LinkedIn has grown from a member network of 30 million four years ago to 225 million today, and it’s adding two new members per second. These statistics are from LinkedIn’s own accounting, and were reported at the 41st Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, May 14-16, 2013 in Boston by Deep Nishar, LinkedIn’s senior vice president of Products & User Experience. The company’s research says that LinkedIn members are almost 50% more likely to purchase from a company they connect with on the platform, and that “nearly 80% of LinkedIn members say they want to connect with the companies in their lives.”

So companies have a presence on the platform, LinkedIn offers company pages that it says are used to improve brand image and to increase the intentions of members to buy products and services, among other things. Pages for companies are a common theme on social media platforms, and considerable press is devoted to the marketing advantages that pages and social media in general provide. Still, as discovered in Social Media Examiner’s 2013 Social Media Marketing Report (PDF), the number three top question social media marketers wanted answered was how to measure return on their social media investments, suggesting the typical measurements of marketing success are not evident.

Sorting out the marketing

Jason Alba, author of I’m On LinkedIn — Now What??? and the site of the same name, doesn’t think LinkedIn company pages should be a strong part of a marketing strategy. He offers many reasons why, including (in his estimation) because people are using the company pages to do intelligence research on the company and employees, not for purchasing products or services. Patrick O’Malley, of 617-PATRICK Social Media Consulting, while not advocating that companies should skip using social media pages altogether, characterizes them as ridiculously overrated because they are mainly watered-down versions of web pages with restricted formats. He says the company’s own website should always be its primary focus.

LinkedIn’s Company Pages and Followers guide (PDF) showcases three results companies have had in engaging their followers, but only one of the three case studies highlights direct revenue growth from the reporting company’s efforts. The other success stories report increased engagement, increased recommendations, more new followers, and more exposure. Clearly businesses are finding value even if it is not in the traditional forms. That value, however, is dependent upon using the page features each social media platform makes available. Once a company commits to creating and managing a company page, it can be challenging to know not only how much effort to put into it, but also how to take advantage of the many and often changing features.

In September 2012, LinkedIn made changes to its company pages that were initially rolled out to selected companies and later made available to all. While these were largely cosmetic changes in how pages display and in their designs, there are some key places to focus on, beginning with the header.

Starting at the top

Miles Austin, sales and marketing technologist with Fill the Funnel, which helps companies select and implement sales web tools, says companies using LinkedIn company pages should make sure the header image is fresh and displays a quality design. Using a stand-alone logo makes no sense, he says, while also cautioning to resist the temptation to get spammy. Austin recommends coordinating the page header and branding to match your other social and web presences. He also encourages being sure to use the Products and/or Services tabs and to fill them with fresh content that has current and specific information on your company’s offerings.

Neal Schaffer, author of Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing and president of social media strategic consultancy Windmills Marketing, recommends fully optimizing your services pages.

“Don’t stop with just a robust page,” Schaffer counsels. “Build out a page for every service that you offer and completely customize it, taking advantage of the real estate that LinkedIn provides you. The LinkedIn company pages are evolving into a huge database of companies that includes their products and services, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to get indexed — and to allow others to recommend your products and services, creating powerful credibility, and social proof on the network where the business decision makers are.”

Involving others

Austin advises that companies should explore monitoring their company pages with the built-in page and follower analytics tools. He also recommends participating in a continuous LinkedIn Update and training service, obtaining customer recommendations, and updating regularly.

When publishing, Schaffer stresses making sure content is relevant for your audiences and to publish as often on your LinkedIn page as your Facebook page. That’s because he says LinkedIn already appears to be using a type of EdgeRank newsfeed algorithm in deciding which of your followers receive which posts — this makes relevancy even more important. Schaffer also highly recommends getting employees involved with your company page, not just in following it, but also in sharing relevant updates between the company’s page and their own networks.