LinkedIn – Personal or Corporate Brand Building Tool?

LinkedIn – Personal or Corporate Brand Building Tool?

Four million new users a month! That’s a number that struck me during a recent conference call with a few marketing and sales executives from LinkedIn. (More on the call later.) The fact that LinkedIn has become the dominant business professional social media channel is conventional wisdom. A slightly different perspective is that LinkedIn is emerging as a powerful brand-building platform for organizations. It is a no-brainer to understand that LinkedIn has become business professionals’ personal brand tool of choice. As organizations embrace employees’ personal brands as a new corporate brand-building tool, LinkedIn takes on a whole new dimension.

LinkedIn has become the center of the personal brand-building world and by extension a major planet in the universe of brand building.

The role of personal brand in the business world is more profound today than ever and in its own way is a game changer in corporate brand building. Personal brands impact brand building on a number of different levels. In many industries the personal brand of key employees has more impact on customer loyalty than a corporate brand. The professional services or financial services categories are two obvious examples. In some business-to-business categories, e.g., medical devices, the salesperson’s personal brand has an oversized impact on customer loyalty. In certain highly technical products or services the personal brand of the technical representative can make a sizeable difference in the customer relationship. There is an opportunity to proactively and competently build key customer-facing personal brands to pump-up a corporate brand-building strategy. The personal brands of these key customer-facing employees should be given the resources (like training) to build their personal brand-building skills.

Personal brand has taken on an important role in employer branding. LinkedIn clearly has established itself as a powerful “employer brand” tool, most notably, in the recruitment activities of an employer brand strategy. Take employer brand another step deeper and LinkedIn has the possibility to provide even more value. Creating strong sustainable internal brand alignment is the promise of employer branding and recruitment is only the beginning. The stronger alignment between employees’ personal brands and the corporate brand of their employer is a key driver of internal brand alignment (customer-centric employee engagement). Providing employees with tools to discover and sustain their level of brand alignment with the corporate brand is a powerful internal brand strategy. It is important to make sure an organization’s LinkedIn page is rich in describing the organization, giving potential and existing employees insights to help them determine their level of alignment with the organization.

The use of the CEO’s personal brand is an emerging corporate brand-building tool. I am not referring to efforts behind promoting “celebrity CEO’s,” that have more to do with the CEO than the company. When used properly the CEO’s personal brand can be a powerful internal and external brand-building tool.

This gets me back to the story I started in the first paragraph. The purpose of the conference call was to learn the best practices surrounding CEO’s using LinkedIn as a social media channel for corporate brand building. Asking questions like: who should write the comments for sharing – the CEO or someone on the communications staff; how often should comments be made; what should be included in the CEO’s profile. Unfortunately as far LinkedIn knew a set of reliable best practices has not been firmly established.

In the spirit of social sharing I will pass along a few personal brand building best practices we have learned over the past 10 years, which can be adopted for using the personal brand of a CEO as a corporate brand-building tool.

  1. Authenticity as the single most important practice in personal brand building. If the CEO’s personal brand is perceived as a mouthpiece for the company it will lose sway throughout the network. Comments should be personal not corporate.
  1. Relevance is important, as is the case in all content sharing. Personal brands gain strength when they make a difference for someone. Whenever possible CEO’s comments should be crafted to provide meaningful insights for folks in the network, not just share information as a part of some communications campaign. This is especially true when targeting employees – reinforcing the CEO as mentor for all employees.
  2. Make it personal; after all it is a personal brand. The CEO’s profile needs to extend beyond the bio sheet on the company’s website. Add interesting personal information that tells a story about the CEO. This will enable people in the network to make a more personal connection, adding value to the digital relationship.
  3. Share when you have something to say, not just to meet a comment quota. Having said that, a minimum comment frequency is important to add value to the relationship the CEO has with their network. Challenge the CEO to value their relationship with the network and the responsibility that goes along with it.
  4. If you are going to use a surrogate for the CEO on LinkedIn, that person must have a strong understanding of the CEO’s personal brand and be able to represent it well.

Personal brand is clearly emerging as a new tool that can change the face of any organization’s brand-building strategy. LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the business professional’s most powerful personal brand-building platforms. It’s time organizations make better use of LinkedIn in their portfolio of brand-building tools.

LinkedIn – it’s two mints in one!

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