Leveraging LinkedIn to Develop Business, Attract Top Talent, and Become a Thought Leader

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In this episode of On Record PR, Jennifer Simpson Carr goes on record with Devin Banerjee, editor at large at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

More About Devin Banerjee

Devin Banerjee is a senior member of the editorial team at LinkedIn, where he serves as editor at large for business and finance. Before joining LinkedIn in 2018, Devin was an editor and reporter at Bloomberg. Prior to joining Bloomberg in 2011, he reported for The Wall Street Journal. He’s an honors graduate of Stanford University, where he was editor in chief of The Stanford Daily, and he holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

At LinkedIn, Devin is the author of the award-winning interview series Human Capital and the weekly digest This Week in Finance. More than 335,000 readers subscribe to the two newsletters.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with 800 million members in more than 200 countries. Its vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, which it achieves through its mission: connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. The LinkedIn News team is made up of more than 85 editors around the world, who create, curate and cultivate content around industry trends and topics in the news.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Welcome, Devin! Thank you for joining me on the show today.

Devin Banerjee: It’s great to be with you, Jennifer. Thanks for having me.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: As I mentioned in your bio, you have a background as a journalist.

Why did you as a journalist join LinkedIn?

LinkedIn, for many of us, still has that legacy feeling of being a stale jobs website where you have your online CV and maybe you visit LinkedIn once a year to update that, but it really had transformed years ago into what’s now one of the largest publishing platforms on the internet in terms of B2B publishing, thought leadership, other insights, coursing through the LinkedIn feed every day. So around 2018, actually end of 2017, I was an editor at Bloomberg and LinkedIn approached me to tell me a little bit more about what’s called the editorial team here and its mission and the work that it does and asked if I’d be interested in joining. And again, I learned that LinkedIn had transformed into this huge B2B publishing platform, one of the largest, if not the largest on the internet. And as I got to know the team a little bit better and spoke with Dan Roth who’s our editor in chief here and who started the team, a couple things really stood out.

First was the reach of the platform. As you mentioned, today we have almost 800 million members globally, virtually every country around the world. I mean, all of those are potential readers of the reporting we do, the news that we curate, the subject matter and domain experts we cultivate to come to the platform. Related to all of that is the engagement that follows publication on LinkedIn. As a journalist, we often think about putting our stories or our news out there and then clean our hands of it and move on to the next story, but what’s really great on LinkedIn, and my colleague George Anders always points to this is publishing something is only half of the work. The other half is fostering conversation around that news or that trend that you’ve written about and engaging with readers on the platform.

There are also so many different formats available on LinkedIn that are quite exciting as a journalist, but even as any subject matter expert publishing on the platform, there are those short post updates, there’s long article format availability, there’s video, there’s now live broadcast capability, there are newsletters. You can easily choose different mediums based on the news that you’re covering or the readership that you’re trying to reach. The last couple things I’d mention is it’s a very experimentative place. We embrace experimenting. Dan Roth, our editor in chief, in an early conversation with me told me the job really is to experiment. And I left thinking, “That’s a pretty exciting job description.”

The last thing I’d mention is just the brand of LinkedIn. I really look to work at places that are mission driven and I know that term is so overused today. Every company calls itself mission driven, but LinkedIn literally has had a written and stated mission for as long as I can remember. And that mission is to connect the world’s professionals, to make them more productive and successful. That serves a larger vision at LinkedIn, which is creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. So it’s just one of the most rewarding places to go to work each day.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: What an exciting proposition. I think culture is so important and to know that you’re working for an organization that has such a strategic mission and vision, especially one impacting, as you said, so many professionals around the world.

You made many great points as to why LinkedIn is such a valuable network and I’m glad that you mentioned thought leadership. As you and I were chatting before we started recording, I mentioned that we primarily work with professional services companies and many law firms. We are, as a team, consistently talking to lawyers and other members of the professional staff within law firms and talking about why LinkedIn is such a value platform, especially when they’re billing their time by the hour. “Why would they focus on LinkedIn with as busy as they are and the time that they’re billing?” I’m glad that you mentioned it because I would love to dive into thought leadership with you. However, before we get into that… 

What does your role entail?

