“LinkedIn’s Timeless Guide to Small Business Success”

LinkedIn.com has partnered with FedEx and The Upright Citizens Brigade (an LA comedy theater) video team to create a series of ’80s-style instructional videos on how small business owners can best use the site.

The six three-minute videos are clever, concise, and have really excellent retro art direction. Each one tackles a particular way that a small business owner can use LinkedIn to solve a problem that they  may face, ie: securing funding, making connections, or bolstering their online reputation. The videos were released on the LinkedIn blog and the first few episodes are available to view on the LinkedIn Youtube channel. They are living permanently on the LinkedIn Learning Center under the Small Business User Guide.

Full disclosure: as I was searching through the Mashable.com archives for a relevant branding campaign to write this post, I saw this picture of my friend Dave:

and my interest was piqued.

I think what’s particularly interesting about this campaign is how precisely targeted it is. It is very clear that before investing in the video production LinkedIn considered a number of issues:

  • Who was their targeted audience: small business owners that are new to the site.
  • What were their goals: educate the potential and current users on the site’s wide range of tools to increase current audience engagement and capture new users.
  • How would they capture attention: by making videos (as opposed to a text user guide) that are entertaining, satirical and unique.

Working with a sponsor like FedEx, who is clearly trying to capture the exact same small business owner audience, is a natural and savvy choice. Had they not had the sponsor funding, it is likely that the videos would have not been as high quality and would not have been as effective.

The videos premiered on the LinkedIn corporate blog, but the author of the post is their editor and producer from the UCB, Rob Getzschman.

The post links to his LinkedIn profile and gives him a chance to speak personally about the project. Keeping with the cheeky tone of the videos he writes:

We’re always looking for creative ways to help our users learn the ins and outs of LinkedIn. Knowing that the average office worker can only watch a screenshot tutorial for a few seconds before the onset of spontaneous narcolepsy, we developed a fun, retro-themed webseries for small and medium business owners with the help of FedEx.

The release was coupled with a publicity push that resulted in coverage on Mashable, Businessweek, and ReadWriteWeb, among others, all driving traffic to: http://fedex.linkedincreatives.com/

I would imagine that LinkedIn sees this campaign as a success. The videos on the LinkedIn page are housed in a Brightcove player and the traffic for the subdomain isn’t available publicly on either Compete or Quantcast, so it’s hard to judge the amount of attention that the videos have received so far, but the Youtube versions of the first four episodes have received from 2-4,000 views each to date. Those are small numbers in the viral video world, but since the campaign was so highly targeted to small business owners it would make sense to see small view counts.

There is also clearly a branding goal on the part of LinkedIn to work towards seeming less corporate, or less stodgy. It’s a fine line as they are positioned as the go-to community for serious business, and thrive on that reputation, but making an investment in something fun and funny to reach and educate a new audience is valuable. Since the videos are engaging and genuinely enjoyable to watch, they are effective at letting users know about the tools available on the site and I’m sure that a user would be more likely to engage more deeply with the site after learning these techniques.

I think one way that these videos are less successful is that they don’t seem to be part of any larger initiative. The rest of the user guides that they are paired with on the Learning Center are very traditional–all text or standard screenshot tutorials. If users could expect to see more content like this from LinkedIn, they would be more likely to seek it out and the videos would have higher view counts. Perhaps the site sees these as self-contained, as a kind of private wink to small business owners, but they could be effective for engaging many different demographics.

The video series also doesn’t seem to be promoted on the homepage of LinkedIn or throughout the site at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m not using the site as a small business owner, or because I’m not new to the site, but unless someone saw one of the news articles or happened to be browsing the Learning Center, they wouldn’t know that these videos existed.I even tried to navigate the site without being logged in to get a sense of the new user experience, and the videos aren’t featured at all. If there was some sort of “New to the site? Then check out these instructional videos” flow, they’d probably reach a good deal more of the targeted audience.

You can watch the first video from the series below:

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