This week computer hardware and software marketer HP became the first company on LinkedIn to attract a million followers. HP believes the service can work as an advertising medium, as much as it can a customer relationship management or public relationship channel.
"Our one million followers are connected to over 42 million people on LinkedIn, roughly one-quarter of the entire LinkedIn population," Natalie Malaszenko, VP, digital marketing for HP told AdExchanger in an email exchange. "When they comment, like and participate in our LinkedIn community, their connections see it, too. This is invaluable to HP in getting our key messages and product information out there in front of a large and critical audience."
HP's use of LinkedIn is part of what it says is "a multi-year plan in place to restore its performance." And as it employs LinkedIn for that PR effort, paid media will be behind it as well. Since HP is more of a business-to-business play than a general consumer brand, Malaszenko said that LinkedIn can help it reach both mass and targeted audience segments.
"All social networks are not created equal," she said. "On LinkedIn, we’ve found that the types of conversations our community of followers are having are very different than other social media channels. LinkedIn provides a forum where our followers can have more technical conversations, ask about solutions, and talk about ways to move their worlds and businesses forward -- and that’s an exciting conversation for us to be a part of."
Until this past year, LinkedIn hasn't been as aggressive in pursuing an ad strategy as the other large publicly traded social network, Facebook. But things have picked up at LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions group, which experienced a healthy rise in ad prices driven by greater emphasis on direct sales over its self-serve ad product, the company said during its Q4 earnings in early February.
HP's Malaszenko didn't say if the company would increase advertising on the professional social network. For LinkedIn, the hope is that it can eventually bring the earned and paid media facets of its network closer together. As a professional site, the ability to connect paid and earned media may have advantages over Facebook's attempts to do the same.
Still, HP used LinkedIn Follow Ads to to increase followers by 300k in a two-month period, Malaszenko said, suggesting that, as it looks to the next million or so followers, it will probably keep that paid media aspect fairly open.