LinkedIn can be a powerful platform for B2B businesses to build an audience, and senior executives can play an important role in driving these efforts. However (there’s always a however), these things won’t happen on their own – harnessing this power requires a strategy, a plan, and action.
Over the past few years, our team has worked with various B2B businesses and execs to build their audiences, and we recently shared what we’ve learned from this work in one of our Hyphen Live sessions.
If you missed our live session, you can watch the recording of our full 23-minute discussion on LinkedIn.
💡 Just looking for the key takeaways?
Read on for our insights on how to harness the power of audience building on LinkedIn, specifically for business leaders and senior executives.
Before we get to “how,” however, let’s start with “why.”
Why should senior execs build an audience on LinkedIn?
Fair question! There are two key reasons we believe this is a worthwhile approach for B2B businesses:
🔑 It builds awareness of and affinity for your brand with everyone who’s not ready to make a purchase today.
According to the 95-5 Rule (caveat: it’s just a rule of thumb), only 5% of your B2B target market is actually in buying mode at any given time. If you’re only chasing hot leads, you’re failing to engage with the 95% who could become hot leads at some point in the future.
🔑 It harnesses your senior executives’ prominence and networks to boost your brand’s reputation.
In a study of global executives, 81% felt it was important for CEOs to have a visible public profile in order for their company to be highly regarded. And since people pay more attention to people than brands on LinkedIn, it’s easier for your execs to build an audience rather than your company page.
The majority of your target market may not be in buying mode today. However, by turning this group into an audience for your B2B business and engaging with them, you can build awareness and trust with them. This way, whenever they do switch into purchasing mode, your business will be top of mind.
With its focus on professional knowledge sharing, LinkedIn is a great platform for building this type of audience, and business leaders are in an ideal position to lead these efforts. Here’s how:
🗣 Be clear on your motivations and expectations
Although we know getting senior execs active on LinkedIn can be a valuable marketing opportunity, the reality is it’s not for everyone. Senior execs have only so many hours in their day, and for some, dedicating time to LinkedIn simply isn’t a priority or a possibility.
To assess the potential, you need to dig into their motivations and expectations. Start this discussion by asking them four questions:
- What value do you bring to the world?
- Are you ready to share your full self with the world?
- What’s your commitment like in terms of time, enthusiasm, and energy?
- Why are you doing this, and what do you hope to gain from this initiative?
Well that got deep quickly, didn’t it! This initial conversation isn’t meant to dive into the answers. Instead, the aim is to highlight that the leader has to be sufficiently motivated with realistic expectations for them to take this on.
Why? Because this is something leaders shouldn’t fully outsource. While they can (and probably should) lean on internal or external teams for support in executing their LinkedIn strategy, it’s important that the leaders are personally involved to ensure that it is their ideas, perspectives, and voice at the heart of their LinkedIn activity.
🧩 Developing a LinkedIn audience building strategy
While you can take this in many different directions, there are three guiding principles that will help set your leader up for success on LinkedIn:
1. Align your key topics and messaging with specific business objectives 🎯
Winging it on LinkedIn with random acts of content won’t deliver results. Instead, establish clear goals and then identify the overarching topics and key messages that align with these goals.
Is your primary goal to build your brand and support demand generation, or are you aiming to nurture your company culture and boost recruitment? The key topics and main messages that your business leader focuses on will vary significantly depending on your objectives. They will also vary depending on the senior executive’s role – for example, a CEO might focus on a topic like leadership while a CTO is more likely to focus on the future of tech in their field.
Bottom line: Be clear on what you are hoping to achieve and map out the messaging that will help you get there.
2. Provide value to your audience 💡
If all you’re using LinkedIn for is to make sales pitches for your business, people are going to lose interest really fast. No one is going to come back to see what the latest sales pitch is week after week. This means that to build an audience on LinkedIn, your business leader needs to share ideas and information that provide value to your audience.
How do you do this? One key is to focus primarily on your industry, niche, or area of expertise, not on your business. You can do this by sharing insights, providing explanations, and breaking down ideas. If your content helps your audience learn new information, reframe their thinking on a topic, or identify possible solutions to their pain points, then you’re on track to providing value.
