Note: This is the fourth in a 4-part series on increasing engagement on social media. Click here to view #1 – 16 Outstanding Ways to Increase Engagement on Facebook , #2 – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Boost Twitter Engagement and #3 – 12 Tested Way to Surge Engagement on Instagram
It might just be the most valuable, least talked about—and let’s face it, underused—social network. We’re talking about LinkedIn, of course, and if you’re not using it to make connections and find new families to enroll, you’re missing out.
Since 2003, LinkedIn has been bringing professionals together in a way that’s simply not possible with traditional networking. By connecting you with colleagues, leaders, and brands, LinkedIn provided a new way for those seeking connections to meet.
In 2006, with the launch of public profiles, LinkedIn firmly staked its claim as an online database of professionals from all over the globe and in every industry you could imagine.
By 2013, LinkedIn boasted 225 million members, with new signups coming in at a rate of 2 per second, and by the end of 2015, that number had grown to more than 332 million users.
As you can see, that creates a lot of opportunities for schools to find new families. In fact, just about anyone who markets online will find LinkedIn to be helpful in finding and reaching new customers.
You just have to know where to look.
Connect with Your School’s Ideal Audience(s)
Connections are the key to ranking better in a LinkedIn search. No matter how relevant or well-chosen your keywords are, if you’re not connected to a lot of people, your search ranking will be limited.
The good news is, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn gives you a lot of room to grow. Every LinkedIn profile has a maximum of 30,000 connections, so you don’t need to worry too much about running out of space.
However, you are limited to only 3,000 invitations. That means you can’t simply extend a connection request to every profile you come across…nor should you.
In fact, it’s a good strategy to keep your LinkedIn connections laser focused on your target market, for several reasons:
- Targeted connections result in more targeted searches (and more targeted connections, and so on)
- Ignored invitations may be detrimental to your search results, and a random invitation is much more likely to be ignored or deleted
So how do you find that targeted audience of ideal clients? You search for them, of course.
Start with your keywords and see who shows up. Remember, the more connections you have, the better your results. Have a list of prospects? It’s time to begin sending invitations to connect.
LinkedIn gives you one-click simplicity here, and while that’s tempting, you’ll have far better results if you spend a few seconds customizing your message. After all, how compelling is “I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn”? Sure, it’s direct and to the point, but it also doesn’t tell the recipient anything about you, or why they should connect.
Instead, take a minute or two to customize your message with a note about who you are and why you’d like to connect, like this:
I represent Beautiful Mountain Private School here in Dreamland, USA. I saw your recent article about Parenting With Love and Trust. There’s so much misinformation out there, it was great to read such a well-researched piece. I’d love to stay in touch.
NOTE: Your personal message is limited to 300 characters, so again, be concise but informative.
Exercise: Search for and Identify Potential Connections
Exercise: Create an Invitation Template
When inviting others to connect with you, it can be helpful to offer more than the standard LinkedIn note. But it’s time-consuming to craft a personal note each time, so templates can help you save time. Create 3 to 4 templates for use in different situations, and keep them handy for when you are sending invitations.
2. Find, Join and Participate in Relevant Groups
One of the best ways to connect with your ideal client on LinkedIn is to join relevant groups. You’ll gain valuable insight into what’s important to your audience, plus you’ll have a chance to share your expertise and build relationships.
You can search for groups related to your industry by using the search box at the top of the page when you’re logged in. Be sure to click the drop-down on the left, and choose “groups” before searching, to help narrow your results.
Your results list will include the group name, a brief description, and the number of members. You’ll also see a “join” button. Since 2015, LinkedIn no longer offers open groups, so you will need to be a member in order to view the conversations.
Don’t make the mistake of joining dozens of groups, though. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn does put a limit on the number of groups you can belong to: 50. So just like when building your connections, it pays to be discerning. Join only those groups which are:
The good news is, if you’ve got a few duds in your group’s list, it’s just as easy to leave as it is to join. Just click the “leave group” button and free up that space for a more active, relevant group.
- Once you join a group, take a minute to change your notification settings.
- Do you want to receive an email every time someone posts a new thread?
- Can moderators and admins send you an email once each week?
- Can other members send you a LinkedIn private message?
You’ll find these settings and more by clicking on the gear icon next to the group name in your group’s list, then clicking “group settings.”
Since you’re probably not logged into LinkedIn all the time as you are on Facebook, it might make sense to receive at least a daily digest of group activity—especially in groups which are highly targeted to your school. This will serve as a reminder to pop in and share your thoughts.
Before you begin posting, though, be sure to take the time to read (and understand) the group rules, if they are posted. Each group will have its own culture and expectations, and you’ll undoubtedly learn and benefit more if you get to know the dynamics before diving in.
Exercise: Find and Join Relevant Groups in Your Niche
3. Share Valuable Content
Becoming a thought leader in your school’s niche and establishing yourself as the “go to” person for up-to-date info is a great way to grow your LinkedIn profile—especially education. When you’re seen as the expert, you automatically open up a host of opportunities for:
- JV partnerships
- Guest blogging
- Webinar presentations
And, of course, enrollees.
