If you think LinkedIn is still basically a glorified resume posting service and bragging exchange, your financial institution may be missing out on potential exposure.
LinkedIn has become much more about content, both original and repurposed, and financial institutions can avail themselves of multiple tools and venues on LinkedIn to promote their brands directly and indirectly. Both dedicated social media specialists and employees appointed to be brand ambassadors can take part in an effort to strut a financial institution’s best stuff.
“Increasingly LinkedIn is evolving toward being a content platform, with articles running along with short posts and shares of others’ posts.”
Why bother? LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, claims over 610 million users worldwide. The platform continues to maintain a business orientation, though some of the politicization rife on other platforms, such as Twitter, has seeped in.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, about half of college graduates and people living in high-income households use LinkedIn to some degree. You can find LinkedIn pages for many in financial services, from that of Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, to the youngest new financial services employees just starting out as trainees or interns. Numerous businesspeople take part on the platform and can either “connect,” which is a mutual link that both parties agree to, or “follow,” by which someone can follow the postings of someone without the other party agreeing to connect. Many notable influencers in business can be followed, who might not accept connections, and company pages are followed, not connected to.
Increasingly LinkedIn is evolving toward being a content platform, with articles running along with short posts and shares of others’ posts. The content generated may be personal or corporate, with the means to spread the message further being enhanced by relatively new functions that LinkedIn has introduced. Two that we’ll look at are LinkedIn Pulse and LinkedIn Elevate.
Don’t Flood LinkedIn with Substandard Material
A pair of key things to keep in mind concern intentions and results.
First, experts advise that a longstanding proviso about social media for entities like financial institutions and businesses be remembered and taken very seriously: Do not regard organic social media use — versus paid promotions on social media — as an opportunity to flood the medium with self-promotion.
“For every 1 self-serving message, you should share 1 relevant message from someone else and, most importantly, share 4 pieces of relevant content written by others.”
Indeed, in the latest edition of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, a rule of thumb called the “411 Rule” is stressed. This rule of thumb, originally created for Twitter and credited to Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, holds that: For every 1 self-serving message, you should share 1 relevant message from someone else and, most importantly, share 4 pieces of relevant content written by others. (Nowadays, more LinkedIn posts than ever include short video clips, so “written” could be broadened to “published.”)
Second, don’t get into LinkedIn without a good idea of why you are going to do it. Sure, basic personal and company membership is “free,” but your time is worth something, and social media use can be a time-consuming rabbit hole for the undisciplined.
In The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing for Financial Institutions ebook, FI GROW Solutions, which works with credit unions and community banks, stresses the importance of knowing why the institution is joining a social media platform and understanding what its goal is. Merely accumulating followers and connections, favorable comments and likes on LinkedIn may be an ego boost, but FI GROW emphasizes the importance of having a serious business purpose.
FI GROW makes the point that both incremental goals and the ultimate goals be identified, and tracked. The impact of using LinkedIn to send traffic to meaningful places is critical to measure. “If you have a goal of growing your total consumer loan portfolio by $100 million,” the ebook states, “and one key part of that portfolio is credit card growth, then each month you may want to track new visitors to the credit card information page on your financial institution’s website.”
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1. Keep Things Up to Date or Get ‘LinkedOut’
Obviously outdated content has a way of tainting everything else on a LinkedIn page, or any web page for that matter. Experts recommend maintaining complete, updated, and optimized profiles for both the financial institution and any employee identifying themselves as such, especially if that employee has been designated as a “brand ambassador” by the bank or credit union.
“One of the first steps many members take when receiving content from a company or another member is clicking through to the personal profile or LinkedIn page to learn about the sender,” says the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide. Anything that says that the page is half-moribund sends a poor message and undermines the attempt to seem current in the messages sent over the network.
For individuals, the guide recommends three points to remember.
“Long-form content is a growing trend, due to the expectation that people can find quality content on LinkedIn posters’ pages.”
One is to write a profile headline that is recognizable, and that may not be your current title. In fact, titles have been falling out of vogue as profile headlines, and tend now to be relegated to the Experience section. While some choices seen can only be described as egotistical and pretentious, terms like “Financial Advisor”, “Mortgage Expert”, “Commercial Loan Officer”, and similar terms are meaningful.
