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A big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I had a fantastic conversation with Steve Kearns, Head of Blog and Social Media Marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

Steve shared his experience, including lessons learned in a blog migration. I captured a big chunk of it in Part 1. And now here’s Part 2, and we’re going to talk about social media marketing, blog writing and more.

In this episode:

  • What does a data-driven social media marketing strategy look like?
  • How to manage a different copy effectively for a different social media channel?
  • Which social media channels does Linkedin social media marketing uses and why?
  • What is the recommended social media publishing frequency for the social media channels?
  • How to market to Generation Z, and what makes them different from Millennials?
  • How to measure your team’s success? What are the KPIs?
  • What advice should young and aspiring marketing professionals follow?
  • How to have a data-driven social media strategy with secondary data and present it to the management?

Quotes from the episode:

“We’ve recognized that Gen Z is one of the largest buying cohorts or will be one of the largest buying cohorts in B2B moving forward because they’re entering the workforce. They’re now going to influence buying decisions.”

“So what is the KPI that we track there? We’re looking primarily at our engagement data. We like to benchmark against number one, B2B marketing industry standards and look at competitive benchmarks.”

A big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I had a fantastic conversation with Steve Kearns, Head of Blog and Social Media Marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

Steve shared his experience, including lessons learned in a blog migration. I captured a big chunk of it in Part 1. And now here’s Part 2, and we’re going to talk about social media marketing, blog writing and more.

Pam Didner: So what social media channels are you using in addition to LinkedIn, of course?

Steve Kearns: We’ve had a, a bit of like a story journey in terms of figuring out what social media platforms we should leverage, especially organically. Because my team handles organic social media, we’re currently across LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. So those are the four platforms that we want to take advantage of.

Pam Didner: Facebook is not one of your options. Can you tell us why?

Steve Kearns: Yeah. And this is, this is a conversation that we’ve gone back and forth on internally quite a bit. So, there are two things here. The first is looking at the context of different platforms and what those platforms will do for us. So right now, our channel mix, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, are all vastly different content platforms.

Pam Didner: Completely. I’m actually on all platforms, and many people would tell me, “Pam, you should focus on one,” but the thing is, I’m a consultant. As the B2B marketing consultant, I need to know old platforms. So I test the waters all the time. And, uh, I also know that doing the video platform is very different than, say, writing a blog.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. Yeah, so you know, one of the things that, that we’ve, we’ve tried to focus in on is making sure that we can communicate in very different contexts in each of, on each of those platforms–so video on YouTube. We do a lot of graphic content on Instagram. That’s the top of the funnel. On Twitter, we have an opportunity to have a little more of a conversation with our audiences and have that news-style programming. And then on LinkedIn, you know, that’s our bread and butter channel when it comes to showing that we can be a best in the class use case for marketing on the platform.

So, you know, in terms of your question, Pam around, why not FaceBook? I think there’s so much overlap on Facebook between the use cases on Twitter, the use cases on LinkedIn, YouTube, et cetera, that we didn’t feel that we needed to add another platform to the mix. Um, you know, there was also a, a kind of a conscious decision around, we want to make sure we’re investing primarily in LinkedIn.

Like Facebook, Facebook, Google, Twitter, I mean, they’re all key advertising competitors of ours. We want to make sure that–not so much that we don’t see the value in marketing on Facebook; we do. It’s more of, “okay, my team has 40 hours a week to spend on doing social marketing.

Pam Didner: Yeah, you want to prioritize.

Steve Kearns: I want them to be spending 30 of those hours thinking about, uh, you know, how we market on LinkedIn.

Pam Didner: On these four channels.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. Yeah. So, I would say one of them, the interesting things about my journey at LinkedIn is looking at how much more robust LinkedIn and our LinkedIn Pages experience has been over the last five years. When I first joined the social marketing team five years ago, we primarily used Twitter because our platform didn’t have the capabilities that it now has. It wasn’t as dynamic in terms of having events and streaming capabilities. Just the page manager experience to have those two-way conversations as a brand. Now you can do all of that on LinkedIn.

So it gives us a really clear mandate to say, we now have all of the tools we need to build a brand on LinkedIn first. And you know, now my team is taking advantage of that, which is a really, I would say, positive, exciting transition that we’ve made away from doing marketing first on another platform. So now we’re doing marketing first on our platform. And that, for obvious reasons, makes a ton of sense.

