Developing Employee Ambassadors and a Personal Brand on LinkedIn with Goldie Chan

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Goldie Chan is the founder and CEO of a boutique strategic, storytelling, and brand guidance agency called Warm Robots. She’s also a Top Voice on LinkedIn and a frequent contributor to Forbes

Goldie spends a lot of time advising brands and their employees on how they can best represent their companies on LinkedIn. She joins us today on the Agency Ahead podcast to talk about some of these insights. 

The highlights:

  • [1:33] How LinkedIn has been doing in 2020.
  • [2:32] Why brands are being more conservative.
  • [3:52] Strategizing how employees represent brands on LinkedIn.
  • [5:57] How companies can educate and train employees to promote the brand on LinkedIn.
  • [7:39] Advising B2B employees on LinkedIn representation.
  • [10:13] Dry content vs. entertaining content: finding the balance.
  • [12:50] The current normal for posting content.
  • [15:44] Tips for building your internal team of ambassadors.
  • [20:10] LinkedIn posting frequency.
  • [22:34] LinkedIn’s algorithm.
  • [25:34] Goldie’s causes. 

What's your current perspective on how LinkedIn has been doing in 2020?

“Such a loaded question!”

There have been layoffs on LinkedIn, as with every other company impacted by the pandemic right now. “We have to take that into account because that’s what we see on the outside.”

So where is LinkedIn going?

“I think LinkedIn wants to really make sure that their strategy is a little more focused, so you’re not going to see as many experimental initiatives coming out at this time.”

Are brands experimenting more?

“It’s a prime time to be experimental with your content and your content strategy,” Goldie says. “What better time to stand up and stand out than in the middle of a sea of change?”
Yet “more experimentation” isn’t really what Goldie is seeing.  
“A lot of brands are doubling down on existing strategies, existing voices. I think [it’s] because of everything political that we won’t dive into too deeply that’s happening across the world. There’s a lot of reason to be more conservative for brands. I’m sure their PR teams are also telling them to not talk out of turn, or stand out.”

Strategizing how employees represent brands on LinkedIn

“You have a lot of employees who now become internal brand ambassadors or evangelists for their companies, and so they’re promoting the brand. One of the things I definitely do on the side, I advise C-level executives on their personal brand. And so it’s important to do what I call a brand within a brand. They’re going to have their own personal brand within a larger candy shell of that greater brand, whatever that is.”
She says what you never want to see is employees going completely rogue from the brand values.
“I know that can be really tricky when an employee has their own thoughts, feelings, etc., but you always want to think about it like this: the brand is the burrito wrapper and the employee is the avocado slices inside.”

How can companies educate and train employees to promote the brand on LinkedIn

“It depends on the brand itself,” says Goldie. “And how hands-on they want to be.”
She says she’s done everything from working on guidebooks to general guidelines: specific rules vs. general rules that employees can follow.
“It depends on the brand and how tightly they need to control the narrative.”
She gives an example from Lego, who is one of her clients.
“Lego is such a fun brand. But Lego as a company is a corporation. Lego on Twitter is going to be very different than Lego on LinkedIn and how an employee represents themselves as a Lego employee on LinkedIn is by nature going to be a lot more narrow and a lot more conservative. They can still emphasize the fact that Lego is all about play, but it’s not necessarily going to be sharing Lego memes on LinkedIn.”

A Lego post on Twitter.

A Lego post on LinkedIn.

Advising B2B employees on representing the brand on LinkedIn

Garrett asked using LinkedIn for B2B sales, or for trying to promote the brand’s content because it’s targeted B2B. “What does that strategy look like, and how specifically do you advise B2B company employees to represent on LinkedIn?”

“I myself am an ambassador for Adobe,” Goldie begins, by way of example. “I’m the only one, I think, who represents them both on the creative side and also on the B2B enterprise solutions side.”

She says as an ambassador, these are two very different things.

“I’m creating very different content for the two different sides.”

She says on the B2B side, 

“I think a lot of it is focusing on the relationships behind a B2B buyer, which is still a person or a team. The people who hold the purse strings. The people who control the budget. It’s still a person.”

Goldie shares that she recently got a message from someone who was posting TikTok videos of their cat on LinkedIn. 

“They’re getting quite a few views on it, and they wanted to ask me how to amplify those views even more. Now, this makes me nervous to hear this, for someone who wants to get a job in specifically B2B, because you’re probably getting recruiter views.

But are those recruiters actually messaging you to hire you for a job? Honestly, frankly, no, right? They’re probably attracted to that content because it’s really fun and interesting and not like LinkedIn, but they also might not be taking that person super seriously.”

She says the same thing is true of B2B marketing.

“We want to strike that balance between having fresh content but also being serious because at the end of the day you’re not going to spend millions of dollars on a solution if you’re seeing that person that’s selling the solution is just posting TikTok videos of their cat all day long.”

