Those with their finger on the pulse of the marketing world know of the vast opportunities LinkedIn offers:

  • Building brand awareness.
  • Boosting follower engagement.
  • Generating leads.
  • Guiding prospective clients down the sales funnel.
  • Closing deals.

Whether you’re a LinkedIn beginner or an old pro, this social media platform has plenty of untapped potential for boosting your marketing strategy and delivering success for your business.

Let’s take a look at what makes LinkedIn such a valuable tool — including its upsides as well its limitations — and how to best use this crucial social media platform.

LinkedIn: Social media for the corporate world

There are several types of engagement methods corporate marketers can use on LinkedIn, each with their own benefits.

Thought leadership

The platform serves as a great place to make posts for sharing content, such as articles, infographics and original marketing research. These assets can exhibit your company’s thought leadership and leverage your internal subject matter experts in a way that’s wholly unique to your brand.

Scroll-stoppers

Visual PDFs, slideshares and image carousels break up text and provide users with something pleasing to look at, while also building brand awareness and engaging potential customers. And auto-play videos with captions can help your content stand out among the clutter of generic text-based posts. These “scroll-stoppers” can stop viewers in their tracks and allow them to engage with your content in a new medium — highlighting your brand’s content diversity.

Interactive polls

Polls are another fun and interactive way to get users involved — everybody loves giving their two cents. Plus, polls can also serve as a valuable tool for gauging follower interest in a particular topic or to conduct market research, even if it is a rather unscientific method.

With the data gleaned from this form of content, you can easily spin your findings into new, proprietary guides or insights.

Branded connections

Like other forms of social media, the point of LinkedIn is to connect with others. However, LinkedIn accomplishes this in a somewhat formal setting, akin to a digital conference or trade show.

This relationship differs from other ones like Facebook or Twitter, which are not professionally orientated, and instead primarily cater to the general population. LinkedIn actually launched two years before Facebook, and has since become the premiere spot for hosting one’s resume, accomplishments and professional associations. As LinkedIn grew into this premiere corporate hub, it also attracted the eye of content marketers. And for good reason too.

More than 590 million professionals utilize LinkedIn for networking, researching and advancing their careers. And a whopping 97% of B2B marketers leverage LinkedIn’s full suite of products to improve their brand awareness. This is important, as without brand awareness, it’s more difficult to generate leads. Short-term campaigns and direct response marketing can spark immediate sales spikes, but building strong brand awareness can generate long-term success.

The pros and cons of LinkedIn

As you can probably tell, LinkedIn offers a bunch of advantages, but it does have a few downsides. These pros and cons also apply to LinkedIn Premium, the paid upgraded version of the platform (more on that in a bit).

Pros of LinkedIn

Let’s start with the good.

Networking

Creating a LinkedIn profile provides you with ample networking opportunities within your industry, sector, local geographic region and more. The platform’s feed of connections keeps you constantly updated on your network’s activities, and also gives you access to industry news, trends and thought leadership.

For businesses, these connections can be key when partnering with other brands for co-marketing campaigns. LinkedIn can also help facilitate podcasting and guest-posting opportunities.

It’s free

A basic business LinkedIn account won’t cost you a dime.

With this, you can still request introductions and obtain weekly alerts. You can also follow other top brands and competitors in your market to see how they’re leveraging the platform. A basic business account is a good way for LinkedIn beginners to dip their toes into the water and figure out how the platform works.

While the basic business account might suffice for limited purposes, truly leveraging the full potential of LinkedIn will require you to upgrade to one of its four available premium accounts.

Full-funnel use cases

Nearly every stage in the funnel is serviced by LinkedIn, but the site is perhaps best used for building brand awareness and generating leads.

Middle-of-the-funnel content like white papers or eBooks are also great for LinkedIn, as you can tease snippets of your copy to entice followers to download for full access.

Further down the funnel, LinkedIn can help offer social proof and a final push toward conversion. Testimonials and referrals are just the human touch needed to assuage last-minute prospect fears.

By and for professionals

Unlike Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn maintains an air of professionalism, so users tend to be on their best behavior and not so quick to post outrageous or negative comments on the site.

This makes it easier to screen out bots, black-hat accounts or any form of engagement you prefer to not have associated with your online presence.

Cons of LinkedIn

Now the bad.

Sales spam

One of the biggest gripes users have with the platform is the proliferation of spam accounts that clog up your inbox and news feed, and waste your time with dubious incentives.

Users can obscure their true intentions with “networking” and fill your DMs with faux praise — only to quickly pitch you on their product or service. While it might not happen in your comments section — visible to the public — your LinkedIn account owner will surely be inconvenienced by the scale of sales dishonesty.