Another is to create a profile summary that supports what you are trying to accomplish. “Think of the summary as your elevator pitch,” the guide suggests.
Finally, include connections to media that support what you are doing. This may include presentations, articles, videos, web pages and other media.
Similar factors should be considered for company pages on LinkedIn, as well as “Showcase” pages, which are subsidiary to company pages and which serve to spotlight specific project, products, and more. Graphics should look professional and be current. An old company logo looks lame.
“Companies can build a profile on LinkedIn that showcases products, employee networks, blog posts, upcoming events, and status updates,” according to a white paper by Marketo, part of Adobe. “Much like Twitter or Facebook, users on LinkedIn can follow your profile to learn more about your company. You can also post job openings on LinkedIn.”
For both individuals as well as company pages, long-form content is a growing trend, due to the expectation that people can find quality content on LinkedIn posters’ pages.
“It’s important to note that because LinkedIn is seen as a professional network, your content mix and tone should aim to be fairly professional and engaging,” according to the Marketo white paper. The paper indicates that educational postings get good traffic. It goes back to the 411 rule — people respond to material that gives them something of value without whacking them on the head with a sales message.
One of the newer channels on LinkedIn for putting out such material is LinkedIn Pulse. Any user, individual or corporate, can post their article to this service. Success breeds success. The Marketo paper indicates that Pulse posts that draw traffic will in turn be shared extensively across LinkedIn on its network.
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2. Turn Active Employee LinkedIn Users into Brand Ambassadors
Ideally, every employee of a bank or credit union should be a booster out there in the market for the brand. For years this role relied on word of mouth — representing the institution at local events, for example, or serving on committees and boards, and simply being a walking, breathing billboard.
“Curators’ recipe should be three parts thought leadership, two parts institutional bragging on accomplishments, and a single part that is sales or service focused.”
LinkedIn provides an opportunity to spread “word of mouth,” in a sense, across more territory and in a way that can have higher visibility in some virtual communities.
Some institutions help employees to become brand ambassadors through institution-developed efforts. In the past few years LinkedIn has introduced LinkedIn Elevate. This is a platform within LinkedIn that enables an employer like a bank or credit union to provide a “library” of approved content that employee brand ambassadors can share with their followers with the confidence that the material is approved by their institution. This can save embarrassment and also encourage employees to be active with LinkedIn shares.
Three roles that such efforts may feature include curators, employees who typically are subject matter experts; social media influencers, the employees willing and capable of serving as brand ambassadors, and “social selling evangelists.” The latter typically come from the institution’s sales force and they help the sales staff use content to further social selling efforts.
In “Transforming Your Employees Into Brand Advocate,” LinkedIn suggests that even in this corporate-directed effort, content quality not be sacrificed to an all-selling mentality. It cites Microsoft’s own “3-2-1 Rule.” That holds that curators’ recipe should be three parts thought leadership, two parts of institutional bragging on accomplishments, and a single part that is sales or service focused.
“This helps keep the feed valuable for employees and prevent it from feeling like a company propaganda channel,” the paper states.
Ambassadorship, also called brand advocacy, can be both local and international. A few years ago Camila Romuld, Global Digital and Social Media Marketing Manager for HSBC Commercial Banking & Global Banking & Markets, told the Link Humans podcast why the megabank launched such a program.
“From a marketing perspective, there were three points,” Romuld said. “One was to dismiss the perception that relationship managers are solely operational and not capable of having more strategic and high-level conversations. Second, we really want to increase the HSBC brand familiarity and increase familiarity across products, building relationships with prospects and current clients. Third, from the Human Resources perspective, is to gain understanding of how employees are sharing content and then how it impacts hiring across various target markets and functions.”
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3. Don’t Fail to Explore Showcase Pages
Financial institutions are multi-faceted organizations. Even a well-maintained company page may not be able to do justice to some key aspects of the bank or credit union.
A helpful tool is the Showcase Page, touched on earlier. This is tied to the institution’s own page, and serves to display information about a specific product, division, or other activity not rating its own “home” on LinkedIn.
“A LinkedIn Showcase Page enables you to target and engage with a niche audience,” says Bankbound Digital Marketing. Commercial banking products could be spotlighted in this way, without driving off consumers who may be visiting a financial brand’s main LinkedIn page.