Pam Didner: That, strategically, that makes a lot of sense to me, give me that on the corporate world for a long time. And so another question I would like to ask you, given that the four channels you mentioned–LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube–do you have a set frequency in terms of publishing for each channel?

Steve Kearns: Yes. So for each channel, each has its own set of frequencies. So I would say on Instagram, it’s about three times a week. Twitter is about once a day, and then LinkedIn will be two to three times a day.

YouTube is more, as needed, as we have new video series that come out in a future state, we would get much more advanced with YouTube where there’s a ton of SEO value you can drive with YouTube.

Pam Didner: This is just another monster that you have to master.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. Like there could be a whole full-time job dedicated to the sort of suggested like the linking and back-linking you can do and YouTube videos, like next, your content suggestions, et cetera. We don’t have the bandwidth to do that currently, so we’re more uploading. I’m kind of saying, here you go. But I think that’s a future goal if the team continues to grow.

Pam Didner: So you touched this a little bit, and I have to come to that realization myself, as well, the copywriting or even script writing—I call scriptwriting for YouTube, especially on the video–they are all very, very different. You cannot do one-size-fits-all type publishing anymore. Even if you write one blog post, you write copy needs to be very different for different channels.

So talk to us about how you manage that for one blog that you have to write. A different copy for a different channel, how do you manage that? It’s so massive from time to time. Given that I do it myself, and I know how much work that is. Is it any tips and tricks to make that easy?

Steve Kearns: Yeah, I will say it’s incredibly time-consuming. I mean, I can talk about how I’ve done it in the past, that was scalable and then how we do it now as a much larger company. So, you know, what we’ve done in the past is, I think even going into this role many, many years ago, it was well-known that you need to play into the context of each social platform when you’re creating content. So you don’t want to, I mean, you’re physically unable to write an essay on Twitter. You can’t, you, you know, there’s a character limit on LinkedIn.

There are context limitations on Instagram–you know, Instagram is primarily a visual platform. What I focused on in the past was taking the most valuable components of, let’s say, a blog post that we have to offer. Things like compelling statistics, compelling quotes, several bullet points of information in terms of key takeaways–and then it’s taking those, um, and then kind of fitting them into the character counts or character limits for each platform. So that’s if you are a one-person show, what I would typically do is I would take like a paragraph of the most valuable information. I’d start with that text paragraph.

Pam Didner: Pare it down.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. And then you start highlighting parts, pieces, and parts of it. And then that is a message that ends up across your different platforms. It’s not the same message, but it is very similar. We’re fortunate that we could have access to the resources and the size of the team that we do. What we do at LinkedIn is to go a layer deeper. We will take those–you know, it’s the same concept in theory, or you take those tidbits and pieces of information from the blog that is most valuable–but what we’re doing now is we’re going. We’re working with our design teams our copywriting teams to create bespoke assets for each channel.

Pam Didner: That is wonderful. Isn’t it nice to have a budget? (laughs)

Steve Kearns: Oh yes. Well, that would be my follow-up as I was like, it’s very expensive to do that. We have pretty big budgets at LinkedIn. When I see the number of hours, it takes to design something specifically. If you look at a design statement of work, you’ll have previously used to just be okay, your blog assets and your infographic. Then you would drop the link into social. Now, if you look at one of my campaigns, you have—

Pam Didner: You customize everything.

Steve Kearns: You have, you know, LinkedIn asset 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, same with Twitter asset 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Instagram. And then your bill is, you know, tens of thousands of dollars.

Pam Didner: Yeah. You can do it on a smaller budget, but still, it’s very time-consuming.

Steve Kearns: Absolutely. I’ll give you a really quick example. So we have a content piece that’s live on our blog right now that looks at the engagement trends of Generation Z.

So we’ve recognized that Gen Z is one of the largest buying cohorts or will be one of the largest buying cohorts in B2B moving forward because they’re entering the workforce. They’re now going to influence buying decisions.

Pam Didner: In 10 years, they’re going to be on management staff.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. So the question is, how do you market to them? How do they like to be marketed to in a way that’s different from Millennials? And the answer is they’re very different from Millennials in terms of their value set–what they believe. So we have all of that data, you know, that’s proprietary data to LinkedIn–their behaviors on the platform, how brands are messaging to them, are they doing it successfully? Whatnot.