Investment

To fully utilize LinkedIn for maximum value, you’ll need to invest a bit of time to create and grow your network, and fully understand the sometimes confusing posting rules on the site. For some, this can represent a rather steep learning curve that will require a significant time investment.

Additionally, LinkedIn doesn’t always integrate with social-posting and analytics tools, making it a bit siloed from your other social feeds like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And as mentioned before, LinkedIn is imbued with a heightened sense of “professionalism,” so you or your company posts must meet a higher threshold of publication quality.

This all adds up to a more hands-on social platform relative to others.

Security

Further, data-heavy companies, such as LinkedIn, stand out as prime targets for cyberattacks. If you want to become truly successful on LinkedIn, you’ll need to disclose a lot of somewhat sensitive personal information about yourself, like your employment history, contact information, date of birth, email address and more.

If the site were to suffer a data breach, all of this sensitive personal information can fall into the hands of a cybercriminal. Thankfully, LinkedIn invests plenty of resources to ensure this doesn’t happen, but the risk remains, nonetheless.

Pros and Cons of LinkedIn Premium

For a paid LinkedIn Premium account, you can access new features and find additional utility in how it can be used.

Below are some upsides.

Pros

InMail messaging

With the premium account, you get InMail messaging, which allows you to contact anyone on the site, even if you’re not connected. Premium also lets you see who’s viewed your profile recently.

LinkedIn Learning

You can also take advantage of advanced LinkedIn learning courses to improve your understanding of how the site works and how to best utilize its many features.

Advanced analytics

Wth a premium account you can access competitor data and advanced analytics. All of this will allow you to further refine your messaging and targeting. This means each post can have a greater impact and reach the right audience.

Cons

Now the downsides.

Price

For some young entrepreneurs or budget-conscious brands, the price of a LinkedIn Premium account can be cost prohibitive. Although for those serious about using the platform for marketing purposes, LinkedIn Premium can definitely be worth the cost. The premium accounts vary by cost and available features, but a premium business account can range anywhere from $29.95 per month to $99.95 per month.

Integrations

The data you uncover on LinkedIn can’t necessarily be exported or integrated into other tools. So while you’re refining your messaging and attempting to be more strategic, your engagement data might still be “stuck” where it is.

What every user should know about LinkedIn

As a company’s sole digital marketing channel, LinkedIn can be somewhat effective, but the true value of the platform is when you use it as part of a multichannel content marketing campaign.

Incorporating LinkedIn into your larger strategy can work well with your content creation and publication schedule. For example, first write and publish blogs to your company’s website, and then share them on LinkedIn.

This will help you expand your network and build brand awareness, but it can also redirect traffic back to your website that you can then collect data from or further drive them down the sales funnel. Or you can promote a new engagement activity on your company’s website, such as a contest or event, and then also cross-promote it on LinkedIn.

Just be sure to keep in mind that LinkedIn is most effective at certain marketing activities but not so much for others. As mentioned, networking and building brand awareness are two smart ways to use the platform. However, you cannot use it for direct sales or more personalized marketing.

Once you’ve spent time honing your messaging and improving your LinkedIn skills, you can even move forward with running follower ads or other paid advertising. These ads let you further expand your network, build brand awareness and collect useful data, and they can be very helpful in generating new leads.

How to build a successful LinkedIn profile

Now that we’ve taken a look at what makes LinkedIn a valuable marketing channel, let’s break down what distinguishes a successful LinkedIn profile from an average business profile.

Sharing content on LinkedIn

While part of a good LinkedIn profile relies on users detailing what they’ve done — i.e. their work history — the other main ingredient includes showing people what you’re doing.

This means you need to remain active on the platform, and one of the best ways to do this is by sharing content. Ideally, you want to share your own content, whether it’s infographics, blogs, videos or more. Your content can demonstrate your subject matter expertise, reliability and even your personality.

Measuring engagement metrics

A successful LinkedIn profile also means utilizing the available metrics at your disposal to track engagement rates. This helps you figure out what is and is not working, so you can tweak your messaging and content offerings to further refine your campaign.

Social networking

At its core, LinkedIn remains a social media platform, and using it to network remains one of its main functions. But simply adding a few names of people you know to your network won’t be enough. To successfully take advantage of this feature, it’s vitally important that you continue expanding your network.

More followers and more engagement influence LinkedIn’s feed algorithms, which will dictate how other users’ feeds are curated. To show up more often, you need to network effectively.

As you can see, LinkedIn has many marketing purposes and uses, but it also has its advantages and disadvantages. Now go forth and decide if it’s the right tool for you.

Thom Murtagh is a Chicago-based copywriter and digital marketing specialist. He enjoys cooking, jamming out on the ukulele, and trying to keep pace with the never-ending deluge of new movies, shows, and books.