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Data-driven content will be the mark of intelligent marketers: Virginia Sharma, LinkedIn India

19-February-2018
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Data-driven content will be the mark of intelligent marketers: Virginia Sharma, LinkedIn India

LinkedIn started its journey in India in November 2009 with over 3.4 million members and today it's a 47 million+ member community. Currently, India contributes around 8.4 per cent to LinkedIn's global community and retains the first spot within the APAC region member base of 136million+.

Recently, LinkedIn released a report on trends that will shape the content marketing in 2018. Exchange4media caught up with Virginia Sharma, Director, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn India, where she shed light on the next wave of marketing trends and how the Indian market is contributing to the LinkedIn growth strategy.
Excerpts:

What is LinkedIn's content strategy for mobile users?

We have completely re-designed the LinkedIn interface for mobile users. We created Linkedin Lite in 2016 as a part of the "Make in India" effort. It's a faster and lighter version of the flagship app. It's designed to run smoothly and offer faster access on 2G and loads extremely fast - in less than six seconds. It explores opportunities within Tier II and Tier III markets and with this lighter version, it's easier for consumers to access the information. 80 per cent of our revenue comes from mobile first product. The visitors on the mobile site have doubled and the engagement has multiplied three folds.

What are your views on programmatic buying and how can it be made more efficient and effective?

Programmatic buying shows that marketers are buying audiences, they are not buying platforms. Earlier, advertisers used to market on X, Y, Z platforms but now advertisers wanted to find CIO's. Programmatic buying is going to be very effective in the near future but right now, it's a very fragmented space.

The challenge in programmatic right now is that it's very expensive to run an ad network, the infrastructure and the fixed cost is too high. There is need for consolidation in programmatic space, where few large organisations have computing power, the maintenance of cash flows and technological infrastructure to be able to manage the loads, so that advertisers can do profitable business.

How is Indian market contributing to LinkedIn's overall growth? Could you share few relevant data points?

In 2011, LinkedIn established its first technology centre outside Mountain View, in Bengaluru. Since then, the focus has been on making LinkedIn more relevant for the Indian audience, to grow it as a knowledge platform, develop products for the Indian market and help members to better connect with opportunities and start their careers.

In November 2017, LinkedIn launched Career Advice in India, a new tool that helps members seek career advice from suitable and experienced fellow members (mentors) on the platform.

Last year, in September, LinkedIn partnered with IL&FS Skills Development Corporation Limited. to help upskill and improve the employability of blue-collar workers and job seekers in India. Through this program, LinkedIn aimed to bridge the gap between skills and employment, by providing a vocational skilling ecosystem for job seekers.

What would you call LinkedIn's biggest game changing developments of 2017?

2017 was an exciting year for us. In the first half of 2017, we introduced LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms for marketers to raise the ability to engage with content and drive high quality leads. When members would click on one of the marketer's ads, their LinkedIn profile information would automatically populate an in-app form that they could submit instantly, without having to type their info by hand.

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms made it easy to collect leads from nearly 500 million professionals, influencers and business decision-makers who use LinkedIn. Most of the marketers and clients received an incredible ROI because of this product launch and it was a huge success.

Another development for us is the increasing demands of 'Videos'. Video has just begun as a game changer and will play out over time. Professional videos and B2B videos behave very differently than consumer videos. Consumers are now sharing their stories in a more emotional way, whether it's about career journey, trials or successes and this led to a higher engagement and support from members and develop a community feeling on the platform.

The next stage is that brands will now be able to put videos on the platform to connect with consumers and members.

What are the upcoming significant trends that we see impacting the content marketing landscape in 2018?

Brands are absolutely becoming pro content franchising. Indian marketers are now facing the challenge of using tools to maximize ROI and gain strategic edge over competitors. In 2018, trends will be based on technological advances.

1.Brands will move towards 'intelligent' content marketing: Brands that have invested in content marketing will now adopt an "intelligent" approach. The focus will be on quality, not quantity. B2B brands will employ greater creativity and storytelling techniques to get their messages across their customers.

2.Content marketing will be guided by and evaluated on data-driven metrics: Globally, only 19 per cent of marketers rate their organization as 'excellent' or 'very good' at aligning metrics to their content marketing goals. Marketers will now use intelligent algorithms to measure new variables and map the buyer's journey and move beyond the cost-per-click or cost-per-thousand models. Instead, they will adopt a cost-per-action or performance-based advertising model, where advertisers pay for a certain outcome or acquisition.

There will be a greater adoption of native video by B2B marketers:Video content will help B2B brands break through the clutter. Marketers will focus on enriching the video experience by experimenting with new formats. Each brand will need to figure out what serves their marketing goals better - short videos or longer ones.

3. Visionary brands will create content franchise and become "content brands":
A content brand focuses on the needs of the audience first as opposed to putting out 'branded content.' Its objective is to build loyalty among its audiences and use it to drive a business goal.

4. Companies will use the power of employee advocacy to grow their own brand:
The cumulative value of the personal brand of employees is a lot more than what brands can achieve on their own, particularly in the B2B space. Brands will create plans and processes to involve their employees in content creation and distribution. More and more organizations will use tools like LinkedIn Elevate to gauge 'employee-sharing behaviour.'

B2B brands will use content marketing to unlock the true value of thought leadership:
B2B brands will see content marketing for audience-acquisition and nurturing makes their advertising more efficient and gives better returns on investment.

Voice will make itself heard in the content marketing space: Assistants like Apple HomePod, Amazon Alexa and Google Home will drive this trend. Voice search queries are increasing YoY. Google rolled out voice search support for eight Indian languages in 2017. Going forward, search engine algorithms may prioritize audio content over other formats.

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