LinkedIn announced a decision at the end of the last week relating to the Products and Services area on the Company Pages .. to cut a potentially long story short, they are being discontinued / canned / deleted / replaced (select as applicable) as from 14th April unless LinkedIn back tracks on their decision, which would be a first.
I have already had my say … and quite a long rant … which, in summary, is that I consider this to be a backwards step which will hit small businesses quite hard, and particularly those who have been investing time in LinkedIn and creating a strong customer referenced presence on their LinkedIn company page replete with recommendations, videos, links and calls to action. Essentially, a bad move.
However, we need to put this to one side, and take some practical actions to both preserve the information that we have already put into our pages as well as see how we can best benefit from the “new arrangement”.
Actions to take
Let’s first take a look at the elements that we get into place now:
1. Extract the information that you currently have there
LinkedIn has offered to keep the information available until the end of May even though visitors to our pages will not see it as from 14th April. Nevertheless, let’s take a copy of the information that you have on the individual Products and Services pages as soon as possible and make sure that we have that somewhere safe – while I wouldn’t hold my breath, it may be possible that LinkedIn extends the description area on Showcase Pages allowing us to use it again and, in any case, always good to hold a back up.
Of even greater importance are the recommendations: if, like me, you have gone to great lengths to build up those recommendations, then you will want to keep a record of them and hopefully use them elsewhere. LinkedIn has offered to download them for you – if you follow this link, then you can ask them to extract them on your behalf and you should receive an excel spreadsheet containing the information within 48 hours. Alternatively, you can just go through a cut and paste the text if you prefer.
Can I suggest an additional element? I personally find the way they are presented on LinkedIn to work really well with the name and the photo of the person displayed who has been kind enough to leave the recommendation. Why not take a screen capture of the recommendation itself, such as the one below?
We’ll look at some ways you may be able to use this later.
2. Plan out your Showcase Pages
It is important though, to decide what are the areas that you wish to cover with your Showcase Pages – you are allowed 10 Showcase Pages which is fewer than the 25 Products pages we had available to us previously but probably more than enough for most businesses. However, instead of the ‘static’ Products pages, these are designed to be dynamic, displaying articles and information you have posted there relevant to the topic of the page – I would therefore recommend not getting too carried away.
You would also be well advised to get in early, even if you don’t populate them immediately – the page name format is, rather surprisingly, the same as the Company Pages (ie. not subpages of your main Company Page) which I think will prove problematic in the medium-term and cause confusion. This means that your Showcase Page name needs to be unique unless you wish to go back to LinkedIn Customer Services to request that they set up the page URL for you by, and I’m guessing here, adding version numbers to the URL.
3. Make use of the Recommendations
Using the recommendations that you have painstakingly gathered will be important. For those of you where the recommendation for a product is essentially a recommendation of yourself, then you could take the rather arduous and, I have to say in my case, embarrassing route of asking that the recommendations be added to your own profile, an area which still exists and struggles on in spite of the endorsements. You can initiate the request from your ‘Edit Profile’ page and if you paste in the recommendation text that they left on your product page, then it it may well help to soften and speed up the process.
Alternatively, you may also wish to display the recommendation on your website given that this type of Social Proof is still a very powerful ally – you may even be able to link it to the person’s LinkedIn profile should you so desire, though that will take some time. Nb. consider whether you feel that the recommender would mind being referenced outside of LinkedIn and, if in doubt, ask them.
Some other ways in which you might like to use those recommendations:
- you could add these as an update which would go out to your connections – I would probably suggest using the image that you downloaded rather than as a simple text file- much more visible
- if you have set up a Showcase Page for the relevant product then you could post the individual recommendations as updates their as well – don’t forget to “like” is as well so that your connections receive it while you build your followers
- you could equally go the whole hog and actually set up one of your Showcase Pages as “Recommendations” where you can keep all of them displayed individually
- you could build them into a single document, either graphically or not, and then display that document on your personal profile page as a rich media option – perhaps even as a PowerPoint file
- use the recommendation screenshots as tweets via your Twitter account thanking the people for having recommended you … and increasing their visibility too
- there are other relevant business based networks which would display a selection of them such as Google+ which may well be equally relevant
- integrate these images (or ‘rolling’ images) into your website, ideally dotted around the site as well as on a single page
If you have other suggestions then please feel free to suggest them via the comments section.
4. How you might use Showcase Pages
Showcase pages do have a real value of their own and we looked at some of those elements in an earlier post when Showcase Pages were first introduced. However, now we may need to look at the elements on offer here from a different perspective so that we can also use them … as LinkedIn has alluded to … as a replacement for the Products and Services pages.
i) Choose your Showcase Page topics carefully: Firstly, as I mentioned above, be tactical when considering your Showcase Page topics – the individual pages that we had before allowed a more ‘micro’ level display of what we did whereas here, if we wish to keep them updated, we will need to group together individual products and services into ‘categories’ which will allow areas to be introduced more easily;
ii) Create Static Reference Pages: It might be better, rather than attempt to use them as LinkedIn intended, to just content ourselves with setting up these pages and then posting, say, 4 – 6 articles there which might be essentially links to the key pages for this on your website: one to the specific product/service page on your website, one to the case studies page, one to the testimonials page, one to your contact page etc. and so build up all the key components in one place and then leave it as essentially a static page going forward. It won’t have the text directly displayed but will give compartmentalised access to the information held on your own site;
iii) Choose your main banner messages with care: In both cases, consider carefully the form and content of the top image and what you wish to convey there – you have a lot of space to communicate a lot of messages and calls to action if you wish, although it’s probably best not to make it too busy. Alternatively, a montage of images might work to build up a mental picture of what you do – the image is not currently clickable so there’s no targeted directing people elsewhere available as yet.