Dry content vs. entertaining content

On the flip side, it’s very easy to overcorrect and go too dry on LinkedIn. 
“I always think about it as two bars,” Goldie says. “There’s entertainment and there’s education. Now, on other platforms, you can push entertainment all the way to the very top. In fact, it’s optimal for a platform like YouTube.”
But on LinkedIn?
“It’s always better to have a balance between educational content and entertaining content. So it should of course not be the world’s most dry white paper. I see so many people uploading white papers with zero explanation on LinkedIn, and that’s not great either. Because nobody’s going to read that white paper.”
She contrasts this with content that’s entertaining, yet inappropriate for the platform.
“If you could do a balance of something that shows has thought leadership, is educational but also entertaining, that’s when you’ve won. So you wanna make sure this is always in balance.”
Goldie gives an analogy.
“I think a lot about cooking and a lot about balancing flavors in a meal, especially a savory meal, adding in just the right amount of spice so that it becomes a hot wings challenge of a piece of content for someone to consume. You want to make it just edible enough. Show your expertise, but add in your personality. But keep it within certain boundaries.”
As an example:
“You might post a really fun team meeting where everyone wears fun hats, or where you guys talked about something a little bit off-brand. All of that is totally appropriate for a platform like LinkedIn.”

The current ‘normal’ for posting content

Garrett asked about the challenges of getting good content done during the pandemic.
“I think you get a get-out-of-jail-free card for your content right now because everyone is tired.”
So she cautions against really dense content, including super-long videos. 
“Adding in more flavor than you normally would during 2020.”
Yet she says you should already be looking ahead to 2021 and 2022. 
“2020 is almost over. We don’t know what 2021 will look like. We’re thinking 2022 is a return to somewhat normalcy, and you can plan for that more.”
She says if you’re a brand looking to use your employees as ambassadors or to bring in ambassadors in general, to ask yourself what the main goals of you doing this are. 
“Are you trying to build brand awareness? Are you trying to move some enterprise solution or product? That will help inform who you bring on, why you bring them on, and what parameters they have for what they say once you bring them on board.”

Tips for building your internal team of ambassadors

Goldie says if you’re going to build an internal team of ambassadors, first thing’s first – know what your vertical is. 

“I see many people who are just like, ‘okay, I want that person because they have a huge following’, but if that following is not where your buyers are, those 50,000 followers are not going to be relevant. Make sure whoever you choose can speak to the right target demographic.”

She also thinks it’s helpful to find someone who is good at “engaging with others, commenting back, having meaningful discussions, and creating the kind of content that warrants a response.”

As for who in the organization should serve as ambassadors, it once again depends on the company’s goals.

“If you want global brand awareness, if you want to start getting as many mentions as possible, then it’s best to expand just beyond the C-suite. If you want something as tasty as brand authority, right, which is different than brand awareness, then you might want to focus on people who will bring authority to the table. That would of course be your C-Suite.”

Why the C-Suite?

“They’ve been in the industry probably for a while, they’re going to bring authority and thought leadership to the table just by their presence.”

Yet if you’re a relative unknown in the B2B space, thought leadership might not be your first priority.

“You might then want to enlist more people. You might want to enlist a Head of Marketing, you might want to enlist some Head of Creative.”

LinkedIn posting frequency

You shouldn’t post on LinkedIn as often as you’d post on Twitter. 
“From under 10 posts a day, it depends. It depends on the industry, on how frequently our people are on LinkedIn, because if they’re not on LinkedIn super frequently you don’t want to pump out a ton of content nobody is going to see because you won’t be rewarded for that. But if you have a very active vertical who loves LinkedIn who is engaging every single day, every minute of every hour, then you can get away with a little bit more.”
She says the upper tier is usually 5 posts a day.
“But on LinkedIn, the algorithm is going to favor fewer posts than that.”

LinkedIn's algorithm

One thing Goldie thinks is important to know about LinkedIn’s algorithm is that it changes constantly.

“If someone gives you advice from 2019? It’s no longer relevant. The algorithm changes every 4 to 6 months.”

She says sometimes you’ll see big jumps in different types of content and that will be the result of an algorithm change.

“So how can you tell from the outside what the algorithm favors? If you’re on LinkedIn enough, you’ll notice. You have to be on the platform to see the trends live.”

You can then use that intuition to capitalize on those trends while they last. 

What's your right now cause?

Goldie wants to call our listener’s attention to Invisible People

“It’s a beautiful nonprofit that deals with homelessness all over the US. It’s run by one of my friends. His name is Mark and he is ex-homeless himself. He travels around and documents homeless stories from the perspective of homeless people. He also uses any donations to give away basic necessities like socks and cell phones, things we don’t always think about.”

She notes right now homelessness is disproportionately affecting disenfranchised communities because of the state of the economy. 

Connect with Goldie Chan

Want to see more of Goldie’s insights? 

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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