Bottom line: Ensure that you’re providing value to your audience to ensure that they have a reason to stick around over the long term.
3. Include your personality and personal perspectives ✍🏽
With so much content swirling around us, it’s much easier to keep scrolling than it is to stop and read, watch, or listen to something. To break through all this noise, your business leader needs to bring some personality and personal perspectives to their LinkedIn presence.
This doesn’t mean daily posts about their dog or cat. Instead, it’s about sharing their views and opinions, even when (or especially when) these differ from the consensus view. Their LinkedIn posts should also sound similar to how they express their views in person. If your leader’s communication style in real life is very direct or incorporates humour, then weaving this style into their LinkedIn messaging will make it more authentic and unique.
Bottom line: To stand out online, your business leader’s LinkedIn presence should reflect their views, tone, and personality, rather than sounding like the output of your marketing team.
If you’re looking for meaningful results aligned with your strategic objectives, a “just start posting” approach is not going to cut it. Instead, take your time to make a plan that brings together your strategic goals, your business’ key strengths, your leader’s unique voice, and your audience’s needs and pain points. More planning upfront will lead to a smoother implementation and a bigger payoff going forward.
📢 Translating your LinkedIn plan into action
Building an audience on LinkedIn is a long-term undertaking. You need to have clear processes that you can sustain over the long term, as well as clarity on who is responsible for individual tasks.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, consider these questions in the context of your team and business:
- Who will lead the overall planning and coordination of this effort? Is there someone on your team with the expertise and experience to set the strategy and plan the execution?
- Are you ready to share your full self with Who will map out a content calendar and decide which posts are published when? What is a reasonable posting cadence that the senior exec will be able to sustain over the long term? world?
- Who will create the individual LinkedIn posts? Will the senior exec provide input to someone else to write the actual posts?
- Who will publish the posts? Is there a review process that needs to take place (e.g. review and approval of each post by an internal communications team)?
In theory, a business leader could take on all of the above responsibilities themselves, but this is unlikely to be the best use of their time. From our experience, this works better as a team effort. The business leader plays an active role in setting goals, mapping out messaging priorities, and sharing insights and opinions with a marketing team, whether internal or external. The team then takes it from there, carrying out the planning, content creation, and scheduling required to bring things to life on LinkedIn.
Like other social media platforms, LinkedIn is meant to be, well, social. This means that in addition to posting regularly, an important part of audience building is active engagement. Even busy senior execs should set aside at least 10–15 minutes one to two times per week to respond to comments and direct messages, as well as reading and commenting on posts from others in their network.
📈 Measuring the success of your LinkedIn audience building
If you’re putting time and effort into building an audience on LinkedIn, you’ll also want to know how things are progressing. What’s working, what’s falling flat, and are your efforts having an impact?
For anyone in the B2B marketing world, you know that measuring success usually involves a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics that you need to piece together to get a sense of the big picture. The same is true for measuring the success of a LinkedIn audience building initiative.
Quantitative metrics may include:
- LinkedIn connections and followers
- Engagement on LinkedIn posts (comments, shares, reactions)
- Traffic from LinkedIn to landing pages
Qualitative results may include:
- In-person or online feedback from audience members
- Brand awareness within your target audience
- Self-reported attribution (e.g. asking inbound leads, “How did you hear about us?”)
The metrics you track will vary depending on your objectives. By making consistent data collection and reporting part of your plan from the get-go, you’ll have better insight into how your LinkedIn audience building efforts are progressing – however you choose to measure their success.
💥 Unleashing the power of audience building on LinkedIn
Today, LinkedIn is an important platform for professional knowledge sharing and networking – especially in the B2B space.
As a result, LinkedIn offers significant potential as a platform for building an audience to support your marketing efforts, and business leaders and senior executives in particular are well positioned to be the face of these efforts.
Building an audience on LinkedIn is a long-term play. So approach it with a clear strategy, solid plan, and active involvement by a motivated business leader, and it will drive long-term results.