Earlier this year, ASDAN, an education charity and awarding body, started exploring LinkedIn in more depth as a way of reaching our target audience.
The aim was to connect with professionals, especially decision-makers, who work in secondary schools, special schools and alternative education centres. More than 134,000 primary and secondary school professionals are on the platform in the UK.
At the time, new rules for Google AdWords ad grants for charities and changes to the Facebook algorithm meant these channels were becoming less beneficial for third sector organisations like ASDAN. Greater investment in LinkedIn was one way to fill this emerging gap in our digital marketing.
We were advised to hire LinkedIn coach and trainer Greg Cooper to run workshops for staff. These sessions included discussions on what LinkedIn allows your organisation to do:
- reach new customers, especially professional audiences
- generate leads for your services and products
- expand your network of contacts using the search options in LinkedIn
- consolidate the community around your company by interacting with customers
Strategy should focus on your staff by encouraging them to be more active in the right way on LinkedIn. The company page is a useful home for your content and it helps raise your profile, but it doesn’t allow you to post articles. The main drive for promotional activity should come from staff members. After all, LinkedIn is about people – not companies.
The benefits we’ve seen engaging with LinkedIn
Our new approach to LinkedIn in recent months has seen exciting early results:
- monthly impressions has gone up by several thousand
- new followers we gain per month has quadrupled (our total number of followers is now 1,400)
- the number of clicks on our posts has more than doubled since January
- the number of likes has more than tripled since January
We are finding that we can reach a targeted audience in a cost-effective way. While Twitter and Facebook remain valuable for us, their broad base of users doesn’t allow us to reach key professionals and decision-makers in the same way.
More of our staff have been posting on LinkedIn and writing articles. This means we are tapping into the considerable reach of each of these employees. Often people have hundreds of followers on LinkedIn (I have 232). When these followers work in your target markets, you have a huge opportunity to promote your company to new customers.
What’s more, LinkedIn analytics give rich feedback on engagement, allowing you to measure impact. By comparison, trade magazines also allow you to reach your target audience, but they can be expensive to advertise in and it is difficult to measure the return on investment.
Tips on what you can post about
Greg gave us some great tips on content we could share to kindle the LinkedIn fire:
- organisation news
- achievements or awards
- industry news, research and reports
- product launch or review
- topical stories
- requesting feedback, advice or opinions
- tips and how to guides
- examples of excellent practice
- case studies
- inspirational stories
It’s best to avoid puzzles, maths questions, and Facebook-type posts. Website content such as blog posts can be re-purposed for LinkedIn, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to create new content.
Our most successful articles have aimed to stimulate debate about an issue faced by the sector, for which we have a solution, rather than overtly selling a product. One of our articles addressed the well documented risks for learners when the transition from primary to secondary school is handled badly. We wove in commentary on how our Lift Off programme addresses transition effectively. The article resulted in likes and shares from our key audience – when you see that a headteacher has liked a post, you know you are reaching decision-makers. This is turn can be the beginning of a conversation with that individual as you seek to keep the interaction going.
Advice on what your posts should aim to do
Your posts should aim to:
It can help humanise your brand by posting behind-the-scenes updates. This might involve posting images or videos of your company’s charity fundraising events or celebrating company successes. Behind-the-scenes posts can build trust and show your values as an organisation. Whatever you post, the golden rule is ‘be engaging if you want to engage others’.
What the LinkedIn algorithm likes and doesn’t like
When posts are more than 235 characters long, followers are shown the beginning of your post and are given the option to click on ‘see more’ to view the full post. The more the ‘see more’ button is triggered, the better your post performs. Like other social media channels, a high level of engagement with your posts through likes, comments and shares, along with the use of hashtags and videos, the wider the reach.
LinkedIn wants to keep users on the site so try to avoid including links that take people off the platform, such as links back to your organisation’s website. One way around this is to include any external links in the comments box rather than in the post itself.
LinkedIn offers great marketing potential for charities targeting professionals, but patience is key. As Greg points out, it can take six to nine months to see big rewards.