LinkedIn launched a new “thought leaders” feature on October 16, 2012. Speakerfile offers recommendations for incorporating thought leadership into their platform. Speakerfile, a SaaS platform that helps companies promote their expertise and thought leadership, has developed a number of best practices for curating expert content and making thought leaders more visible.
Organizations are now understanding that product-centric marketing is becoming less effective in growing business. Because of this, companies are investing more in sharing their expertise and thought leadership, and this includes their individual subject matter experts. Amidst a sea of over 175 million profiles now on LinkedIn, it’s becoming more important for individuals to be seen as the go-to-individual for certain expertise. Experts simply connect better with influencers, such as media, event organizers, and customers.
As LinkedIn releases its enhanced ability to follow thought leaders, Speakerfile applauds this development. We’d also like to offer some key principles in showcasing expertise that extends beyond the world’s top celebrities. While following celebrities might be interesting, there are many excellent experts out there within organizations that have yet to be discovered or empowered, or simply may not be self-promoters. Organizations need to be encouraged to showcase their thought leaders and executives; just because individuals don’t self-promote doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of promotion. Allowing companies to lift these individuals up helps level the playing field. Many of these experts may not be overly active LinkedIn users, but are absolute authorities in their industries and major contributors.
Speakerfile’s recommendations for LinkedIn
Recommendation #1: Expand the definition of a thought leader beyond 150 people
With 175 million members, it is hard to believe that there are only 150 people worth being named thought leaders. We understand, based on LinkedIn’s blog posts, that these are “not just any professionals, but 150 of the most influential thought leaders.” There are so many industry experts around the world–many unsung heroes–that have not been found and promoted to “thought leader” status. There would be tremendous value to the public for LinkedIn to mine the millions of profiles on the site and connect people to interesting thought leaders beyond those we already know and respect. LinkedIn could extend the features provided to thought leaders to all of their members and then rotate different thought leaders to their featured page each day, week, or month. This would promote more diverse and powerful connections.
Recommendation #2: Offer a local search experience that counters the big data challenge
LinkedIn has done a good job of connecting you to people you know, but finding and connecting to professionals outside your social circle is more of a challenge. Providing the ability to visually search and narrow down this large pool of experts would provide tremendous value to not only LinkedIn’s loyal base of recruiters, but also event organizers, media, and potential customers. At 175 million profiles that are personally managed, LinkedIn faces a big data challenge in showcasing thought leaders. Right now it is simply too time consuming to find experts at this level of granularity – especially at a local level. Making profiles more search engine friendly and pushing more information to the front of the platform will make it easier for people to find experts simply through their Google search. Create a dynamic visual search experience within the platform that is dead-simple to narrow down within seconds to a handful of experts: whether by location, topic, or keyword.
Recommendation #3: Integrate rich-media assets into company and individual profiles
Part of what validates expertise and thought leadership is the content that companies and individuals create. Providing a way to augment corporate and individual profiles with videos, photos, whitepapers, case studies, slides, and more would provide a more comprehensive picture of their expertise. Given that LinkedIn has corporate profiles as well as individual profiles, it should provide companies with a richer set of tools to promote their expertise beyond their product offerings and status updates. Providing companies with an ability to upload their own assets and expert content that represents their overall thought leadership allows those searching to be confident in the value of the experts in the context of the organizations they represent. (And no, I don’t think the current integrations are good enough.)
As LinkedIn matures and moves to extend beyond a directory of personal contacts used by recruiters and job seekers, it will be interesting to see how well the platform will provide a means for both individuals and organizations to showcase thought leadership. What are your thoughts on LinkedIn’s new ability to follow thought leaders? What could they do better for you as a user or as a company using the platform?