I wear two hats here, if you will. The first is operating as that journalist that I was hired here to be. So stepping back, our team, the editorial team, is comprised of more than 85 journalists around the world. Just like me, they’ve come from established newsrooms, established brands in media where they’ve covered different beats or different areas. And so more than 85 of us around the world.

That first hat that I wear is operating as a journalist. I have an interview series, as you mentioned, called Human Capital. I do another weekly newsletter called This Week in Finance, rounding up the news in the financial world globally that’s starting conversation on LinkedIn. I start other conversations throughout the week based on ongoing news.

The other hat is to help subject matter experts in and around finance, also in other professional services areas and other parts of the business world, to help them utilize LinkedIn as a publishing platform to talk about news that they’re watching most closely or that they’re involved in, to talk about industry trends that they’re experiencing or noticing. Again, that’s sort of that cultivation work that we do. Dan Roth, our editor in chief, likes to talk about three C’s, creating, curating, and cultivating. That encompasses the work that I do and that final C is cultivating those subject matter experts, teaching them how to leverage LinkedIn in ways that they didn’t realize they could previously.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I would love to talk more about that. I love something you said a little earlier, which is a lot of thought leaders may think that you can just publish a piece and your work is done. But we know that that’s not true on LinkedIn from all of the great content that we’re reading about conversations and engagement.

Could you talk a little bit more about the importance of not only positioning your content for thought leadership, but the value of continuing that conversation beyond your initial post as a user of LinkedIn?

Absolutely and let me just take another step back. I mean, publishing on LinkedIn, as I mentioned a couple minutes ago, something many people have not thought about doing in the past or they didn’t even realize LinkedIn was a place to be doing that. As I said, LinkedIn has become such a publishing platform, one of the largest B2B publishers in the world. And we’re just seeing that trend continue and even accelerate. Over this pandemic period, actually, there was such a craving for credible information around the health crisis, around uncertainty in the financial markets, in the business world, downturn and jobs in the economy. People were really looking for credible quality sources of content and information. We’ve seen public content on LinkedIn grow about 29% year-over-year during the past year. And so it is very important to think about your audiences on LinkedIn.

A couple of best practices I would highlight to think about. I’ve forced them into this framework called ABCDE.

  1. Authenticity, to really just represent yourself as a professional and stay away from corporate speak or copying and pasting press release excerpts or practices such as those. Authenticity is paramount. I remind people, no one else has your unique set of experience and expertise. Using your own voice to represent that makes your writing stand out.
  2. Bringing something to the table, which is to say advancing the conversation rather than just repeating what the industry conversation is already about. Draw on those insights from your unique experience and expertise. For attorneys, bringing something to the table is so much about what they’re already doing in their day-to-day work. Thinking about what’s around the corner for their clients. Even those client alerts and notices that law firms are always putting out, that’s literally a new insight to the table that’s timely for your clients and prospective clients.
  3. Consistency, and I really want to emphasize this is different than frequency. A lot of people think, “If I start publishing on LinkedIn, I don’t have time to do that every day or every week.” I just encourage you to think about consistency – it might be every two weeks, it might be every month, it might be every quarter to begin with. Maybe you have a client newsletter or memo that you already work on for your firm. You can just post a link to that with a few lines of takeaways every quarter or every month.
  4. Distributing, as you mentioned earlier, Jennifer. If you thought just clicking “publish” was the end of the process online it can really just be the start of the process. Once you publish, you can tag others who you think will be interested in the topic or other experts you know of. If you work at a big firm with other attorneys, you can tag some of your peers and your group or others who focus on that area of law. Share the link across other social channels. If you’re active on Twitter, for example, or your law firm has a handle or an account, you can make sure they’re sharing that link. You want to make sure you’re distributing your content after you share it.
  5. Engaging, when publishing, you want to prompt readers to join the conversation, they can ask you questions. Again, you’re the expert on this topic you’ve just published about. Prompt them to ask you questions or to share their own take or experience with that news or trend.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s a fantastic framework. It is a great way to view the opportunity to be a thought leader on LinkedIn and to use it more than just publishing.

As we think about how business professionals are using LinkedIn now, from your vantage point, how is a business leader’s use of LinkedIn or approach to LinkedIn evolving?

