How to Use LinkedIn to Drive Editorial Strategy

by Dan Blank on February 22, 2010

Today I want to share the story of what one business media brand is doing to get closer to their audience, and how they are leveraging social media to drive editorial strategy.

Control Engineering’s Editorial Director David Greenfield setup a group called Automation & Control Engineering on LinkedIn, and has been integrating it into the brand in interesting ways:

  • Connecting & Empowering Their Audience
    Control Engineering’s LinkedIn group has 4,949 members. And because this is LinkedIn, each member has provided their REAL name and is linked to their REAL work history. Very different from saying "my blog has 4,000 page views," or "my newsletter list has 4,000 email addresses on it" or my article received 24 comments. You don’t get names like "eng24bob" commenting on LinkedIn, you get names like "Joe Martin, President at Martin Control Systems, Inc." For a business media brand covering a highly specialized field, this is incredibly valuable.

    Instead of creating a fan page for Control Engineering, they created a community for engineers. The name of the LinkedIn Group is "Automation & Control Engineering." It is clearly managed by the brand Control Engineering, but the logo for the group is not the CE logo. They didn’t act as a ‘media entity,’ they focused on their audience’s needs. The goal here is not to drive more traffic to Control Engineering, the goal is to empower members of this community and help in achieving their goals.

  • Creating Conversations That Matter
    More than 100 discussions have been posted, some of which have dozens of comments. These are deep conversations, such as this topic: "When PID is not the answer: What is Advanced Control good for?" Sounds thrilling, right? Well, it received more than 50 comments, many of them longer than a paragraph.

    And again I’ll stress this point: the commenters share their full name and work history. Here are just two of them for this conversation: Peter Way, President at VentiMar, LLC. He went to Princeton and MIT and has worked at Hewlett-Packard for five years, among other roles. Or how about Joseph S. Alford, Consultant, Automation Consulting Services, who has 37 years experience in this field and a PhD in Chemical Engineering.

    So not only are these people sharing ideas and information, but they are connecting with each other. Control Engineering is enabling this by creating and managing this LinkedIn group. They are not necessarily pursuing a "LinkedIn Strategy," but a customer strategy. On any platform, in any scenario, CE would want to engage and empower folks like Peter and Joseph. I would argue that even if LinkedIn isn’t around in 5 years, that Control Engineering is building a core competency here that can be leveraged later on, within new platforms that develop. If you aren’t learning how to connect your audience online, then you are missing out on the core value of the web.

  • Allowing Their Audience to Drive Editorial Strategy
    Six Control Engineering articles were created based on discussions from the LinkedIn group. Two have already been published (here and here), and 4 more are scheduled for later in the year. And no, these aren’t just second-string web articles, one was the January cover story for their print issue!

    This article from Control Engineering shares the thoughts from more than 10 contributors, and includes links back to their LinkedIn profiles.

  • Helping Move Careers Forward
    There are usually 40+ jobs posted in their job board. Activity in the group lead to David Greenfield’s editorial in their March issue, which discussed job prospects for engineers. That ‘jobs’ tab is not about adding another bell or whistle, but going back to the core needs of their audience and finding ways to help.

    In an economy this bad, if you can help businesses find great people, if you can help your audience find great jobs, then you have had a huge effect on their lives. This is the direction that media is taking – not just sharing information via articles, but providing services and transactions, and solving problems that keep your audience up at night.

  • Staying Ahead of the Competition
    Their top three competitors have 247 members combined on LinkedIn, compared to Control Engineering’s 4,949. Here’s how it breaks down:

    That’s pretty interesting. But it also speaks to the fact that a brand like Control Engineering has a new kind of competition that is scattered across the web, living on a variety of platforms and offering a mix of products and services. By leveraging LinkedIn to connect their readers, CE is addressing this changing landscape – that to be competitive tomorrow, they can’t be judging themselves by yesterday’s competition.

The common theme through all of this is not that Control Engineering is executing on a ‘social media strategy,’ but that they are inherently shaping a customer strategy, finding new ways to empower their audience and provide solutions to critical challenges.

If there is any way you think I can help you with your use of LinkedIn, send me a note: dan@danblank.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: @DanBlank

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