You can—and should—establish your expertise by creating your own content on your blog, through videos, visuals, and even in books. But one often overlooked way to quickly become a resource to your audience is simply by sharing content others have created.
By acting as a “filter” for the information you share, you’re effectively saying, “I’ve read/watched/listened to this, and I found it to be valuable. You will, too.” You’re telling your followers that you value their time and that you have vetted the content and determined it’s of high value for them.
I do this every day on Facebook and Twitter by sharing and re-tweeting, and you can do the same on LinkedIn, with a couple of big advantages:
- Less noise. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn status updates are far less frequent. That means your message has a lot less competition and is more likely to be seen and consumed than a Tweet.
- Better targeting. On Facebook you’re “friends” with everyone—your Uncle George, the youth pastor at church, your former boss, your daughter’s 5th grade teacher—not just your ideal client. Twitter is worse, with its totally random followers. LinkedIn, on the other hand, gives you a much more focused audience, so your updates are more likely to hit the sweet spot.
Make no mistake, though. The LinkedIn home-page feed is controlled by an algorithm of their making, so your followers are unlikely to see everything you post. That’s why it’s critical that you carefully select content that is most relevant to your connections, and that contains insights they won’t find everywhere else.
On Facebook and Twitter, you can get away with sharing funny memes, viral videos, and photos of your dinner. On LinkedIn, professionalism rules. Your updates and shares should be:
- Top quality. Don’t share 10 thin articles when you could dig a little deeper to find one in-depth, well-researched post that contains real substance.
- Highly relevant. You know exactly what your ideal client needs and wants. Don’t waste their time with fluff.
Exercise: Find and Share Relevant, High-Quality Content
Create a Feedly account or bookmark your favorite blogs and other sources of content. Make it a weekly habit to browse for new shareable content to add to your social media posting app.
Resist the urge to just click the share button, however. Your status update will be far more compelling if you take the time to write a short note about why you’re sharing.
4. Publish on LinkedIn Pulse
What to do when you have more to say than a status update will accommodate? Publish on Pulse, LinkedIn’s newish publishing platform.
Call it blogging, article marketing, or simply content marketing, one thing is certain: If you’ve not used LinkedIn Pulse yet, you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity to reach a much wider audience.
There are those who will tell you that LinkedIn Pulse has lost its way since opening the doors to everyone. Complaints of thin content, spammy promotions, and other “noise” do have some merit, but—depending on your niche—there’s still plenty of treasures to be found.
And if you’re going to post on Pulse, you should definitely aim to be one of the treasures. For seasoned content marketers, it’s not difficult to do:
- Post original content. Pulse is not the place to copy and paste your latest blog post. Those you can share with a status update. Instead, take the time to create thoughtful, original content for Pulse, and you’ll soon gain a following of those who value quality.
- Avoid the hard sell. It should be clear by now that LinkedIn users don’t appreciate constant promotions. Give them value in the form of solid information, and they’ll check out what you have to offer. Hammer them with endless promotions, and you’ll quickly lose your credibility.
- Include a strong call to action. Just because you’re not being pushy doesn’t mean being coy. Offer a clear call to action in all your content, and your results will improve greatly.
How often to publish? Well, that’s up to you and your content creation schedule, but as with most content marketing, more is generally better…to a point. Keep in mind that your connections will receive a notification about your new post in real time, so it’s best not to publish several posts in a single day. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too quiet either.
Much like your own blog, LinkedIn Pulse best practices dictate that you post frequently and consistently. In other words, pick a schedule that works for you, and stick to it.
When you create your articles on LinkedIn, you’ll notice that you have the option to upload a featured image, plus you have a full WYSIWYG editor to take advantage of. Featured images should be a minimum of 700 x 400 pixels, and can include text (think title, logo, and URL).
As with your profile, you’ll want to make good use of keywords to help attract a wider audience. All the rules of SEO apply, so use your keywords in your article title, in sub-headlines, and in the content itself.
Exercise: Brainstorm Content Ideas for LinkedIn Pulse
As you’re creating your editorial calendar, add a section for regular LinkedIn Pulse articles as well.
5. Promote Your School’s Unique Programs
LinkedIn users might not necessarily be anti-promotion, but they’re not as receptive (or as accustomed) to sales pitches as are users on other platforms. After all, LinkedIn started life as a place for professionals to connect and network, and users still expect a higher quality of content and engagement than they routinely see on other social networks.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t pitch—it just means it shouldn’t be your sole reason for being on LinkedIn.
The key to promoting your programs on LinkedIn is this: a perfectly timed and matched offer. That means the shotgun approach (such as you might try on Twitter) won’t work. Instead, you’ll want to carefully consider your programs and choose the one or two that will most likely resonate with your LinkedIn audience, and then share them strategically.
Exercise: Choose Programs and Create Promotions for LinkedIn
What strategies have you found work well to grow your LinkedIn engagement? Please share with the rest of the school marketing community in the comments below.
Also published on Medium.