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LinkedIn has invested heavily in original brand journalism. But why? And how can your brand learn from the platform that sold to Microsoft for billions? It's really all about expertise, engagement, and editorial credibility -- each of which any brand can enjoy through a commitment to consistent editorial-quality content.

The halo effect of 'editorial credibility'

LinkedIn has been investing in original journalism for some time now. The company has used its position at the center of the professional world to attract top-notch journalists. This cohort was attracted not only by a steady paycheck but also for the opportunity to drive the daily narrative for professionals worldwide.

 It is their job to sprinkle editorial credibility on top of the mountains of user-generated content – of varying degrees of quality – posted into LinkedIn news feeds every day by legions of ‘thought leaders’. -The Drum

'Editorial credibility' is not limited to publishers or social platforms.

The concept is that consumers are much more likely to trust content infused with an editorial sensibility, rather than simply a commercial content exercise.

This is a key insight for any brand looking to content marketing for results: Talk less about yourself and more about your stakeholders, and how your brand sees your industry and the wider world. By providing analysis and insights from the perspective of the brand, there's a trust that is built with the reader. But that reader is a prospect or an existing customer or an employee. Trust is invaluable.

Balancing quality with quantity

Sure, there're some struggles with quality. Like any social platform, the quality of shared content rests on the shoulders of the network's members. And LinkedIn struggles with a certain rogue element of spammy members that don't grasp the point of the professional networking platform.

But the volume of content is important for global traction. The platform needs to showcase opinions from all kinds of different industries, each of which has its own style and sophistication when it comes to thought leadership. If it would rely only on user shares, and not original content, there would be less incentive for users to return each and every day. If the content that users find on the platform is valuable, users trust the platform even more.

Trust then turns into engagement, as users return to the platform for more.

This is the halo effect of 'editorial credibility' -- a halo effect that any brand can easily enjoy, not only on their own company blog but also (thanks to LinkedIn's own efforts) especially by publishing compelling content on LinkedIn itself.

'Each engagement is a vote of confidence'

The platform maintains its place at the center of this universe by staying at the leading edge of business conversations across all industries. If it slips from that edge, the platform starts to lose relevance to its core constituencies.

This is the impact of original brand journalism: Consistent engagement thanks to content that readers can't easily get elsewhere.

Each engagement touchpoint is a vote of confidence. Each time a user engages with a shared link, a colleague's comment, or an original article published to LinkedIn, it further entrenches the platform's aura of inevitability when it comes to professional networks worldwide.

Each engagement is also a vote of confidence in the individual sharing the content. This is an added benefit of LinkedIn's focus on original content: It allows users to vouch for others, support their network, and engage in soft relationship building. This further facilitates engagement and makes the LinkedIn experience more sticky. This is by design,  director and senior managing editor Isabelle Roughol told the Drum:

“People put their professional identity on the line when they are publishing and sharing on LinkedIn. They’re using their real name with their boss and their employees and their customers seeing what they’re doing. So I think that helps people self-police and think about what they’re sharing and what it says about them, and it helps us maintain a high-level conversation.”

This engagement drives the utility of the platform for professional life. LinkedIn's mission is to "create a digital map of the global economy to connect talent with opportunity at massive scale." With original content peppered within user activity, the platform can target topics and guide conversations throughout its global network to achieve its stated mission.

LinkedIn's focus on original brand journalism is a powerful tool to drive thought leaders to contribute, while also further cementing LinkedIn's brand in the marketplace of professionals worldwide.

Lesson's from LinkedIn's brand journalism approach

As brand builders and professional communicators, we have lots to learn from LinkedIn's investment in original brand journalism. Here are three key points:

  1. Invest in content. It's not surprising that this would be our perspective. We obviously believe passionately in the power of content. However, it's always worth highlighting. Great content isn't cheap. And it most certainly doesn't create itself. Make an investment, even just a small experiment, to see how publishing to your company blog, LinkedIn, and/or Medium can evolve/establish/define the narrative around your own company. You'll be surprised at the shift in engagement your marketers, salespeople, and customer success managers have.
  2. Write for your audience, not just for yourself.  Just like a dinner party, no one really wants to keep talking to the person that only talks about themselves. Don't be that guy -- approach your brand marketing with an editorial sensibility, and you're well-positioned to see a long-term return on the investment in a smart, cogent, and consistent content strategy.
  3. Test and learn. LinkedIn has been involving their approach to regional content for years. As the company hired more editors, who in turn started creating more content, the process improved. It became a defining feature of the platform today. So as you decide to make the financial investment and begin writing for your target audiences, don't expect immediate results. Give the project space to breathe, so that there's time to test and learn. Don't rush, don't come to premature decisions, and allow enough time to analyze the results. Then you have a clear picture of how an investment in brand journalism pans out for your specific situation. This is more of a shift in brand strategy rather than an initiative with an expiration date.

With these three steps, you're well on your way to enjoying the long-term benefits of brand journalism for your company, and its executives, employees, and stakeholders.

Photo courtesy Eric Laignel.

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