And don’t forget that the follower numbers plus Follow button are included on the right and the name of the Showcase Page and its logo on the left of the top image, so try to design an image which takes that into account so that it appears correctly.
iv) Create a Content Calendar to publish to: should you decide to deliver an ongoing stream of targeted content via your Showcase Page which is what they are designed for, then try to keep the flow of information regular. Treat this as a key Content Marketing outlet for you and your business and ensure that you publish regularly – this isn’t always easy but keeping a flow will allow greater traction with those who follow you.
v) Consider Content Curation instead: you may decide that you don’t wish the Showcase page to contain purely your own articles, services and information, but instead it may garner greater value from using it as a content curation destination. Here you might then mix in information shared from other sources and work to develop it as THE place to go for that particular topic. A different approach but one that might give greater scope for maintaining it with live information and still foster engagement with those interested.
vi) Decide how (and if) to develop followers: you will of course also face the prospect of starting from scratch again in building up followers for your new Showcase Pages, not a happy thought. If you have gone down the route of using these as “Static pages” then I would leave it to grow organically. If you wish to be more proactive then, as a first step, the same rules apply as to overall Company Page followers: tell people on LinkedIn and elsewhere as appropriate with details of what each page will offer and encourage them to share the information. Clearly lots of other options which we will revisit soon.
Differences between Showcase Pages and Products Pages
To my eye, there are some clear benefits to the Showcase pages and as I have mentioned elsewhere, they are a great addition to the Company Pages family – I am, however, less convinced of them as a suitable replacement fro the Products and Services pages. Nevertheless, we must work with the positive elements which are:
- Showcase pages are followable as individual pages
- They offer the opportunity to tailor new information and messages to specific audiences
- The image at the top is the biggest on LinkedIn giving a great deal of visual impact Bigger visual impact
- The ability to share external content means that they can help to drive traffic back to the website
- You can still link back to a relevant page on your website
- Each page retains the analytics of the articles that we share
- You can have a unique administrator / editor who is different to that for your main Company Pages
However, on the flipside, Showcase Pages also have limitations when being compared to the Products and Services pages. To my mind, fundamentally these are:
- There is no possibility to add recommendations, something which lends huge value to a page
- The description field is just that, a brief description, which is limited to just 200 characters
- There is no option to add a specific person to contact to find out more – no personal call to action option
- The option to add video or to add additional text in form of promotions have both been removed
- You are limited to a maximum of 10 Showcase Pages rather than 25 Products pages
- There is no option to customise the display according to defined audiences
To get the most from the Showcase pages, it is therefore going to be important to decide what strategy we should employ and whether we have the time available to invest – posting your own articles will be more time intensive than just creating the pseudo static pages we talked about earlier but can have greater impact for instance.
Adding and Setting up the Showcase Pages
On to more functional things, if you wish to add a Showcase page, then it is thankfully quite easy to do so.
1. When you are on your Company Page, click on the drop down menu just to the right of the “Edit” button and choose “Create a Showcase Page” from the options
2. You’ll need to choose a name – these may go quite quickly as the current structure requires this to be unique – and the other required information when you are setting it up is 75 characters worth of text and a logo.
3. You can add different administrators from the Company Page so that others have control of their own area’s page – as with Company Pages, make sure that you have more than one, for security sake.
4. Click “Publish.”
Nb At the time of writing, you can only add 2 Showcase Pages per day then you need to wait 24 hours before adding more.
You will, however, also want to add a banner at the top as it is one of the key elements and benefits of the Showcase pages and do make sure that you get both the logo and the square logo in place – the square logo is pulled into the sidebar when displaying all of a company’s Showcase pages and so is an important visual element. Then of course the key element is the continual updating of information there though the targeted updates and ensuring that you develop a new set (or subset) of followers interested in the topic.
Specifications for Showcase Page Elements:
• Showcase Page name: 100 characters
• Description: 75-200 characters
• Banner/Hero Image: Minimum 974 x 330 pixels (png, jpg or gif – 2Mb max)
• Logo: 100 x 60 pixels
• Square logo: 50 x 50 pixels
I think that Showcase Pages were a useful addition to the LinkedIn Company page family and I still do … the trouble is that I don’t think that they are a good replacement for the Products and Services pages which had wonderful scope both in terms of product placement and also the key element of Social Proof, provided by the Recommendations feature on the product pages.
I still hold out the hope that LinkedIn will add additional features to the current Showcase Pages and incorporate additional elements which would way to soften the loss of the full products pages (longer product description and ability to host recommendations would go a long way) but in the meantime we have to work with the elements we have and focus back on what we can achieve with the tools available to reach our target audience.
I hope that the elements outlined above will help in this respect – if you have questions or comments then please leave them below or do connect via LinkedIn.