LinkedIn 3D conference: 7 key themes and a few takeaways

Cherry blossom in Spring at University of Birmingham

The venue was University of Birmingham’s beautiful campus. Photo by Jonathan Crannage.

This week, I took part in the LinkedIn3D conference at the University of Birmingham, presenting a few stats about our University Page before starting a conversation about content – what works, what doesn’t. I was joined by Higher Education professionals from three key areas: careers, alumni and marketing-communications.

The conference, organised by LinkedIn’s education evangelist Charles Hardy, was opened by the always-brilliant Eric Stoller, and has since been documented comprehensively by Warwick University’s digital comms expert Dave Musson.

The format was free-and-easy, with much of the content on the day being shaped by those in attendance. Some key themes emerged early on, and they’re themes that will resonate with anyone in Higher Education who uses social media to support their work.

Here they are:

One team working

Large organisations have trouble getting teams to talk to each other, let alone work with each other. At Sheffield Hallam, planning for our showcase sessions has spurred us on, and we’re in the process of setting up a LinkedIn working group, dedicated to planning content and finding opportunities to make the most of the platform.

What we’re finding is that it’s difficult to get people from every single area round a table, so start with a core of people who can get on with it. Eventually, others will join in.

Content

Eric Stoller said it best in his keynote: “University Pages showcase the vibe of your institution, through the content you post and the comments people leave.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of discussion throughout the day was about the amorphous subject of content. I opened the marcomms track by showcasing some of the things I’d been posting on Hallam’s University Page. In particular, a nostalgic post about our old campus on Psalter Lane, which has generated 149 likes and 39 comments so far.

That’s a really high level of engagement, and it continues to get more. In general, good content on LinkedIn seems to have more longevity than Facebook or Twitter, which are usually home to fleeting moments. Replying to comments is important, if you want to keep the conversation going, and doing it in a personal way usually gets better results.

Dave Musson talked us through his approach at Warwick: they post once a day, early on in the day, and it tends to get good engagement.

There was a lot of talk of LinkedIn’s interface, how to get round the lack of formatting options, and its lack of native video.

My lightbulb moment happened when the discussion moving towards the idea of alumni-generated content. Jonathan Crannage, digital content co-ordinator at Loughborough University, is a Sheffield Hallam alumnus, and tweeted me during the workshop about his collection of Psalter Campus photos.

That kind of approach to user-generated content would be really interesting to try on a University Page, and I’m keen to try it out.

Groups

A lot of people still use discussion groups to broadcast. At Sheffield Hallam we haven’t cracked that nut either.

The best advice came from Charles Hardy, who said that “groups need watering”. Online conversations take place between a number of people, so if you’re relying on one person opening the door to a group once a week and shouting into an empty room, you’re doing it wrong.

You can start a conversation from nothing, by involving a few people. So ask a question, prod people, and see what you can get moving. Someone raised a really good point about discussion groups: what can we offer our alumni through those groups, that benefits us and them in a mutually beneficial way? If you can answer that, your groups will suddenly become hives of activity and outcomes.

Eric Stoller suggested trying ‘ask me anything’ style Q&As with careers teams in groups. We’ll definitely give this a try.

Engaging stakeholders

This theme was originally about engaging academics, but was extended to ‘stakeholders’ after the morning’s workshops.

There was some discussion of employer engagement through Company Pages (as well as groups), but my biggest takeaway was around blogging. We talked about encouraging academics to blog on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform, but what about careers teams? Alumni relations teams?

If HE professionals start blogging on LinkedIn, University Pages can use that content to engage alumni, and group-owners can use those blogs to start conversations.

Another lightbulb moment: get your VC to blog on Pulse.

Also, hashtags work in Pulse. Seriously. Go try it now: search in ‘Posts’ for a hashtag and see what comes up. You’ll be amazed.

Employer engagement

Another theme that morphed and merged throughout the day, fitting into the ‘Engaging stakeholders’ breakout session in the afternoon. I’ll be honest, I don’t have much experience of doing this, and there was very little discussion in the sessions I was in of how to do it.

I’d probably do this through groups, as well as our Company Page, which is currently used more for employer brand stuff.

LinkedIn features

Charles Hardy was good enough to invite critical feedback from delegates on what they want from LinkedIn, and what features they’d want to see in the future. He also broke the news of LinkedIn’s new student app, which launched in the US this week.

I asked for a Pages Manager app. Pretty please, with sugar on top. We want notifications, a better interface, and to get away from our desks.

Native video is happening, although we don’t have an idea of when. But metrics and analytics are on the way, according to Charles. And Company and University Pages will soon be merged, making our lives easier.

So lots of good things on the horizon for HE professionals using LinkedIn, and it’s encouraging that they’re so keen to reach out to a very engaged audience, talk to them and listen to feedback.

If anything in the post resonates with you, let me know in the comments. Especially if you’re doing anything a bit different and interesting with groups.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

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