I had a chance recently to sit down with a bona fide, real-life LinkedIn insider--Alexandra Rynne, who serves as the "external voice" for the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brand online.
And what she had to say during our conversation shed some serious light on how LinkedIn sees things from the inside out, especially in the areas of content marketing, online video use, and much, much more.
(Note: You can listen to our entire conversation here.)
Here are four key takeaways on improving your ability to generate sales leads, clients, and revenue with LinkedIn.
1. Create "fist-bump" content
If you're not familiar with content marketing, here's a simple analogy: When you go fishing for prospects online, you have to put some bait on your hook. The content you create is that bait.
To be clear, content marketing is not about tricking or deceiving people, but rather demonstrating expertise and giving value first, thus hooking people on the brand of "you"--your content, your tips, and then, later on, your products and services.
Rynne and the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team are, in her words, "all in" on using content marketing to attract, engage, and eventually sell premium LinkedIn advertising and marketing services to prospects online.
"You want to create that fist-bump type content," Rynne says of LinkedIn's approach. "You want someone to be able to come to you and say, 'Thank you! You solved my biggest problem this week!'"
The idea, Rynne says, is to create content aimed at solving key problems or alleviating the biggest pain points your target audience has.
"If you genuinely deliver valuable, helpful content that solves a key problem for your target audience, you can't go wrong," she says.
2. Test everything
The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team tests almost every element of the content it creates, from headlines to background colors to whether to use hyperlinks to frequency of posts and much more, Rynne says.
"Not every piece of content you create is a home run, and that's OK," she notes. "The key is learning something with each piece of content you create and share."
At LinkedIn, employees are encouraged to take risks, and they push outside of comfort zones and industry norms in search of creating fresh, compelling content that will better resonate on an ever-changing platform, according to Rynne.
3. Get visual
"We believe visual is the new headline," Rynne says. "When you're scrolling through the news feed, we want to be a thumb-stopper. We want to use imagery that gets you to take notice, stop scrolling, and want to learn more."
Stock photo is a "dirty word" to Rynne, and she strives to find eye-catching, original imagery to use whenever possible.
In a nod to personal branding, the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team also mixes in photos of real team members within its content.
This is key, because in addition to demonstrating credibility and authority to your potential customers, you want your content to humanize you or your brand. Using personal photos, relevant analogies from real-life experiences, or similar "human" approaches helps build the "know, like, and trust" elements critical to any successful business transaction.
4. Watch out for video
When it comes to what the next big thing on LinkedIn might be in terms of content marketing, Rynne isn't shy about sharing her passion for video.
"I'm excited for us to crack the code on video," she says of LinkedIn. "We have some pretty top-secret video projects in the works that I can't talk about, but I'm really excited about what's coming.
"I feel that the Play button on a video is the most compelling CTA on the Web right now. I want to figure out how to harness that even further."
LinkedIn has already made significant strides with video, allowing videos shared in its news feed to auto-play, along with making it easy to embed and share videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other providers on your profile page, inside blog posts, and elsewhere on the platform.
Rynne isn't saying, but I wouldn't be shocked one bit if LinkedIn introduces "native" video functionality, similar to what Facebook has done. "Native" video means you'll be able to upload a video clip from your mobile device or computer directly onto LinkedIn, instead of having to first upload it to a third-party vendor such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Along with native video on LinkedIn, I can easily see that transitioning into "live" video, which is all the rage on sites like Facebook right now. Finally, given that Microsoft, which just purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, also owns the popular video calling service Skype, it's easy to imagine the ability to make video calls from LinkedIn directly to your connections anytime you like.
All in all, it's an exciting time to be on the inside of things at LinkedIn. Rynne, who creates content for and handles all the key social media channels for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, says she is enjoying the ride.
"Working here is an adventure, something new every day," she says. "The rooftop terrace, onsite gym, and free ice cream don't hurt either."