Do We Have a Connection?

Only 32% of Gen Y employees (those ages 18-34) feel comfortable connecting with their managers via LinkedIn, according to a recent study from Millennial Branding. What’s more, just 24% of managers are comfortable connecting with their millennial employees. This raises an interesting challenge. LinkedIn is the most effective outlet for facilitating social marketing and social selling in the B2B space. It’s no coincidence that China bans popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but allows LinkedIn. Because let’s face it: China isn’t going to miss out on any business opportunities.

So why should managers and employees connect on LinkedIn? There are a number of reasons, and they’re becoming more important as the months go by. To start, your Gen Y colleagues are digital natives who have grown up with an online networking gene that the rest of us Gen Xers and Baby Boomers had to develop from scratch. They’re already well accustomed to social marketing and social selling, so they represent an important channel that’s at the company’s disposal. The challenge is to harness this channel and use it effectively, including showing your Gen Y colleagues that you value their social media skills such as by reaching out and connecting with them through LinkedIn.

The second step is to encourage milliennial employees to share company updates, marketing messages, thought leadership pieces, and other resources with their own personal network. A thought leadership piece published by your organization, shared by you via your network, and then shared by your employees via their networks, can have a huge multiplier effect and increase reach almost exponentially. This reach is facilitated by trusted sources through a network of direct connections.

Another good reason to connect with employees on LinkedIn is to make them feel like they’re part of the face of the company and encourage them to represent it well through all of their interactions. Potential customers don’t just research your company; they also research the individuals within it and often make judgments (rightly or wrongly) about the kind of organization you are by the way individuals represent you online. Some may argue that their LinkedIn profile is their own, independent of the organization. I would argue that if you’re advertising your current role and organization, then you have a duty to represent that organization and reflect its brand and values accurately.

As I said, LinkedIn is the social media channel that best facilitates B2B social marketing and selling. As such, it needs to be viewed as a channel that’s beginning to rival the traditional direct channels and distributor channels. You need a strategy to leverage it successfully. Who better to help you formulate that strategy than the Gen Y digital natives on your team? So if you’re a manager or an executive, take the plunge and connect with your employees on LinkedIn.

  John Golden is president and CEO of sales performance improvement organization Huthwaite where he is responsible for the company’s global financial and operational performance and long-term strategy for success.
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