The pistol shot echoes in the stands, the gates swing open and horse hooves pound vigorously against the dirt. As they come to the final stretch, an underdog positioned wide on the track moves inside, then a burst of energy sends him crossing to the lead for a photo-finish victory.
LinkedIn just beat the odds and took the Triple Crown.
The Content Marketing Institute reports -- in its 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends -- marketers are now choosing LinkedIn the most for content marketing purposes. In 2011, 71% of B2B marketers posted content to the site formerly associated with nothing more than a virtual resume, but 2012 showed an increase to 83%, with Twitter and Facebook trailing by a nose at 80%.
So why the change?
Josh Sternberg's February post on Digiday calls LinkedIn "a sleeping giant of publishing," citing that the ideal business publisher would have a strong tech platform, would foster direct connections, wouldn't be overly reliant on ads and would have some of the most influential people in their industries contributing content - and LinkedIn has it all. Recent changes to the format and a push to bring content marketing to the forefront have finally brought LinkedIn out from behind the shadows of the other social media giants.
LinkedIn Today, which feeds articles from more than 1 million publications to the user based upon topic preference, has been live for a year. The homepage and profile layouts are inviting, and in October 2012, LinkedIn rolled out the INfluencer feature, giving users the opportunity to follow article feeds from some of the most influential thought and industry leaders on LinkedIn, like Richard Branson, President Barack Obama, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington, to name a few.
"In the last several months, LinkedIn has been making great strides to improve the sexiness of the site," says Tara Rawlins of RAW Marketing in Springfield, Mo. "Before, it was super boring-you only got on there to make connections and nothing ever happened. They've changed the way it looks and the way it functions and it's been working really well."
However, the shift to LinkedIn as the top social media outlet for B2B content marketing goes beyond appearance and features. "It tops Facebook because of the perception of the audience," says Andrew Schulkind, president of Andigo, an online marketing firm in New York City. "LinkedIn is for sharing more what you're doing on a professional level. I go to Facebook to see what my college buddies are doing and LinkedIn is to see what my colleagues are doing." This is certainly ideal for B2B marketing strategies.
Pam Kozelka, vice president of operations at Content Marketing Institute, agrees. "LinkedIn is making it easy for people to connect-keeping it all business," she says. "With Facebook you have to have a professional profile and a personal one because you don't want to mix business and personal. There are a lot of cross issues there. LinkedIn makes it easy to join groups, find answers and have conversations in a professional atmosphere."
What it really comes down to is that LinkedIn is intentionally working to become more relevant. Theo Priestley of Successful Workplace reported LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner as saying, "One of the things that we're increasingly focused on in 2013 is going to be the opportunity to support content marketing." On the horizon is a sponsored content unit that will allow companies to deliver content directly to their followers. Companies like GE, Xerox, The Economist, and Blackberry will be some of the first to utilize the new feature, accessing content repositories and using the articles as a status update that can target specific company followers on the site.
Keeping this information in mind, B2B marketers that haven't bet on LinkedIn just yet may want to emphasize their presence more. Internet marketing specialist Jamie Duklas says to make sure you're increasing your LinkedIn connections to optimize your content marketing strategy. "I think your best bet is the LinkedIn newsfeed," he says. "If your company is actively growing, LinkedIn is a great place to show that. Actively link back to your company blog and show the personality of the company, which also helps your content to develop."
Even with all of the new features rolling out, it's still important to utilize LinkedIn groups to distribute your content. "You have to be consistent," Kozelka says. "If you start missing out on conversations, then you can't help yourself." Kozelka advises that marketers post content that promotes discussion. Don't just provide a link to a blog post, but ask a question about it to motivate engagement. Also, Kozelka emphasizes that commenting on other people's posts is very important.
"The same kinds of concepts apply with LinkedIn as in other places," Schulkind adds. "Get involved, make yourself a known entity and burnish your reputation by contributing to things that are of interest to the rest of the group."