4 Ways Of Obtaining Thought Leadership on LinkedIn

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Successful Social Media Marketing requires being where your audience is, frequenting appropriate social media channels such as LinkedIn, and engaging with platform users.  These strategies give businesses and professionals the opportunity to gain the mindshare of potential clients if used correctly.  Becoming the top-of-mind service provider for prospective customers makes your business the natural place to turn to when they need your particular product or service.  Without a doubt, the current trend of spending more time online, particularly on social media websites, is partially the cause.  Instead of viewing this as a loss of market share, savvy companies are turning to social media sites such as LinkedIn to gain mindshare … and they’re getting it for free simply by contributing and participating.

Social Media allows both creators and curators of content to gain mindshare and thought leadership  simply by being active participants in conversations and contributors who share branded and relevant content.  Though it is sometimes appropriate to share content from your corporate website, you also need to share content created by others so you appear to be an objective and trustworthy industry expert and thought leader.  Social media is not about self promotion, and those that only promote themselves often see their acts backfire.

The value of curating third parties’ content and the importance of engaging in public forums on behalf of your company, but without the direct intent of leading them to your website at every chance, is a great way to efficiently gain mindshare in social media and potentially even achieve thought leadership status on behalf of your company.

In order to capture the best audience for gaining mindshare with third-party content, the sales, marketing, and business development professionals in your company should focus the majority of their efforts on the public facing areas of LinkedIn.  It is in those areas that obtaining mindshare and eventual thought leadership are most likely to help generate future businesses, both directly and indirectly, simply because the exposure of potential customer engagement reached many more people.

Status Updates:  Just as tweets on Twitter can be a powerful way of sharing information, so can the LinkedIn Status Update.  Though only your LinkedIn connections will see your status updates in their network updates, you can display your status update for public visibility so those who view your profile but are not connections can see what you are saying as well.  Try to aim at providing one update per day that contains information you find compelling or noteworthy about your company or industry that is of interest to your target market.  And tell your marketing department that Company Pages can post LinkedIn Status Updates, too.

Groups:  LinkedIn Groups contain the largest public audience to engage with on LinkedIn in order to gain mindshare.  You do this not only by submitting your own content but also by sharing resourceful content in which related industry professionals might be interested and by providing your own interpretation or asking a question to spark a new conversation beyond the content shared.  Providing third-party content oven an extended period of time in relevant groups helps you build trustworthy relationships with group members.  Just as on Twitter, utilizing other functionalities on the site allows for better opportunities to do so.   In order to maximize your LinkedIn Groups mindshare, join 50 groups and then start your own conversations as well as participate in those discussions started by others.  To gain mindshare once you’ve joined a new group, check out the conversations and corresponding comments in the section highlighting the most popular discussions.

Answers:  LinkedIn Answers is another public forum on which to share your expertise.  Compared to the nearly one million LinkedIn Groups that exists, LinkedIn Answers is divided into only tens of categories and sub-categories.  This mere classification of subject matter makes it easy to hone in on your target audience by constantly participating on the answer boards and responding  to any or all questions that pertain to your area of expertise.  Engagement on LinkedIn Answers could also lead to direct business, but the immediate and ongoing goal should be to establish your company’s mindshare and thought leadership by insuring that you and your employees are actively providing solutions or engaging thoughtfully with the questions posed by others.

Polls:  Asking a question relevant to your industry using a poll is another great way to spark engagement from LinkedIn users who might not be active in groups or answers but might respond to a poll.  In doing so, they may be inclined to look at the profile or company name of the user who submitted the poll.  The subject matter of the poll may spark engagement on an issue that speaks to a pain point of your target market.  Using polls is the easiest and one of the most enjoyable ways to engage your target LinkedIn professionals because public comments aren’t necessary.  When people take the poll, you will be able to see some demographic detail on who provided which answers.  If engagement is lacking, send the poll to your industry partners for feedback or promote the poll on other social media channels.

Needless to say, it requires time and effort to create and foster relationships online, just as it does in person.  Constant interaction on discussions that provide educational, resourceful, and helpful information to others and posting links to third-party content shows that you want to add value as an industry expert to the conversation, not just dominate it with your own material.  When everyone in your company engages in this practice, your business is more likely to be found on LinkedIn.

How have you and your company established thought leadership on LinkedIn?  What other recommendations do you have?

The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed new LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing,” available at Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or iTunes.

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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  1. Michelle Childs says

    Good advice, thanks for the post!  I particularly liked the point about engaging in Linkedin Answers – hadn’t thought of doing that.  Good idea :-)

  2. says

    This would have been a great post for me to link to in my Social Capital Byte column, Neal, because you also focused here on building relationships with existing partners and clients, by providing real estate space. (I appreciate how you’ve extracted and summarized so much information from your most recent book—lots of concepts and ideas communicated in a succinct fashion—kudos!)

