LinkedIn Company PageLinkedIn Company Page’s were featured at a New York media event this morning. It was not what anyone would consider a significant launch, but it was a long overdue indication that LinkedIn is moving the right direction.

LinkedIn: niche player?

LinkedIn said in a year’s time, they’ve gone from 50 million members to 80 million. Impressive, but not in comparison with the growth Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have seen. LinkedIn public profile pages are well integrated with search, but by and large the site has remained a walled garden, primarily focused on career and recruitment activity. From a target-marketing point of view, they have the potential to be the leading platform in the business/professional market. Comparatively the information they have on their members is detailed, as LinkedIn users keep their professional profiles up-to-date as part of their career development, accurate.

They’ve added other features over the years –Twitter updates, Questions and Answers and Groups. All welcome additions, but not exactly earth shattering and many could still use some tweaking. For example, by and large the group updates have way too many spam-like updates, the sort of thing you’d never see on a forum that provided community leaders with moderation tools.

New marketing features

Organizationally the company is divided into two groups: recruitment and marketing. The recruitment team is behind the career/job placement features LinkedIn is well known for, to the point some think of LinkedIn exclusively as a career/recruitment platform.  Today’s event regarding Company Pages covered several new (and better yet free) marketing features.

There are now three public tabs on the Company Pages: Overview, Careers, and Products and Services. The latter tab offers:

  • Larger scope – now, beyond company information, companies can create new products and services tab showcasing content (including video) about different offerings
  • Tailored views – you can create different product and services pages for five different LinkedIn-defined categories: industry, geography, job/role, and company size and/or seniority
  • Admin tools – if you log in as an admin, you’ll see a fourth Analytics tab. This will enable you to assign other Company Page admins, edit content, and access basic analytics regarding who follows your firm, their role, and what other companies they follow
  • Recommendations – this was presented as LinkedIn’s response to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Visitors can enter comments using the ‘recommend’ button that your company representatives can reply to (or delete) – similar to forum threads. Employees, as defined by LinkedIn, can only ask for recommendations (i.e. no stacking the deck) on their own company pages.
  • Network view – similar to other pages on LinkedIn, Company Pages will showcase the people in your network who follow and/or have left recommendations

Several companies were LinkedIn Company Page ‘charter’ users. Tt the event were JetBlue, Jupiter Networks, HP, and a new firm, Rypple. Great companies, but I can’t say their panel discussion generated any real enthusiasm – they basically shared nice comments about new nice-to-have features. Frank Eliason, now SVP of social media at Citi, who also attended was more effusive. He feels, “LinkedIn has been a great space for recruiting, but now it is also a space to connect with customers,
build relationships with prospective customers and better understand
your own enterprise.”

LinkedIn’s team said they would be taking an iterative approach with this new functionality, seeing what works and responding to user requests (should we submit those on the LinkedIn company page?). The Company Pages are listed as being powered by their ‘InPages’ platform. I assume this implies we can expect many more options along these lines. Another indication the ‘other shoe hasn’t dropped’ is that they said they would be making another announcement in 30 days, so presumably this not-terribly-newsworthy event was held to coincide with ad:Tech.

Implementation considerations

Questions from the audience concerned privacy updates; will members be aware of what information they’re sharing once they recommend or follow a firm? LinkedIn said, as they’ve done previously, any changes would result in an alert at the top of the page.

As always we can expect some firms to effortlessly expand their programs to include LinkedIn Pages and other firms to fumble -  deleting justified, but negative comments, for example I’m also curious to see how LinkedIn intends to address organizing very large sets of products and services.

My prediction is that in the future LinkedIn will enable corporations to manage their Company Pages an extension of their own web sites, as maintaining many tailored Product and Services pages by hand, especially for large enterprises, will quickly become overwhelming. If not today, ideally Company Page metrics will eventually link social
media investment to sales, as this is yet another area the firm’s meager
social media resources has to manage, one more platform
that requires response.

What next?

Greater LinkedIn presence beyond their walled garden is long overdue, so it is my hope that LinkedIn releases even more ambitious marketing features in the near future. It would be a shame if LinkedIn failed to capitalize on what they have now, considering most other platforms can’t come close to matching LinkedIn superior privacy controls, detailed member data, and professional interactions.

Perhaps LinkedIn, as the leading enterprise-oriented platform, should consider developing enterprise internal and external collaboration services. From a brand point-of-view the ever-expanding universe of platforms, features, and activities while exciting, increasingly serves to make a difficult situation even more unmanageable. Any new social media marketing management service that addressed a broader set of enterprise activities would be a very popular offering.