Marketing Week: How is LinkedIn changing?
Penry Price: Markets like the UK are using it much more from a content strategy and as a content marketing distribution channel versus where we started a few years ago around jobs and networks.
The things that mattered first on LinkedIn was identity and updating your CV. Then you create networks, people start to choose their own groups to be a part of that and share their interests. When you get networks, knowledge starts to be shared and that is hugely powerful but is very different to what the platform was. There was no functionality around knowledge. The mission doesn’t change, it’s still about making professionals more successful and productive and helping them connect. But now it’s around knowledge sharing, discovery and support for your current role as opposed to finding a new job.
MW: Why were you brought in seven months ago?
PP: It’s about a commitment to this business. We started to see a real opportunity that is different than any other platforms for brands and marketers. If we are going to be serious about it we have to put a team together to build it. Before I was hired we hired a leader of our product team, before that we’d never had a VP of product for marketing.
Generally we are using the LinkedIn space, the platform, to work with brands and market to professionals. We have to be the best platform for brands and marketers to connect with professionals, that’s the mission and that’s what we’ve been building for the last few years and what we will accelerate going forward.
MW: What is your main focus?
It is about more than display ads. Display ads are one way to allow companies to work with us and engage with professionals but what we’re finding really interesting is how the content marketing trend works in the context of being on LinkedIn. People on LinkedIn have a very different mindset to any other platform, they post in a certain way tied to their professional identity. Display wasn’t capturing all that advantage of context.
That is why we’re building out Sponsored Updates as a product that enables us to take advantage of context and to let people learn about companies, individuals and influencers that are posting. That is where this has taken off so well because it fits seamlessly with the experience, it is native advertising.
MW: What role does mobile play?
PP: A huge piece of this is the news feed and mobile – 41 per cent of our traffic comes from mobile. Feeds are how consumers interact with mobile devices and discover news and sharing information so we have to have that similar experience on LinkedIn. Sponsored Updates fit perfectly within that feed, they look like normal updates but they say “sponsored” so it’s clear that it’s from a company not another professional in your network.
We have to keep the trust because people give us a lot of information about who they are. If we can do a better job of delivering relevant information based on who they are, that helps us build a more immersive experience that people want to spend more time on.
MW: How is LinkedIn helping brands create content for the site?
PP: We have two data sets and reporting tools that we offer to clients. The first is around showing people who is engaging with their content, their seniority and what is working around their content piece. The second is insight on what type of content they should be publishing.
Most brands know they have to contribute to society in a much different way than just selling product. They are telling stories, building brands, interacting with the professionals that can buy their luxury automobiles, their airplane tickets, the business services. They’ve really got to take a thoughtful business approach around content and what they share Everyone now, B2B especially, has a LinkedIn strategy. That wasn’t there a year ago. They all believe that their company presence on LinkedIn is their de facto “what their company is like” how they hire, retain people, grow their brand.”
MW: Is it all about Sponsored Updates?
PP: There is a big earned media play. Employees are a huge lever that is really underutilised by companies. The Influencer blogging programme, [a blogging platform that was previously only for thought leaders like Richard Branson and Martin Sorrell], has been opened up. That is the opportunity. Maybe a few people had an influencer in their company but the idea that any employee can do long form posts and share their knowledge is an enormous opportunity for a company and individuals to think about who is a thought leader and build their following to be major brand advocates.
If I were a brand I’d work my LinkedIn strategy around that, giving employees tools to share information and promote what they do.”
MW: What is coming up next from LinkedIn?
PP: We want to build out an ecosystem so partners can work with us and build tools that help brands be more productive on the platform. That has existed with search and other platforms and we are just starting to see this interest with LinkedIn. It has happened much more with the content marketing story, other businesses see this as an opportunity for them to grow.