One of the more notable features added to LinkedIn in recent months has been the ability to create and share what the service calls ‘long-form posts’ – and what most of the rest of us call blogs. Originally, this capability was only available to a highly select group of around 500 users deemed by the social network to be LinkedIn Influencers. However, since February 2014 the company has been rolling the feature out to all members. And for event organisers, it could be a useful tool for growing your community and raising the profile of your event.
LinkedIn’s guidelines suggest that the feature should be used to “share your professional expertise”. For most users, that would mean writing about their own industry, but you’ll no doubt want to be writing about the industry your event is targeting rather than about the events sector itself (unless you run events for the events industry, of course).
In the ‘share an update’ dialog box at the top of your home page, you should see a small ‘pencil’ icon (on the right-hand side of the box, next to the ‘paperclip’ icon). Clicking this will take you to a blank dialog box where you can type or paste your entry. It’s easy to use and will be familiar to anyone with experience of content management systems or online blogging platforms like Wordpress, Blogger or Tumblr. There’s a toolbar along the top with icons that let you add formatting, links, pictures, videos, presentations and so on. At the bottom are buttons that let you save, preview and publish your post.
When you share a post, a summary and link will appear on the timeline of all your LinkedIn connections in much the same way as it would if you shared an external link to some content via the ‘share an update’ box on your home page. Given this, why would you want to use LinkedIn’s blogging platform in preference to just updating your LinkedIn status with a link to a blog hosted on your own website or some other third-party blogging service?
There are several reasons why using LinkedIn’s built-in blogging feature might be useful. First, any blogs you post will automatically appear on your LinkedIn profile under a new section called ‘posts’. That means your profile is more likely to show up when people search the service for topics you’ve written about, potentially helping to grow your community.
As we mentioned in this blog, LinkedIn has as many members as Twitter in the UK (around 15 million). However, as the ‘go to’ social network for professionals, it is likely to have a far higher proportion of people searching specifically for business-related content and connections, rather than for celebrity news and amusing pictures of cats. Therefore, raising your event’s profile on LinkedIn is more likely to help you extend your online influence among the people that matter to you the most.
And since LinkedIn’s blogging platform is fully integrated into the wider service, publishing posts is quick and convenient. It’s simple to use, and gives you at-a-glance statistics at the bottom of every post showing how many people are reading, liking and sharing it. You can link your blog to your LinkedIn company page if you have one, and promote posts in any relevant LinkedIn Groups you’ve joined or created. Members can follow your posts even if they’re not your connections, and those that do will see any of your future posts appearing in their timelines. They can also discuss any post using a comments thread under each post, giving you more opportunities to engage people and grow your network.
Unlike your status updates, each post also has its own public link that’s shareable with anyone on the web (not just other LinkedIn members), and via any other social networks. Your LinkedIn blog posts will also show up in standard web searches. In effect, the feature functions in pretty much the same way as any third-party blogging platform, but with the added benefit of LinkedIn integration.
However, the platform’s simplicity and the fact it’s tightly bound in with the main LinkedIn service also has some disadvantages. While no third-party blogging service will give you as much control or flexibility as you can get by hosting your own, LinkedIn’s offering is less functional than most. For example, those who encounter your posts via the web rather than on LinkedIn won’t be able to comment on them unless they’re members of the service. And while you’re free to embed external content like videos, slideshows and graphics in your posts, the formatting and display options are very basic, so your blog will always have that LinkedIn look and feel. This limits the extent to which you can tie it in with your event branding. For example, although you could include a graphical header showing your event logo at the top of each post, you can’t change the typeface of your posts to match that of your marketing literature.
Nonetheless, for those without the inclination or time to maintain their own blog (or who don’t want to have to learn how to navigate and manage yet another third-party web service), blogging on LinkedIn is a quick and easy way to show that you have your finger on the pulse of your target industry, as well as increasing the chances of the right people finding you, and boosting community engagement with your event.
But even if you already blog elsewhere (as you should be), LinkedIn’s blogging feature could still prove helpful. You might, for example, want to write separate posts just for LinkedIn, perhaps in a more personal tone than you might use on your main event blog. Not everyone has the time or resources to do that, though. Even so, rather than simply sharing links to your externally-hosted posts in your LinkedIn status updates, consider re-posting your external blog content as LinkedIn long-form posts instead (or as well as). That way, you don’t have to produce any new content, but your existing content gets more widely syndicated and you gain all the aforementioned benefits of using LinkedIn’s integrated platform.
Some of the savviest users are already doing this, such as social media expert and author Euan Semple. They still manage and promote their external blogs however they see fit, but by repeating posts on LinkedIn’s service they gain all the benefits of increased reach and engagement without having to do anything other than a quick cut-and-paste whenever they cross-post. You don’t even have to mirror your entire blog - you might decide, for example, to select only the best, most relevant posts to re-post on LinkedIn, or maybe to give your LinkedIn community a ‘premiere’ of occasional posts before they hit your main blog, or perhaps just re-posting the first few paragraphs of a blog with an external link at the end for those who want to continue to the full piece on your own site. Do what works best for you.
There is, of course, one proviso when it comes to making your LinkedIn blog, or any blog for that matter, work effectively for your event. Make sure you have something to say, and a way of saying it, that will actually interest and engage the people you’re targeting. But that goes without saying, doesn’t it?