It’s just becoming more and more sophisticated, I would say. For those who have been doing it for years, which we have now thousands of public company CEOs. In the area I focus, really big-name billionaire investors and others who participate in the capital markets. Those who have been doing it for years are just becoming more sophisticated in their use of LinkedIn. I think they’re branching out in terms of who they see as their audience. They see prospective clients on the platform.

If you’re a big investment manager, for example, they’re seeing the asset owners like the pension chief investment officers and the endowment chief investment officers and the sovereign wealth funds on the platform. So, prospective clients or customers and then prospective employees. We’re seeing this really grow, which is the use of LinkedIn almost as an internal communications tool or a tool to talk about, as you said earlier, the culture of these firms and the values that they care about. We’ve seen this become more important over just the past 18 to 24 months when, of course, our personal lives and our professional lives have become so intertwined with the pandemic, with the racial justice reckoning that we’ve gone through here in the United States, with elections and things like that.

I’m sure many listening to this have noticed, that business has become incumbent, almost a responsibility for business leaders to share their views on some of these issues that are affecting everyone around that, their employees, their customers, the societies in which they live and operate. So we’re seeing business leaders on LinkedIn start stepping out from their comfort zone and sharing their views on those issues on the platform. Some of that is literally the internal memos or communications that they have shared with employees around these topics, like that racial justice reckoning last summer of 2020 or matters around the election or the insurrection, things like that and many others as well. Sharing those internal communications on LinkedIn really allows both your employees who are on the platform, as well as your prospective employees, it gives them a window into, again, your culture and the values that you care about.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I’m glad that you brought up recruiting because, at least in the legal industry, and I know it’s broader than that, we’re seeing headlines right now about “talent wars.”  We personally don’t use that terminology, but it’s been coined in our industry, at least for the last few months because that’s what we’re experiencing. I think it’s a great point to bring up that LinkedIn isn’t just a platform for new business generation or networking with the purpose of developing new business or identifying new potential clients or referral sources, but there really is that humanizing, authentic piece that prospective laterals or business professionals are really looking for in their next role. I echo what you said: the pandemic has really brought out some of those more humanizing stories and I see those in my feed on LinkedIn and it is a nice way to show, in an authentic voice, what your culture is, what your firm stands for, and, in turn, it helps potential recruits figure out whether or not what they believe in aligns with their next potential employer.

Devin Banerjee: I absolutely agree.

Another framework, if I can introduce yet another one, but this is the one I’ve seen be quite successful with corporate leaders or even companies at large as they think about their strategies with content and social media is this framework of three buckets of content.

  1. The first is updates about your own company and your business activity. That can be sharing transactions or new client engagements or other announcements from your company. That’s table stakes.
  2. The second bucket is talking about industry trends. Standing out as that thought leader and domain expert in your industry or the areas in which you focus.
  3. The third bucket that goes to what you and I have just been speaking about is a personal updates bucket for business leaders. That’s what I sometimes call a peek “behind the curtain” or “a day in the life.” For example, here is what I do day-to-day, or here is celebrating some employees at the firm and their contributions and the diversity they bring to the table or here’s how we operate in our communities and how and where and why we volunteer our time and things like that. You’re seeing that bucket really grow around those leaders like public company CEOs, but even CEOs of all stripes and this framework allows you to drop content into these three buckets.

You can start with a 33, 33, 33% diversified approach to these three buckets and then measure engagement and reach. We give you all of those metrics on the platform. Measure engagement and reach by bucket and you can adjust your allocation, if you will, based on what’s resonating with different audiences.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I love that perspective and it’s very similar guidance to what we give our clients actually because while it’s important to share your business messages and the success that you’re having, we find that more of that humanizing content is very engaged with. People want to see what you’re doing in your community and especially in positions like attorneys who have such a unique educational background and skillset, I think the audience and their network likes to see how they use those unique skills to give back to communities and the pro bono work that they do. Thank you for sharing that.

Something that you mentioned was trends or timely topics, so I want to touch on that for a minute.

What trends are you seeing right now? How are they impacting the business and business professionals in the ways that they’re using LinkedIn right now?

