the box.

Quality content convinces

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the recent entrance of content marketing on the scene mirrors the increased ambivalence consumers have to the traditional world of marketing. Audiences, so they say;

“own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons.”

Consumers don’t just want to sit there passively and be sold products, they now demand content that is relevant and valuable; they ‘scour the internet for information, reviews and credibility‘ themselves. Once they’ve found this information, they are far more likely to convert. Of course, they think that this decision has been made on their own terms, because the brand-generated content is strong enough to convince.

As Outbrain highlight:

“One of the governing principles of content marketing is think like a consumer — is this something I would click on? Is this content I would share?”

We’re all consumers ourselves, so when we do publish content, quality and insight should be at the forefront of our minds and content marketing – brands publishing their own content – has undoubtedly helped with this. This was a problem in traditional public relations, as PR professionals frantically attempted to reach as many media outlets as possible with press releases and the like, without really paying attention to what the people on the other side actually wanted to read.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are conflicting ideas and opinions on how PR and content marketing link in with one another. Some would say the latter is an update of the former, others believe the two have always existed as separate disciplines, while a few people see content marketing and public relations as two sides of the same coin. Perhaps everyone’s right.

What is clear is that old tactics of advertising and marketing products, services and businesses to the general public have changed immeasurably, with different areas in marketing adopting the ideas that have previously worked so well for their peers. The lines have become blurred.

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How to create a killer press release template

A well written press release, distributed through the correct channels, can increase web traffic and boost search engine rankings. A big part of this success relies on being able to react to breaking news quickly, so it’s worth developing a solid press release template to follow, so you can get your take on the latest news in front of key influencers before anyone else.

Getting started

Before you start, understand that there is no strict formula for writing a successful press release. To adopt a few bits of fishing terminology: it’s not a ‘one bait catches all’ process; you might have to cast your line out for a while before you get a bite.

Start by listing variations of the following questions at the top of your press release template:

• What am I trying to say?
• Why is it worth saying?
• How am I going to say it?
• Who am I targeting?
• Where is this appearing?

These should get the person writing the press release thinking of the bigger picture, in regards to its purpose and what you hope it can achieve for your brand.

Choose a catchy title

Highlight the importance of choosing an eye-catching title in your press release template. There’s a reason why newspapers jostle for space outside newsagents with clever ‘play on words’ and ‘what did that say?  headlines that make people stop in their tracks, buy the paper and read more. The same rationale applies to picking an enticing title for your press release.

Susan Payton from Cision suggests that, when writing a press release, you should imagine the story being printed on a front page. Choosing a headline to match, will, according to Payton’s interviewee Melissa L. James, help people look at the article through ‘readers eyes.’

Remember to pick a title that conveys what you’re trying to get across, without being too heavy on keywords; you want people to be persuaded into reading your release, but you don’t want to mislead them with ‘clickbait’ or robotised sales copy. It may help to write the headline after you’ve composed the rest of the release, so you know exactly what you need to cover.

Focus on the top line

The next ‘box to tick’, if you will, is the press release’s top line.

Ensure the theme of your release is perfectly encapsulated by the opening sentence. This should summarise what the release is about and, once again, it should read like the introduction to a news story. As Copyblogger highlights: “Your average information-hungry consumer won’t stand two seconds for dry, self-indulgent marketing babble.” If you’re writing about the launch of a new store, for example, just announce it: people don’t need or want to hear about your turnover or USPs – yet!

If in doubt, cut it out

In the words of the English language’s greatest communicator, brevity is the soul of wit – so don’t go overboard. Use every word carefully and, if in doubt, cut. Jeremy Porter highlights a particularly bad, jargon-filled release, while also quickly remedying its faults and producing an easier-to-read example that still communicates the original message.

Choose your quotations carefully

All good press releases will include a handpicked quotation from a relevant individual that adds to the provenance of the piece. Ensure quotations aren’t platitudinous and don’t merely repeat the points made in the main copy.

Write in the third person

Always write in the third person – stamp this in capitals across the top of your outline if you like – anything else and it’ll just sound like sales copy.

Be creative

Think outside the box! Brands are no longer constrained by two-dimensional black and white print, so tell your press release writer to review the article and include informative links, pictures or videos, where necessary.

Hannah Fleishman of HubSpot is particularly vocal on this, pointing out that it’s worth sitting down together as a team to discuss how you can include infographics, slideshows and the like to increase the likelihood of your content being shared across different channels.

This example, from British tech start-up The Soldier’s Box, includes a video that demonstrates the value of the product being offered, while still providing the fully-formed content that can be spun into a news story. Of course, the publisher doesn’t have to use the video, but it could help pique their interest.

Who are ya?

Don’t forget that, after telling the story, you need to include some details about your company. After all, you aren’t doing this to give journalists and online publishers an easy life; you’re doing it as part of your content marketing strategy! Contact details are vital, but don’t provide a long list – choose between phone number, email address, web/blog address and social media handle, depending on the type of release and the nature of your business.

Summary

The key to success here is quality. Your releases should be written with the human consumer in mind. Make them relevant, informative, attractive and readable, and you should start to notice just how effective they can be. Finally, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly for grammar, punctuation and spelling before you send – releases are often published as is, and you don’t want your business to look unprofessional!

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