Cutting through noise: is LinkedIn the missing link in your social strategy?

Do you have a targeted social strategy aimed at the Asian business traveller? Since the region is home to the 40% of the world’s professional audience maybe you should. In this exclusive interview, Hari Krishnan, LinkedIn’s managing director, Asia Pacific & Japan, talks return on investment, content strategy, case studies and why mobile is the future.

When we think about travel and social, the usual suspects spring to mind – Facebook, Pinterest, Google+. Travel is, after visually pleasing, and if you get your images and presentation right on these platforms, the impact can be stunning and effective. Yet what about LinkedIn? With 200 million professional users worldwide, it is the world’s largest online professional network and is constantly developing and expanding its content ecosystem to ensure the widest possible reach. Moreover, 40 million of those are in the Asia Pacific region, says Krishnan, who, alongside Facebook, Twitter and Google, will make a keynote address at the Travel Distribution Summit Asia in Singapore (May 28-29). According to Krishnan, the possibilities in the region are huge and growing – particularly on the mobile front. Expect to see innovation on this front soon. Read on for more insights.

EFT: How can travel brands use LinkedIn as a marketing or engagement tool to grow their business, drive loyalty and raise awareness?

HK: Not surprisingly, my conversations with our clients in the marketing space invariably centre on how they can maximise their return on investment.  In all marketing campaigns, it all boils down to whether you have the reach and have relevant and compelling messages to deliver to get the desired reactions from your target audience.  LinkedIn’s members are C-level or senior executives or professionals in their respective fields ranging from technology and consumer products to healthcare and financial services.  So, if a travel brand wants to have access to this group of highly qualified group of individuals, we have the reach (40 million members in Asia Pacific alone). In addition to the reach we have, our marketing solutions team also works closely with brands and companies to deliver relevant and compelling messages to their target audience, something that has proven very effective when it comes to cutting through the level of noise in a very crowded market.

Cathay Pacific, for example, is one such client.  They wanted to target people who fly business class between the US and Asia.  They believed that they needed to advertise where the business people are going to be, and that these people would be on LinkedIn.  Their challenge was about cutting through the ‘noise’ in the market to reach their target audience with a compelling message. Our team worked with the airline to identify LinkedIn members who belong to LinkedIn groups related to business travel in Asia, such as Global Workers, China Networking Group, Hong Kong Connection, and targeted these members with Display Ads and Sponsored Polls.  We also helped to set up a Cathay Pacific Company Page on LinkedIn and use status updates and recommendations to build awareness and drive engagement.  The results were very encouraging.  The three sponsored polls generated more than 1,300 responses from business travellers, while the ads generated 97 recommendations on the company’s product page.  More importantly, the platform provided ongoing insight to ad effectiveness and provides useful data for future campaigns.

EFT: What makes the Asian market particularly interesting or challenging and what are you recommendations for engaging with users?

HK: We are certainly excited about opportunities in the Asia Pacific region, which is home to about 40% of the world’s professional audience. We don’t typically see the region as one block, but as a diverse collection of markets each with its own unique needs.  For this reason, we tend to be very thoughtful about how we can add value not only to our members but also to our clients as well.  For members, our value proposition is all about helping them to establish and maintain their professional profile, gain professional insights and provide them the platform to do these everywhere with mobile apps.  This has proven to be very successful for us as we saw the number of members on LinkedIn grow in Asia more than 50% since January 2012 to more than 37 million in January this year. 

Our clients, on the other hand, expect us to deliver innovative, tailored engagement opportunities.  I mentioned Cathay Pacific earlier but there are many other similar case studies.  For example, Microsoft Australia launched the ‘Australian Software Developer Community’ in November 2010, aimed at giving the community a local presence for like-minded developers to exchange ideas and network.  The results were immediate:

1.      423 new members joined the group in the first week, which doubled within a month

2.      2,500 members by the first quarter of 2012

3.      58% of ‘partner messages’ were opened rate

4.      33% click-through rate achieved 

EFT: Travel is highly visual which is why Facebook, Pinterest and the like work well. What can LinkedIn offer that the other networks can't?

HK: More than anything, content becomes king when it is relevant and compelling, and targeted at the right audience. What differentiates us from social networks is our sole focus on the needs of our members, the professional audience.  A key value proposition for our members is professional insights, and by design, content is very much an ecosystem that’s oriented around them.  This ecosystem involves growing the LinkedIn publishing platform that generates both original content via more than 200 LinkedIn influencers, as well as aggregates the biggest business news from more than 1.3 million news sites across the globe. And we are continuing to invest in platforms that enable us to deliver content-rich experiences by featuring videos, blog posts, company news, and updates as part of our ‘content ads’ portfolio.  As you know, LinkedIn and SlideShare came together last year, combining the reach of LinkedIn and content-rich features of SlideShare to help brands engage their audience even more effectively. Earlier this month, we also offered brands a brand new platform to share content with LinkedIn’s professional audience using SlideShare content ads. 

EFT: Are there any new developments underway at LinkedIn that brands will be able to tap into?
HK: In a world where information sources continue to explode, consumers are challenged and distracted at the same time.  Trying to decide what to read is difficult because of the sheer volume of news. So the natural tendency is to spend time on content that comes across as relevant or content that is ‘endorsed’ by people in your network.   We recognise this need by giving our members access to professional content that matters. 

On the same count, we offer our clients a portfolio of content marketing solutions that enables them to reach a targeted audience.  Something closely related to content marketing is the accessibility of our platform via mobile apps. Along with the investments we continue to make to make our platform more accessible on mobile devices, we are seeing more usage of mobile apps - in the fourth quarter of 2012, an average of 27%of unique visiting members came through mobile apps, versus just 15% a year ago.  So, you can expect more innovation on this front.

Hari Krishnan, LinkedIn managing director for Asia Pacific will speaking at theTravel Distribution Summit Asia in Singapore May 28-29

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