So we’ve taken all of that data. We’ve put that across our blog. And then I’ll just give you the LinkedIn example, we’ve then taken that data or snippets of that data, and we’ve launched flipbooks. So it’s literally like PDFs that you can flip through, like a book on LinkedIn. They’re directly uploaded into the feed. Instead of just saying: “Go to the blog to read all about this”, people are getting that experience in the social feed. Which, you know, again, if they’re only spending three seconds looking at it or giving three seconds of their attention, which would even be generous in this kind of climate, they’re still able to understand what we’re talking about. They understand what we care about, or we’re trying to say at LinkedIn, and, you know, it deepens the relationship with the brand. It deepens their understanding of our campaigns or our message, even if they don’t get the chance to go to the blog.

So we hope that we’re providing unique content consumption experiences on our blog on our social media handles. And then within our social media handles on each platform specifically.

Pam Didner: So that leads me to my next question: how do you measure your team’s success?

Steve Kearns: There’s a couple of core KPIs we look at. The first bucket I would categorize these into is engagement. The second bucket we’d categorize these into is around performance. So let’s talk a little bit about the engagement bucket first. So we’re fortunate that at LinkedIn, even though we are a B2B marketing team, we market on behalf of a very large brand. So one of our core KPIs is making sure that we’re inspiring the kind of trust, the kind of brand love, the kind of bonds that people need to have with a social media brand the size of LinkedIn. We know that that’s good Brand Marketing 101 is to build those trusted relationships with our audiences. So what is the KPI that we track there? Um, we’re looking primarily at our engagement data. So we like to benchmark against number one, industry standards–so B2B marketing industry standards– and look at competitive benchmarks.

So what is the benchmark? If we can source that data? Our key competitors like Google and Facebook, Twitter, whatnot. Yep. And then it’s looking at very granular metrics, like for our blog time on page, page views, sessions, unique sessions, unique page views; on our social platforms is looking at engagement rate. All of those to us are indicators, you know, even though you can’t put a direct revenue goal against any of those metrics—

Pam Didner: That’s the thing I want you- I’m so happy you brought that up. So you cannot put in a direct revenue goal associated with it. I’m so happy you acknowledge it. Because a lot of times the content marketing effort, unless you have the backend integrated deeply–like for example, somebody comment on something and then you can link back to your CRM and show that this is a LinkedIn customer and then the salespeople can go talk to them or whatnot; unless you have a backing integrated like that. It’s almost impossible to track the content marketing’s effort directly linked to revenue generation.

So if you cannot link it directly to it and a lot of the data you are tracking, it’s like secondary data. How do you communicate that with the management?

Steve Kearns: Yeah, so it’s, um, it’s a good question. And it’s an ongoing conversation that we are having with our leadership. It’s a lot of education, and I imagine this is easier at a large brand than at a smaller brand.

Pam Didner: Yes, very true, by the way.

Steve Kearns: Just by the nature of the resources we have access to. And I think the long-term thinking that we have to have as a market leader versus being focused on those short term KPIs, um, which are like, hey, if I need to make payroll the next month and I need to, you know, meet the demands of my customers—

Pam Didner: You have to bring the leads.

Steve Kearns: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And, you know, luckily we’ve gotten to a stage where that is equally as important, but, um, you know, we also need to make sure that we’re sustaining trust and, you know, bonds with our customers.

Pam Didner: I will say your key objective if you will–and correct me, if I’m off–is you focused on top of the funnel. You tried to build that brand awareness. You tried to build that trust that the B2B companies can associate with LinkedIn. To me, it’s brand equity and trust and thought leadership. It’s not necessarily focusing on the bottom of the funnel if you will.

Steve Kearns: Absolutely. In terms of the way, we communicate that to our leadership. Again, that education journey around the importance of brand? And what is the importance of building these connective bonds and this connective tissue with our customers? At the end of the day, you have to, and this is the beauty of being a content marketer-is you should be a good storyteller if you’re a content marketer, is that you need to go and tell a story to your leadership team to say, “even though this is not giving you a lead–and you know, there is some content and there are some content marketing efforts.

