LinkedIn is having a breakthrough year. Take a look at these just-released numbers:

  • 300 million registered users (up from 277 million at the beginning of this year)
  • LinkedIn anticipates 50% of traffic will be mobile by 2014's end
  • A more evenly split user base by gender: 56% male and 44% female today, compared to 61% male and 39% female in 2009

With its marketing solutions offerings and publishing platform features, LinkedIn is much more than an online resume-it's a critical channel for brands looking to reach professionals in every industry, and it's one of the top three social channels most used by marketers, alongside Facebook and Twitter.

To get an insider's perspective on how B2B and B2C brands alike can develop a LinkedIn strategy, I talked with LinkedIn's Senior Manager of Content Marketing, Jason Miller. Check out his tips, straight from LinkedIn HQ.

Heike: Can you give us a few insights about LinkedIn that might help marketers view the channel in a new light?

Jason: Content consumption on LinkedIn is on the rise. One interesting stat is that content is now viewed six times more than jobs-related activity on LinkedIn. Additionally, one of every three professionals on the planet is on LinkedIn. This presents a huge opportunity for marketers to get their content in front of the world's professionals in a place where they are spending time and engaging.

We've observed that professionals act very differently on a professional social network than they do on a personal one; they invest time, as opposed to casually spending time. In addition, they consume content differently while on LinkedIn. Our members are seeking content and insights so that they can be great at what they do. LinkedIn's content capabilities are built to meet that growing need and become a destination for the professional mindset.

The benefits of a well-oiled LinkedIn company page include engaging followers with company news, updates, events, and other relevant content. There's also the improved search engine rankings, as LinkedIn pages often perform well in web searches. And let's not forget lead generation opportunities from your content marketing.

Heike: What types of posts are the foundations to a LinkedIn company page? And how often should you post?

Jason: The first step, of course, is to create a Company Page and determine if you have the need for Showcase Pages for additional products or services.

The next step is to begin adding content to your page and targeting the right audience. I recommend updating LinkedIn 3-5 times a day, but you can experiment with what works best for you. I recommend mixing up the types of posts, which can be in the form of:

  • Text status update (question to your audience or an inspirational quote to start the day)
  • Link to content outside of LinkedIn, which pre-populates with a compelling image
  • Standalone image (behind the scenes, short infographic, etc.)
  • Video
  • SlideShare

Video plays seamlessly inside of a LinkedIn update. We've seen great engagement numbers with videos. SlideShares are also perfect for company pages, and they look great on mobile-no separate rendering needed.

It's important to do some testing to see what your audience engages with. For example, here at LinkedIn, we took a picture of a few folks from the team with Ann Handley when she stopped by the office to say hello. Our only objective was to give a fun behind-the-scenes view of our company, and to give Ann a shout-out; we had no motive of dollars and cents. But these "soft" posts can give a real engagement boost to your page. On the flip side, we posted a download link to our latest e-book, let it gain some traction organically, then promoted that post with a Sponsored Update and extended the reach while driving additional downloads.

Heike: What about mixing in posts that are more pointedly designed to get ROI?

Jason: I'd suggest using a version of the 4-1-1 Rule: four helpful, inspiring and/or entertaining posts, one hard-sell post, and one soft-sell post.

The 4-1-1 Rule was coined by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute. The rule states, "For every one self-serving tweet, you should retweet one relevant tweet and, most importantly, share four pieces of relevant content written by others." Apply this simple rule to your activity on your LinkedIn company page, and you've struck gold. You'll authentically engage in conversations, build awareness, and interact with LinkedIn members without giving the impression that you're a self-centered know-it-all.

For marketers, the 4-1-1 Rule is particularly useful when applied to building relationships with prospective customers. This kind of trust hinges on your ability to foster an informative dialogue regularly. It also keeps you at the front of prospects' minds as they move through the buying phase.

As Jay Baer says, "Sell something, get a customer for a day. Help someone, get a customer for life."

Heike: With that different content in mind, how can LinkedIn and content promotion work together?

Jason: Content fuels social, and it's important to find a steady supply of good, relevant content that you can use to drive engagement. Whether you're repurposing existing content or creating new content, this is what will lead your content strategy on LinkedIn. How this works together is pretty straightforward: A company posts content to their company page organically, finds the top posts that are driving engagement, then uses Sponsored Updates to target and extend this engagement beyond their initial followers. The dashboard within a Company Page gives a great overview of what's working and what's not. If you need help creating content or diving deeper into the metrics, we just launched the new Sponsored Updates API and Partner program that can help.

Heike: What are some examples of companies running cool or unexpected campaigns on LinkedIn?

Jason: I've seen some interesting examples for every size and type of business.

In the startup space, take a look at Pantheon, a web-hosting software platform. They took eight case studies that might be considered bottom-of-the-funnel content, and turned them into a single e-book. Rephrasing "Case Study" to "Amazing Launches," it was a brilliant move. They posted organically to their company page, then ran Sponsored Updates and ran an InMail campaign to drive even more awareness and downloads. Next, they repurposed the e-book into a webinar and a custom SlideShare deck to extend the life of the content yet again. The SlideShare deck alone generated an additional 5,000 views in just a few days. It's a great example of organic plus paid, along with the benefits of specific targeting and breaking a single content piece into multiple follow-ups.

For a B2C example, Secret Deodorant is also doing a brilliant job with content marketing on LinkedIn. They theme their content and campaigns around confidence in the workplace, which is part of their value proposition to the consumer. They are even partnering with Oprah on some very clever content pieces which spread a message about confidence. By using a Showcase Page, they can easily segment their audience from the main Proctor & Gamble company page. By utilizing their own Showcase Page, Secret can build their own following and post updates that are much more focused and relevant.

The takeaway here is that there is a tremendous opportunity for marketers on LinkedIn. I like to say: Don't just run a social campaign; instead, make all of your campaigns social. What campaigns are you currently running where you can add LinkedIn to the mix? Doing so can give your existing campaigns a social lift and lay the groundwork for future campaigns.

Thanks to Jason for sharing his wisdom! Check out ExactTarget Marketing Cloud's LinkedIn Company Page for more digital marketing trends and tips. You can also learn more about ExactTarget Marketing Cloud's new integration with LinkedIn Sponsored Updates here.