The first thing I would mention, and I know we’re in an audio format right now so I can’t share my screen, but I would encourage people to discover, maybe for the first time, that there’s a module at the top right of your LinkedIn home feed called LinkedIn news [please see image below]. At any given time, there are 10 to 15 different trending news items that folks on my team are curating 24 hours a day, around the world. We identify those topics based on signals that we can see on our end in terms of what people are searching for on LinkedIn, what people are already talking about on LinkedIn. If you’re ever wondering, “What do I write about?” or “What is trending on LinkedIn?” or “What do all these 800-million others on the platform care about right now?” take a look at that LinkedIn news module at the top right of your feed.

Devin Banerjee: Regarding some of those larger topics that I’ve seen trend a lot more on the platform and inspire business leaders and others to write about: the first is this extremely tight, competitive labor market. I think it’s on the mind of every business leader out there across industries. “How do I hire today? How do I attract the best talent?” This pandemic has just become intertwined with that and so there’s so many cultural benefits and what we used to consider HR topics, but are so top of mind right now for prospective workers and employees. We continue to see that very popular on the platform.

I think in the area I focus, which is typically the investment and finance industries, there’s a lot of talk about technological innovation, disruption, adoption, and adapting. That can be the rise of FinTech or that can be how technology changes the nature of work in existing, long-standing firms such as regulated banks or big asset managers. A lot of these firms are trying to attract more technology-minded talent and they need to compete with big tech or other areas where this talent can go. So, they’re talking about how and why they are innovative places to work, and how and why they are increasingly utilizing technology throughout what they do.

Those are a few big trends I would say right now, again, appealing more to the legacy use cases of LinkedIn. There is a lot of talk about emerging from this pandemic and what the future of work looks like. Whether that’s specifically what a return-to-office looks like and what those strategies are and how they compare with other potential strategies and how to weigh the pros and cons of those. We’re seeing a lot of conversation about that future of work, especially right now.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s a great segue to my next question and looking ahead.

As organizations and professionals start to think about their content strategy for next year, 2022, what practical advice would you offer them in how they use LinkedIn and LinkedIn News?

One of the first things I always mention especially for those who are just trying to get started with a content strategy or publishing publicly is to think about the content you or your firm is already creating. There is often some low hanging fruit around your existing processes. For example, I mentioned client alerts, client notices, client memos, and client use letters, things that you’re already spending time working on that are being approved by legal, compliance, marketing, or communications or a combination of those functions within your firm, it’s already being approved for public consumption. Use that on LinkedIn because you’re already putting in the time and the work and it’s being made available publicly. You can, again, try to include a couple sentences of takeaways from what you’re linking to, and then link to it.

That can be a short form post update from your LinkedIn, or if you’re comfortable using that longer form article template on LinkedIn where actually we give you a headline field and a header image field and a body where you can embed charts and graphs and images and videos and things like that, you can cross publish those client newsletters or things you’re already working on into the long form format. Other examples of low hanging fruit are perhaps you’re speaking at a public event or at a conference or anything like that where, again, you’re already communicating or publishing or speaking publicly, you can think about cross publishing those things to LinkedIn. From there, there are some more advanced ways to think about what’s trending on the platform. Looking at that LinkedIn News module. We have a lot of folks looking at it just every day, once or twice a day, checking in on what is trending.

Often, you’ll see something in there that either inspires you to post or write something new or it’s related to something you’ve already posted or written about in the previous weeks or months, in which case you can flag to us for consideration to be featured or you can reshare it again just to ride that wave of what’s trending on LinkedIn. Other than that, even more advanced features that we have rolled out recently and are continuing to invest in include things like newsletters on LinkedIn. This is a specific format related to that long form article publishing. If you’re someone who publishes about a consistent theme and on some consistent basis, you can create a newsletter on LinkedIn. It carries a branded title and description around your articles and most importantly, it allows readers to subscribe to your publishing activity, in which case they are notified each time you publish one of those additions of the newsletter going forward. It builds a more loyal, sticky, engaged audience around your publishing activity. If you’re an attorney or a lawyer, by the way, and you’re focused in a specific area, this is something that could be perfect because it’s for folks who are, say, maybe an IP or technology law or antitrust or something like that. Folks who are interested in that specific topic can subscribe and be notified every time you publish an update.

