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The Drill Down: Behind HP’s One Million LinkedIn Followers

When LinkedIn announced last week that HP had become the first company to reach one million followers, it validated the computer and electronics retailer’s decision to incorporate the network as a key part of its social strategy.

But it’s not so much the volume of followers that HP appreciates; it’s the quality—namely, an engaged group of people among various walks of life, from IT staff to consumers to prospective employees. HP’s communication and content strategies around LinkedIn were developed as its social media presence matured. “We started out with listening and that determined how we should be using [LinkedIn],” says Natalie Malaszenko, the company’s VP of digital marketing. “We’re not a forceful brand. We don’t like having conversations that people don’t want to have. We want a big base, but we want a relevant base.”

For HP, understanding the type of content and messaging its customers want came down initially to the distribution of its followers. Who are they? What are their product or business interests? The second component for HP required monitoring of shares and likes to see what resonated the most within its community. “[Our content strategy is] a hybrid between what HP the company wants to share and what we think will be of interest,” Malaszenko says. This means information on new products, as well as tips and insights relevant to the various communities that constitute HP’s followers; it also means addressing questions those followers have.

“If we want to reach out to just North America or a specific state or a specific country, we have that level of targeting,” Malaszenko says, of LinkedIn’s built-in messaging tools and targeting capabilities. HP also sends messages depending on company role—for instance directors or managers versus individual contributors like engineers or sales representatives. HP also has different strategies for IT staff versus non-IT staff.

Malaszenko acknowledges that not all of HP’s products are a fit for everyone, which is why it needs to generate different types of conversations. Ultimately, HP needs the capabilities to both broadcast general messages to all one million followers and to target very specific demographics.

“One segment that’s continued to impress me is the SMBs,” Malaszenko says. “They’re a very lively group and they rely on each other to give advice and insight. It’s exciting. And they’re cool with HP joining in on the conversation.”

But of course, there’s the ultimate metric: conversions from social media—one that isn’t currently a top focus, according to Malaszenko. Still, her team continues to look at concentrations of conversations around specific products or solutions and shares those insights back with the company, gauging sentiment and chatter in real time. Knowing what’s popular about specific offerings helps HP plan its future product features. “We’re eventually going to figure out the right balance between sales and community,” Malaszenko says, “but right now, we just want to be a partner to our followers.”

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