Is LinkedIn Helping or Hurting Your Company's Brand?
LinkedIn has become an important business channel, not only for individuals to showcase their professional credentials, but also for companies seeking to promote their value proposition and to establish or manage brand awareness.
LinkedIn is no longer simply a social media tool that enables corporate executives to put themselves in play for a better job under the guise of “networking.” LinkedIn also is no longer just a digital marketplace for consultants, freelancers and agencies seeking new clients.
For better or worse, LinkedIn has become part of the world's due diligence process: a public resource that enables employers, customers, regulators, competitors, prospective employees, referral sources, vendors, creditors, shareholders, research analysts and journalists to look beneath the covers, and to establish an opinion (or decision) not only regarding individuals, but also the companies they work for.
Although LinkedIn provides companies with an opportunity to present a basic or enhanced (for a fee) corporate profile, what most businesses either fail to recognize – or are reluctant to address – is that the content, quality and consistency of individual and collective descriptions of the company embodied within their employees’ LinkedIn profiles have a significant impact on brand perceptions...particularly for B2B companies.
Given its rapid marketplace adoption over the past 3 years, and the high level of online visibility and access...here's the new reality for companies of all sizes:LinkedIn can be more important than your website.
For that reason, companies must ensure that:
Their corporate profile is concise, well-written and likely to incent viewers to learn more by clicking through to its website link;
All of the content they post supports the company's value proposition, showcases its intellectual capital, and is not simply a hodge-podge of regurgitated information;
The individual LinkedIn profiles of ALL of its employees are professional looking (in terms of optics as well as content), and consistent in terms of how they describe the company and their role.
With respect to goal #3, there are two fundamental (and potentially conflicting) issues:
The employees' right to describe themselves any way they see fit on social media sites, and
A company’s right to protect its brand reputation through accurate and consistent descriptions of the enterprise that are posted on social media sites by its employees.
Although the underlying issues related to freedom of expression and corporate intrusion frequently serve as catalysts for heated protests and endless debate, there is really no good reason why employee and corporate interests cannot both be served, if the process is managed in a reasonable, respectful manner.
At the risk of over-simplifying an issue that can quickly escalate to union grievances, CEO town hall meetings, picket lines and national media coverage, the company might initiate the change process with an internal memo along these lines:
Dear Valued Employee:
We are encouraged to see that so many of our staff members are using LinkedIn to develop professional networks. Increasingly, social media tools like LinkedIn are playing an important role in personal and corporate life.
While we recognize and support your personal right to participate in social media sites, we would like to ensure that the descriptions used in your LinkedIn profile to describe our company are consistent with the guidelines we’ve established to enhance understanding and appreciation of our corporate brand.
Toward that end, we would greatly appreciate your cooperation in using only the approved description of our company for your LinkedIn profile. This company description is located on Page 3 of our Employee Handbook. In fact, we have recently added some additional suggestions regarding LinkedIn profiles, which you may find helpful.
Thanks for your support on this important issue. If you have any questions or concerns on this topic, please let me know.
Your Friendly CEO
An alternative approach regarding brand presentation in employee LinkedIn profiles is to do nothing...simply to let the cats roam without herding. At many companies this is an issue that’s considered too insignificant or not worth the time to pursue.
However, companies with enduring world-class brands understand that everything matters. That's one reason why you never see a dirty UPS or FedEx delivery truck.
In an online world, LinkedIn is your brand's delivery truck