One more I’ll mention is LinkedIn Live. This is one that has just skyrocketed in use and popularity during this pandemic when so many of our events and interactions have gone virtual. This is the ability to broadcast or stream live video on LinkedIn. We’ve seen entire companies or firms use this for updates or even conferences that have gone virtual or other events.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with just publishing day-to-day or week to week, there are so many other advanced formats and features available to you on LinkedIn.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s fantastic advice. I know that we are constantly sharing with our clients and prospective clients and our network, the value of repurposing the content that they’ve already used. You’ve given so many great examples of ways for them to think about the content that they’re generating and how they can use it in many different ways.

What’s on the horizon for LinkedIn and what are you most excited about?

I think this next coming calendar year of 2022, we are just continuing to invest in these creator and publishing tools. It’s really a trend now that is, we think, irreversible. As I mentioned, 29% increase in public content shared over the past year on the platform. I think that momentum will continue. We’re investing in many of those tools I just mentioned like newsletters and LinkedIn Live, which are already available, but sometimes in like beta format, we’re just seeing what users like about them and incorporating their feedback. We’ll be investing a lot more in that newsletter format in LinkedIn Live. We’ve recently integrated LinkedIn live with events on LinkedIn. Say you have an idea for a live, but it’s in a couple of weeks, you can create an event on LinkedIn and promote it ahead of time, accrue registrants, and sort of get people excited about the event, and then it streams live directly to them during the event time. So, continuing to invest in tools like that.

We’ve actually built up an entire parallel team to my team, which we call “community management.” These are folks whose entire job, day-to-day, is to work on helping these subject matter experts utilize LinkedIn as a publishing platform. This is an entire team which will eventually be dozens, actually even more than 100 folks, parallel to my team to help these subject matter experts on the platform. If you have ideas or you’re hesitant to begin or you don’t know where to start, you can reach out to me and I can see if we can pair you with one of these community managers or creator managers, we sometimes call them. Again, LinkedIn as a whole is just continuing to invest in this sort of creator or self-publishing ecosystem because it’s something that we see again as just an irreversible trend.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s fantastic and it’s wonderful to hear that there’ll be individuals who are dedicated to community support. That’s very exciting, especially for really anyone who’s interested in publishing, but for those who may really have a lot of questions or want to take a different approach to it or just need help getting it off the ground.

Devin Banerjee: That team will have events, public events, and gatherings that anyone can join to learn more about these best practices. Dan Roth, our editor in chief, actually has started a newsletter called Creator Weekly. I’ll share that link and we can put it in the notes, Jennifer, but it’s a weekly newsletter with what’s trending on the platform, who’s doing it well, ideas to inspire you around what to write about or share about in the future.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s great. Thank you for all of your time today, for all of this insight. I am confident that our listeners are going to walk away with new ideas, probably very energized because there’s so many opportunities that you’ve shared to optimize the time and the resources when they’re on LinkedIn.

If individuals are interested in getting in touch with you, where can they find you or learn more about you?

Absolutely. My own LinkedIn, of course. You can search Devin Banerjee on LinkedIn. You can follow my page or request to connect with me and I’ll certainly be happy to connect with you.

Jennifer, since we know each other any of your clients can feel free to reach out to me through you and have my email address and get in touch with me. I’m happy to help.

If I can just share a couple like final takeaways, if people are wondering what to take away from this conversation, the first thing I’d say is just experiment and get started. If you’ve never thought of LinkedIn in this way or published anything, just remind yourself or remember that you are a subject matter expert. You have the credentials, you have the years of experience in your specific focus area. Try sharing some of the things that you’re thinking about or that are top of mind or that you’ve already worked on to be written or published elsewhere and just see what happens.

See what the engagement is like. We give you the metrics to get a sense of who’s reading your stuff on LinkedIn. We give you the top job titles of your readers, the top employers of your readers, the top geographies. You can see if you’re achieving success based on what you define success to be. I would say experiment with it or even just spend time, if again, you haven’t really come to LinkedIn for a long time, scroll through your feed, follow other thought leaders in your space, see what they’re sharing, how you can be inspired by their ideas, and then take it from there.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s wonderful advice. I know for content that I publish and members of our team publish and for our clients, we are constantly looking at those metrics to make sure that the job titles that are viewing, the industries that are viewing, the companies that are viewing our content or our clients’ content are the target audiences we’re hoping to reach. That information is invaluable when we’re thinking about the next type of content or the next campaign that we’re looking to deploy. Devin, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and you joining me on the show today.

Devin Banerjee: Thanks so much for having me, Jennifer.

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