LinkedIn Publishing: A New Era of Social Influence

jd gershbein

The systematic rollout of LinkedIn Publishing, what LinkedIn Corporation insists is the "definitive publishing platform," will give those users who leverage it unprecedented opportunities for increasing their brand awareness. For many would-be influencers and budding thought leaders, LinkedIn Publishing is like manna from above. So, too, is it for those who just want to incrementally increase their exposure and gain a voice on the site.

Of course, not every LinkedIn citizen will step up and become publishers. We know that the percentage of non-LinkedIn use is extremely high. Developing and disseminating written content on a regular basis is sophisticated digital marketing and not an activity that every LinkedIn user will undertake. There are also many people who feel completely inhibited by social networks and are not willing to even minimally express themselves in front of their peers, let alone share their ideas on a public forum. But for those who do not experience social anxiety, LinkedIn Publishing will aid them in their quest to capture the hearts and minds of LinkedIn Nation.

At the time of this writing, LinkedIn has eclipsed 300 million members. Eventually, each accountholder will have access to Publishing and the potential to become an influencer in their respective markets. What they will get is essentially a blog platform, replete with all the bells and whistles, ensconced within the LinkedIn site. Whether you stock ample reserves of content, or wish to squeeze out just a piece or two, this is an outlet that will get you in front of not only your LinkedIn network, but the LinkedIn community at large.

The Back-Story of LinkedIn Publishing

LinkedIn is a constantly evolving platform, continually redefining its vision and refining the ways in which businesspeople appear and engage on the site. Since the beginning of 2010, the emphasis has been on content. We have seen radical changes to the user interface design, the LinkedIn profile aesthetic, and overall site functionality.

Through the years, LinkedIn has "borrowed" ideas from Facebook, attempting to spur more community involvement, and integrated Twitter to impact real-time communication. The company has played musical chairs with a number of its key features -- enhancing some while eliminating others -- occasionally to the chagrin of the user base.

With its introduction of LinkedIn Today in March 2011, LinkedIn became a news aggregator. In October 2012, the company entered the arena of content curation when it launched LinkedIn Influencer, a blogging platform that brought select thought leaders and subject matter experts into the atrium of the LinkedIn community.

In April 2013, with the acquisition of Pulse, LinkedIn upped its presence as a daily news resource, not only with the goal of keeping its users informed on current events, but also glued to the site for longer periods of time.

With LinkedIn Publishing, the company extends its Influencer program, taking citizen journalism to the extreme, and giving each of its users the privilege once reserved for 150 hand-picked luminaries. Now you can take your place alongside President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Jeff Weiner, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and the other preordained LinkedIn Influencers.

LinkedIn knows that you have something to say, so say it!

The Competitive Advantage of LinkedIn Publishing

With LinkedIn Publishing, you are at liberty to create and deliver image-rich content without word limits or project deadlines. Once you publish, you are in play. Your work can be found, liked, and shared. You now have the grid on which to drive your digital footprint deep and wide. The metrics are available and easily tracked.

From a positional standpoint, LinkedIn Publishing can bolster your personal brand and generate leads for your specific business objective. Perhaps the greatest benefit to those who will use the platform wisely is the level of recognition that can be achieved within one's own tribe. This is in line with LinkedIn's philosophy of keeping the people in our networks front and center and concentrating activities around one-on-one interactions.

LinkedIn Publishing Will Energize your Personal and Company Profiles

If you aspire to build a readership, and put yourself out there as a potential thought leader or influencer in your industry, then you can count on more visitors to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn Publishing favors those who have set up their LinkedIn profiles for maximum positive impact. Each post showcases you as the author. Your name, professional headline and headshot thumbnail are readily visible, as is a link to your LinkedIn profile.

Reciprocally, published posts gain a position of prominence on your profile page, populating a dedicated Posts section just below the marquee and above the Summary. A featured image adjacent to the text adds luster and entices visitors to click through to your work. Additionally, your pieces (if they are truly good and relevant) can be picked up by LinkedIn and added to the Pulse feed for wider distribution.

Companies can also leverage the publishing platform to support a wide variety of marketing initiatives. The goal of a brand would be to mobilize an army of evangelists who can provide micromanaged, value-added content around its product and service offerings. (This strategy can be considered as an alternative to the Products and Services tabs on the LinkedIn Company Pages, which were retired on April 14, 2014.)

Naturally, the brands that move forward as publishers will need to evaluate risk, judiciously select those who can contribute, and monitor the content that is being released into the LinkedIn bloodstream. No company is going to want their people putting out trade secrets or proprietary information that will stir controversy or compromise the brand.

The Potential Downside of LinkedIn Publishing

Getting to top of the content marketing mountain is no easy task. According to Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at Orbit Media, a Chicago-based website design firm, LinkedIn is an excellent destination to publish, but should not be viewed as a stand-alone medium. "It can be a strong spoke on a larger hub of content. For most brands, the website should be the center of that hub." Crestodina also insists that whereas LinkedIn is an engaged community, the challenge for its users lies in promoting content to a targeted audience.

Like everything else on the site, LinkedIn Publishing comes with its own set of best practices. Freedom of expression notwithstanding, there is bound to be some abuse regarding the platform. Some I know have already suggested that Publishing might create a free-for-all, much like the lawlessness witnessed in most LinkedIn groups in the site's early days. They claim that torrents of new content -- most of it overtly self-promotional -- from legions of users will bombard the stream and further strain attention on an already-swollen forum.

There is also the added pressure of delivering the goods on a consistent basis. Your readers are not going to settle for anything less than high-quality, thought-provoking content. The quality of your writing will keep you relevant and help shape your personal brand. Those who habitually procrastinate when it comes to the site will not find LinkedIn Publishing a viable strategy in reaching their target audience or generating leads.

Finally, with so many users struggling on a daily basis to just gain traction on LinkedIn, the demand of learning yet another feature may cause undue stress. There will be those who start out on the platform with good intentions, only to hit a wall (run out of ideas) and quit. Some lack motivation, may be self-conscious about their profiles, or do not believe that their content will rise above the noise. In order to make an impression on LinkedIn nowadays, you have to be persistent, stay relevant, and look good.

Parting Thoughts

With each new initiative, LinkedIn ostensibly becomes a more humanizing, visually-compelling, and conversation-driven medium. The introduction of LinkedIn Publishing reaffirms the company's commitment to give equal opportunity to every user. Solid, original content on LinkedIn pages can help you build a following, organically drive network growth, and land you in more meaningful conversations with potential clients, strategic alliances, and first-degree connections. But let's face it: thought leadership is not for everyone. We can't all be influencers.

Or can we?

jd goldstein