    Based on an ongoing problem in a Canadian industry association LinkedIn Group, I would add the caution to make sure it is communicated at the front end, as well as ongoing, that an organization’s Group should not be seen by non-affiliated marketers (even if most of the information is somewhat relevant) as an ongoing “spray and pray” publishing platform.

    Most recently (when I publicly commented my unhappiness) it concerned a US-based for-profit publisher “dumping” into the Canadian group an American-specific political story, which really had no use or relevance to the primarily Canadian membership.

    I know it’s a spray-and-pray technique, because I see this same marketing individual posting identical articles on an almost daily basis into a double-digit number of LinkedIn Groups.

    It would be a lot more work but far more beneficial if that same individual thought carefully about which trade publication articles to post into what Group. And it would be win-win regarding thought leadership, because it would show that the posting was strategic and thoughtful, as well as that the Group owner or manager(s) were paying attention to whom they were allowing into the Group as well as speaking up early—either privately or as a general Group discussion/message—when posting privileges were being abused. It shouldn’t be a “regular” Group member pointing out these things.

    I’m curious to know whether you had this potential concern in mind when you established the (Open) The Social Media Strategies for Business Group, whereby you moderate/approve any postings made to the Group? If yes, good thinking on your part. LinkedIn Groups lose credibility when it’s obvious a good percentage of the members only joined for self-promotional organizational purposes. Maybe it’s a relatively inexpensive form of advertising, but quite frankly it just comes across as “cheap” UNthoughtFUL non-leadership.

    Side note: there’s only been two times when I’ve placed the same item in multiple LinkedIn Groups. One was for Ira Basen’s CBC Radio documentary, News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media. And I primarily did it to indicate that non-Canadian listeners became aware about the show and that they could listen to it online (or via a podcast). Ira attracted a lot of people on the vanguard in this 2010 show.

    More recently, I posted about PR Conversations’ “Grunig PR Masterclass: Insight into diversity and excellence” video, for which we got a first-publishing rights. This was a major coup, as the Grunigs are two of the world’s foremost PR theorists (and very well-known to PR academics and students, globally). Even though I posted numerous times about access to the video, I made a point of tailoring the message DIFFERENTLY for every single public relations or communication management Group of which I am a member. Why? Because I didn’t want to be called out that I had done that same LinkedIn Group “spray and pray” technique similar to the one I mentioned above.

    For the record, I did not get a single complaint either time I did multiple LI Group posts. I did receive several LI comments and emails of thanks about the heads-up re: the CBC Radio doc.

    And I know that listenership for the 2010 show (both live and downloads) was higher than usual for The Sunday Edition and that the Grunig video post continues to grow steadily in Views (comfortably into the four figures already; not bad for a video that’s fairly specialized and almost 1.5 hours long–which I also mentioned in all of my posts).

    • says

      Thanks for the comment, Judy, and you bring up a problem that I have long seen in LinkedIn Groups: Internet marketers using LinkedIn Groups for “article marketing.”

      As a Group Manager, when group members add content, even if they don’t participate much in other conversations, it still adds value to the group – but only if the content is relevant. If the content is irrelevant, such as the scenarios you painted above, it dilutes the value of the community for all. That’s why it’s important for a Group Manager to either manually moderate as I do or at least have a quality control system where you manually go in often and delete out irrelevant posts. That’s why I believe manually moderating everything upfront is the easiest – and most time efficient – thing to do.

      • says

        Thanks for the response, Neal. I actually went back and read the related chapters (on LinkedIn Group management) in your “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing” (which are really strong).

        One question: since you released that book have the LI Answers been de-emphasized? I used to see updated about the number of questions LI colleagues had answered (Judy Margolis–one of your case study people–being a prime example), but I don’t see that anymore. It also used to be evident in your profile if you’d been awarded a Best Answer. That feature also appears to have disappeared.

        On the other hand, great Group Discussions will always be more effective than LinkedIn Answers, in my opinion. Quality of network/discussion over quantity of participants and views.

        • says

          Thanks Judy, and that’s a great question. Actually, Answers can still be effective, but it can also be more competitive because there are so few categories. The sheer number of Groups, and their popularity, mean that there is more “open” playing field to find a relevant niche to influence.

          I hadn’t notice LinkedIn de-emphasizing Answers – and many are still successful on it. In my daily LinkedIn routine, I recommend both Groups and Answers, but I do feel that more business – and relationships – seem to be made in Groups when compared to Answers. Your mileage, however, might obviously differ.

  3. says

    A timely and valuable post, Neal. I hope many people take notice and apply your good advice. There is so much we can do through LinkedIn to build thought leadership.

  4. says

    Certainly a great post and its been a great resource to have promote once site and I would like to ask you one question about the message on linkdIn.

    Do you use that and what are the results using that?

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