Branding on LinkedIn
It’s impossible to deliver a consistent omnichannel branding effort across different platforms if every one of them has a disjointed and disconnected message. You need to ensure you have internal collaboration across teams so you can deliver a compelling and consistent message across all touchpoints in the customer journey.
This includes your employee’s LinkedIn profiles, as the message they present to visitors needs to be in line with your tone, style, and overall brand message. You need to make sure everyone at the company understands the brand and follows the same guidelines.
But isn’t LinkedIn the personal space of the owner?
Not really. Employees are representing their employer at all times. After all, if you had an employee that was a public drunk, you would take action, right? Not to say LinkedIn is the same as public drunkeness, but the idea is the same – they are representing you in a professional forum.
Another example would be a tradeshow. Everyone in the booth wears a branded shirt and speaks the same message. LinkedIn is no different. All the employees should have the same tone, style, and overall brand message.
Why does LinkedIn matter?
During the Pandemic, LinkedIn has exploded in use. LinkedIn has 675 million monthly users (March 2020). And 30% of a company’s engagement on LinkedIn comes from employees. This makes a lot of sense: your company’s employees are the people who care most about seeing your brand succeed.
Boosting brand reputation via employee advocacy is a winning strategy for companies that install a comprehensive program.
Another surprising statistic: LinkedIn users perceive information that comes from a regular employee as more trustworthy (53%) than information that comes from the CEO (47%). So what your employees are portraying matters.
Another concern is that of orphan profiles, or unattended profiles. When someone looks at your company page on LinkedIn they can see how many employee list themselves as current staff. This number is usually way off. Then if you click the number of employees, it curates a list of all those claiming to work there. This is where you can go from one to another and see how disjointed, or worse, all the unkept profiles.
This has an impact on your brand.
I will give you a recent example; I was approached by a fitness company who wanted to clean up their online brand because they were looking for capital. When I inquired why the sudden need, they told me that an investor looked at the company’s employees on LinkedIn it looked as though many either did not have a profile to verify, or that it was unkempt and anemic. This caused concern for the investor and they started asking more questions, and ultimately the deal fell through.
What Happens When an Employee’s Autonomy on LinkedIn Oversteps Brand Guidelines
Here’s a case study of what can happen. A newly-promoted store manager of a luxury retail brand was left on his own to update his LinkedIn profile. An excerpt of his posting:
Professional experiences are involved in Retail and hospitiality [sic]. I have developed, inspired and motivated individuals, teams and stores to profitable success. I find overcoming challenges, developing people to thier [sic] best potential and making noticeable difference personally rewarding.
I eagerly accepted a promotion to a higher volume, higher profile store to develope [sic] and challenge myself professionally….I embarce [sic] and accept the challenges in an effort to support growth and change.
…compared to his employer’s description:
[NAME OF COMPANY] has been an American icon since 1818. In 1915, our present ten-story flagship store opened at [ADDRESS] near New York’s most prominent social organizations, including [NAME OF THREE CLUBS]. More than 100 years later, we continue to dress ladies and gentleman of all generations and cultivate long-term relationships with our loyal clients. Our stores represent our respect for our heritage and vision to be the premiere lifestyle destination. We continually strive to make this a great place to work with a strong emphasis on career development and associate satisfaction. We are consistently devoted to championing both our people and the [NAME OF COMPANY] Brand.
The employee’s profile undermines his company’s brand in at least two ways.
First, the misspellings and poor word choice in several places illustrates a level of sloppiness not associated with luxury brands.
Second, the employee’s profile ignores all references to customers, who are the lifeblood of luxury brands, as identified in the company’s description.
When queried about the employee’s profile, his district manager explained that the company gave employees the responsibility to prepare their LinkedIn profiles. The company didn’t want to interfere because they don’t want to violate employees’ privacy. Plus, the company is fairly new to social media and doesn’t have the resources to spend reviewing profiles.
Yet, by taking a hands-off approach, the company is diminishing the value of its luxury brand.
Actions to Take
If you want to protect and even enhance your brand, take these five actions with LinkedIn.
Explicitly cover LinkedIn in your social media policy. LinkedIn communicates your brand more directly than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all other social media platforms. That’s because LinkedIn features what your employees are doing, i.e. how they’re “living your brand.” Furthermore, considering how LinkedIn works, it’s disingenuous for employees to state in their LinkedIn profile that the “views expressed here are my own, and not my employer’s.”
In your social media policy, explain how LinkedIn profiles are an expression of both the company brand and the employee’s personal brand. During the time employees work at your company, these brands should be aligned and consistent. Also, make the point that the company and employee share the responsibility to uphold the reputation of each other.
Provide a company description that employees can use in their profile. Also specify whether you expect employees to use this language verbatim or whether it can be edited. This “plug and play” language saves time for you and your employees and ensures consistency and accuracy for your brand.
Regularly review your company LinkedIn profile to ensure it’s up to date. And offer to review employees’ profiles to help them harmonize their personal profile with the company’s, especially for new hires and current employees changing roles.
Do spot checks of employees’ profiles, especially for employees in key customer-facing positions or other brand-sensitive roles. Don’t consider this action as an invasion of privacy but instead a safeguarding of the brand, and communicate this to employees. Who knows? When you review personal profiles, you may also discover some creative and inspirational ways employees are presenting themselves. You should be able to leverage their positive messages on LinkedIn and in other forums too.
Even if LinkedIn isn’t the coolest social network out there, it deserves more attention from employers. Just think, hundreds or even thousands of your employees can serve as ambassadors for your company brand on the world’s largest professional network─if they get the guidance they need to represent the brand the right way.