And I’ll talk about that second bucket in a second that are delivering leads and generating demand, but for this engagement bucket, when someone picks up the phone and calls your customer, one of your sales reps calls your customer, are they going to pick up? Are they going to trust what they’re hearing from your brand? And if the answer is no like chances are, you don’t have a very strong brand, and you don’t have a very strong reputation with your customers. A lot of how you establish that trust, reputation, and connective bonds is through some of this top of the funnel.

So, you know, to relate that back to the metrics we’re looking at, goes back to that, that old phrase and I’ll probably butcher it, but it’s like if a tree falls in the forest and you know, no, one’s around to hear it does it make a sound? Yeah, we can publish posts all day–we have the resources, we have the people– but if we’re not getting the engagement?

Pam Didner: It doesn’t matter.

Steve Kearns: Yeah, it doesn’t matter. So we’re just wasting our time. We’re spinning our wheels and adding more noise into an already crowded social media landscape. So, what we’ve done in the past couple of years is look at how we reduce our publishing cadence so that we can put more energy behind one or two posts a day that will resonate. Um, because you know, I don’t have to explain the network effect of social media to anybody, I’m sure, who’s listening—

Pam Didner: Quality over quantity.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. In the same way that it’s really hard to get someone to answer the phone or to book a meeting with someone, it’s also really hard to get someone to engage on social media and say, you know, especially when your cohort of, of, uh, of, of the target audience is marketers; We’re curmudgeonly people as marketers are trying to like—

Pam Didner: (laughs) It’s very hard to market to us!

Steve Kearns: That’s our world. We try to tell our stakeholders to look for someone to stop what they’re doing and to comment or add value and create this two-way conversation with the brand. That is just as valuable in some way, shape or form as them picking up the phone or answering the phone call and then, you know, further engaging or responding to an email from a rep because, again, it’s them taking their time. Them electing to say, “Hey, this struck a chord with me, and I am going to engage with the brand.”

And over time, you know, again, everybody in B2B marketing knows about the seven touchpoints it takes—

Pam Didner: Yeah, it’s a long play, a long play.

Steve Kearns: Yup. And especially when you look at SaaS marketing– ads marketing is a little bit more cyclical and a little more immediate–but in a lot of B2B marketing, the buying cycles are so long that you do need to create that long-term play.

Pam Didner: I do agree. So I know that there is a LinkedIn Sales Solutions. Do you work closely with them?

Steve Kearns: Yes, we do. So we used to be organized in conjunction with them, as well. So my previous role before I stepped into this role was leading blog and social marketing on behalf of our marketing solutions business and our sales solutions business. So I know that side of the business very well, as well.

Pam Didner: So do you provide content to them, or you are primarily just a marketing solution? Do they try to take advantage of some of the content you created?

Steve Kearns: So we’re primarily focused on creating content for our core audience, which are going to be marketers and our core revenue stream, which is going to be marketing solutions, but you know what we’ve done in the past and what we continue to do is, you know, we meet with them pretty regularly to figure out what are those cross crossover stories that we can tell? So, for example, one of the stories that we’ve found a lot of pickup with is the storytelling around diversity, equity and inclusion. So, you know, we have very different worlds or revenue streams at LinkedIn.

We have our talent solutions business, which also encompasses our learning solutions business. When we said from a B2B perspective at LinkedIn, let’s think about equity and let’s think about diversity, equity and inclusion as a topic. As a business topic that we want to invest in more heavily and invest in content creation on behalf of–the talent story is very different from the sales and marketing story.

Pam Didner: 100% agree. It’s because a recruiter is a completely different persona, if you will, then just sales and marketing.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. So that’s where we found a lot of pickups, you know, in terms of crossover stories. The sales and marketing conversation for DE&I is very similar because, you know, then it focuses on your practices. So, you know, it goes beyond hiring and looks at inclusive sales practices? The inclusive language you could leverage on sales calls? How does that translate to marketing? Uh, you know, what does that mean for marketing creative? In the B2B space, how do you work equity into the buying cycle and the buying process to make sure that you are not alienating people because your organization is not up to snuff when it comes to being progressive in terms of looking at making equity a priority?

So we’ve partnered with them on, you know, a number of different research pieces, core narratives, uh, to make sure that we’re saying, “Hey, we understand that sales and marketing sit in a very similar wheelhouse– they all, they also diverged quite a bit—but we want to make sure that if there are stories that do have that crossover that we tell them in a, in a cohesive makes sense.

