Ten things you must do when jumping into LinkedIn

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At last count, LinkedIn boasted more than 259 million members and is growing at more than two members every second.

Because of these numbers – and the ability to target specific audiences – the social media platform is a must-have in your business-to-business marketing tool belt.

With a little understanding and a commitment to using the platform, LinkedIn is an ideal place for you to tell your company's story, highlight products and services, engage with followers, share thought-leadership content, recruit job candidates, improve customer relationships and generate leads.

And no – this is not a paid commercial for LinkedIn, but it is an essential marketing component.

Here is my list of top 10 must-dos for getting started with your company page on LinkedIn.

(1) Determine who is going to manage the company page. Much like your website, someone needs to own your LinkedIn page.

The only thing worse than going to a company LinkedIn page that is out-of-date and out-of-sync with other corporate messaging is one where no one is paying attention to comments, posts and questions others pose. It's like having a customer service line that goes directly to voicemail and never gets checked.

(2) Layer in your visual identity. Ensure your company page matches your company's visual branding with an appropriate cover image, logo and style.

Integrated Marketing 101 states that your visual identity, regardless of where it appears, must be consistent. LinkedIn is no different. It's an easy way to add a layer of consistency – and polish to your presence.

(3) Include boilerplate information and your URL in the “About” section.

This assumes you have well-articulated boilerplate that describes the company, what it does, who it serves, what you do better and why people should care. Ideally, this information already lives in the “About” section of your website.

(4) Fill out the products and services page. Too often, tabs are left blank on company profile pages. This is a missed opportunity – and sends the wrong message to potential customers.

Once someone clicks into your company page, get them interested enough to want to either contact you through LinkedIn or click through to your website.

(5) Post updates and thought leadership pieces with regularity.

This speaks to having an over-arching content generation and dissemination strategy to create and post meaningful content to LinkedIn and elsewhere, such as your website, e-newsletter and broken into a multitude of tweets. In addition to company news, share good content written by others that's relevant to your industry or market.

(6) Share boilerplate information that employees can use on their personal profiles.

In one recent case, I saw a company whose employees referred to the company name three different ways. Talk about a branding no-no!

What's worse, in reading what the company did, you would never know it was the same place, as a random look at 10 employees showed they all referred to the company's key areas of focus in different ways.

(7) Once No. 6 is instituted, ask employees to share company-generated and shared content (No. 5) with their connections.

Easier said than done, but setting up a standing operating procedure to leverage the additional reach that employees can provide is an often overlooked tactic. The potential exponential reach, with minimal effort, is huge. And, in all likelihood, your employees share some similar connections, bringing the power of frequency to the mix.

(8) Ask for recommendations. Anytime you get a testimonial, ask if that person would be willing to issue it in the form of LinkedIn recommendation.

While some view this as stacking the deck, if you have a few reputable people from the industry saying that your company is awesome, it increases the likelihood that a prospect or potential employee gets a positive impression.

(9) Encourage appropriate employees to join industry-relevant groups and monitor discussions to weigh in and include info about your company.

This can be a bit of a precarious one. You don't want unauthorized employees speaking on behalf of the company, but you do want smart, knowledgeable people reflecting positively on your business.

This also speaks to having a clear social media policy. At a minimum, company leadership and the owner of your LinkedIn page should be active listeners in appropriate groups and contribute to timely, meaningful conversations.

(10) Measure how LinkedIn is performing as a driver of site traffic.

See what kinds of posts are driving engagement. Determine if visitors who arrive from LinkedIn are spending more time on the site, which pages they hit with the most frequency and if they represent mostly new site-visitors or repeat visitors. Act on the data.

Bonus tip: Test LinkedIn advertising. It's still an emerging platform that's part art and part science.

I particularly like it because you can set up a campaign that targets based on title (e.g., C- or VP-level), industry (e.g., pharmaceutical) and even company name.

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