LinkedIn influencers are a thing now—and brands like Intel and Hootsuite are courting them

Oct 30, 2023
LinkedIn influencers are a thing now—and brands like Intel and Hootsuite are courting them
It’s common to see sponsored posts from creators flooding feeds on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Now brand partnerships with influencers are popping up on LinkedIn.

Tech brands like Intel, Zendesk, Teal, and HootSuite have all recently partnered with LinkedIn creators to make use of the less-saturated platform. Interest in working with LinkedIn creators is growing as brands are recognizing that the social network’s algorithm appears to offers lots of organic visibility to the posts of individuals. (Disclosure: I teach marketing courses on LinkedIn Learning.)

“Content focused on sharing knowledge and insights” tends to get more reach, writes Alice Xiong, director of product for LinkedIn’s search offerings.

Since September, eight LinkedIn creators have shared 12 text-focused posts for HootSuite, the social media management software, promoting their social media career report.

This is HootSuite’s first creator campaign on LinkedIn, a partnership with well-known social media managers, directors, and freelancers with audiences of other social media professionals.

Each creator published personal career stories and refuted misconceptions about working in social media to tie in with the brand’s report.

Most of these posts were paired with an image of the creator holding a sign featuring a statistic from the report or a common misjudgment about a career in social media, emulating the popular memes from the Dude With Sign Instagram account.

“This is one of the only text-heavy platforms that have a really high engagement rate. And so when it came to that I knew there was such a unique way that LinkedIn creators operated, and a unique format that I found a lot of LinkedIn posts followed,” says Eileen Kwok, a social marketing specialist at HootSuite.

This was HootSuite’s most successful creator campaign to date, earning more than 1.2 million impressions, some 5,600 link clicks, and more than 18,800 engagements, according to the company.

In addition to choosing creators who align with your campaign’s focus, setting up a successful partnership includes matching the format with what resonates on LinkedIn, tying into a relevant trend, and creating a detailed creative brief.

“I think one of the big takeaways for me was making sure I had a highly detailed brief,” Kwok says. “I say, if you’re not happy with the result of the post, nine out of ten times it’s because the brief wasn’t strong enough.”

An effective creative brief outlines the brand’s objectives, expectations for how they’d like a creator to contribute (like formatting suggestions), and requirements for participation like using proper ad disclosures for legal compliance.

Many creators and marketers involved with these partnerships agree that creative control should remain with the creator, and micromanagement by the brand should be avoided.

“I want [brands] to really trust the creators that they are leaning into. Give me the creative brief, but also allow for freedom, because if you wanted to run an ad you would just run an ad,” says Brandon Smithwrick, a creator who’s participated in 17 brand partnerships on LinkedIn.

“You’re coming to a creator for a reason,” Smithwrick continues. “They’re going to speak to their community in a way you cannot. They’re going to interject your brand in a way that’s cool. Otherwise, you know, you’re just copying your LinkedIn post and publishing it under my name. That’s not what partnership is.”

Partnering with multiple LinkedIn creators for a campaign on an ongoing basis is another way to improve the performance of these collaborations.

Prioritizing long-term relationships with creators instead of one-off campaigns is how brands can earn the trust of creators and their audiences, says Brianna Doe, a LinkedIn creator who’s collaborated on 12 brand campaigns on the platform.

“That audience is going to see the brand’s name more than once, instead of just once on a random Tuesday, and that’s always going to be a win,” she says.

That’s what’s working for Teal, a job search tool for applicants that started partnering with LinkedIn creators in March. So far, the Florida-based company has worked with 22 creators in recruiting, HR, career coaching, and marketing, all discussing job search tips, advice on career advancement, and publicizing Teal’s résumé builder.

“Generally, we try to stick with a core group of creators. We’d love to be as consistent as possible,” says Lia Zneimer, vice president of marketing at Teal.

“I think there’s sort of a balance that we’re constantly experimenting with, like, how many recurring voices and long-term partners do we include this month, versus how many new voices do we prioritize,” Zneimer adds. “Sometimes the engagement rates are a bit higher from the more micro/nano influencers whose followings aren’t as big. And so how can we sort of balance our budget a little bit and sort of counter-set how much we’re investing in these larger creators versus the ones who are perhaps newer, up and coming.”

Sponsored content for Teal ranges from text-only posts on improving your chances of landing an interview, to carousel posts with text on using AI to create a résumé, to selfies of the creators using Teal’s software alongside their own stories as job seekers.

Trusted voices discussing how they navigate their careers is a relevant topic for audiences on LinkedIn, one of the reasons Teal’s efforts have resonated even as a business-to-consumer organization. Teal’s LinkedIn creator program has earned 1.7 million impressions and an average engagement rate of 1% across 27 posts, according to the company.

“LinkedIn is unique in the sense that there’s actually room for both B2B and B2C in a way that I just think is different than . . . Instagram or Facebook. But that requires brands to be really, really selective about the creators that they work with,” Doe says. “Because if it’s a B2C brand, let’s say it’s a clothing company and they want to partner with a creator, they need to find a creator who can write about something like that without it being completely different than their other content.”

Plus, compared to some social media platforms, it’s sometimes easier to measure the impact of LinkedIn creators and prove why it’s a worthwhile investment given that links are more commonly included in posts or in the comments. A trackable link in a sponsored post can help a brand better understand the sign-ups or traffic being driven, and the creator can more confidently justify their compensation for a collaboration.

And with fewer creators publishing content, there’s less competition for attention, which is why LinkedIn makes a lot of sense for brands in terms of cost efficiency, Smithwrick says, adding that it’s important for creators to value their pricing. Doe agrees. She and Smithwrick both recommend that creators build relationships with other creators so they can ask for advice on how to price their services. They say it’s in a brand’s best interest to compensate creators fairly for their contributions while also being transparent, reliable, and adaptive so that each side of the partnership is fully committed.

“It’s a very small group of creators,” Doe says. “[LinkedIn is] a huge platform, but there aren’t a lot of people creating and there are even [fewer] people they’re monetizing. So word gets around quickly, and the better reputation you can build for yourself as a brand, the better off you’ll be.”