Pam Didner: Makes sense. So I have two personal questions I would like to ask you. You have a fairly solid career path in terms of career development, right. Um, uh, Viacom to Sony to actually LinkedIn. Do you have any advice for young and aspiring marketing professionals?

Steve Kearns: Yeah. So I would say, do the things you say you’re going to do. It’s very simple, but you’d be surprised–you know, this is specifically for folks kind of just getting started or wanting to break into marketing–you’d be surprised how few people do that.

Pam Didner: Don’t be a talker. Be a doer. And keep your promise.

Steve Kearns: Right. Exactly. Because if you look at one of the phrases that we use at LinkedIn, “trust is consistency over time.” So I think that applies to business that applies to your career. And, you know, when you think about like, I’ll give you the example of the blog migration that we talked about earlier, that was a project that was passed over probably several times until they gave it to me. And they gave it to me because they knew that even if it was going to be stressful, I had a track record at LinkedIn to do the things that I said I was going to do on the timelines. I said I was going to do them.

Pam Didner: People know you will get that done.

Steve Kearns: Exactly. And that is worth its weight in gold. That is why, you know, if people move on in their careers, they’re going to call you to hire you. They’re going to consider you for projects and promotions. And it’s really simple advice. Don’t over-commit yourself, and be sure to follow through on your commitments.

Pam Didner: I love that. I loved that. That’s also one of the pieces of advice I do. I mean, it’s for me to be an independent consultant, right and for clients to continuously come to me for advice, the same thing: I have to, I have to deliver what I said. I’m going to deliver. This is not going to work. So, yeah.

And uh, the other question I would like to ask you is, so what show are you binge-watching right now. And what do you recommend it?

Steve Kearns: Yeah. So I am actually on the final episode of “Succession.”

Pam Didner: (gasps) You know what, Bryan Collins, who I interviewed earlier, mentioned “Succession.” as well. My son got me into it. The writing is fantastic. I mean, they swear like a drunken sailor and, uh, but the writing is incredibly snappy and short. The conversation is so short, and you somehow have to pay attention and listen to it. Would you agree?

Steve Kearns: Oh, absolutely. And for, and for those of us in business, I think it’s just, uh, it’s, it’s a really fun show to watch because, you know, we’re fortunate at LinkedIn that, that’s not how we work (Pam laughs) in any way, shape or form, but you know, it’s like that old boys’ club corporation of years past. It’s a really good television.

Pam Didner: Yeah, I think so too. I think how they shot the scenes, and it’s incredible. I love it too, but I hate every single one of them. They are awful people, but the way they interact with each other, the writing, and how they shot the whole film got me into it.

Steve Kearns: Well, it’s, it’s interesting, Pam, you mentioned that because I’ve done a little bit of reading–and this goes back to kind of storytelling and in the importance of storytelling and how many things you have to think about–is that they’ve designed the show through set design, costume design, their scripts, whatnot to intentionally make those characters, unlikable, to make their lives seem awful. You know, even though they have all this money and access to all this power, their wardrobes aren’t very, you know, exciting or colorful. The homes they live in aren’t super decorated, or they don’t feel homey and familial. And you know, all of that is supposed to signal to the audience that, you know, “Hey, it’s not that great being this wealthy, this power. “So it’s just interesting, the like levers they’ve pulled to get that message across.

Pam Didner: And get that experience. Also, the visual cues, you know, help us make that connection in our minds and what they said.

Steve, it’s wonderful talking to you. You have so much to share. And I mean, I enjoy every single guest, but I enjoyed this episode, uh, substantially more because I was a content marketer, and I was doing the global role for a long time. So everything that you share with me just resonates with me. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and insight. It’s wonderful, wonderful to have you.

Steve Kearns: Thank you for having. So it’s great to have these conversations and connect with other brilliant B2B marketers. So really appreciate your time and for having me on.

Pam Didner: Awesome.

—————

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To expand your knowledge about data-driven social media strategy check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and video.

Podcast episodes

Scale Your Global Business With a Centralized Content Strategy (A LinkedIn Case Study)

How to Level Up Your Social Media Video Content

Winning the War of Loyalty on Social Media – Customer Care

Blog post

How Product Positioning Will Help You Build Your Messaging Framework

It’s Time To Crush Your Marketing Campaign Plan

Video

The Importance of Planning for Successful Marketing Strategy

 


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