We recently had a client’s marketing team invest a lot of time, effort and dollars in a LinkedIn strategy and launch of a new company page. After weeks of encouraging employees to like the page and share the content, they came up against a formidable wall: the company’s IT team has everyone locked out of LinkedIn. Zero access to the site while in the office.

Many companies have strict rules on what websites employees can visit on company time. And many of those taboo sites involve social media. They’re viewed as time wasters for the most part, and some more risk-averse companies also fear that comments made by their employees on social sites could be construed as coming from the company itself. So IT puts on the lock and throws away the key.

But here’s the thing. LinkedIn is an integral tool in today’s b2b marketing best practices tool box. It’s less a social media site than it is a business networking tool. Although once aimed primarily at headhunters and job seekers, LinkedIn has evolved over the years to be a primary showcase for thought leadership in almost every industry.

Let’s say your brand needs to reach engineers in the environmental services industry in the United States. Well, there are 56,966 of them when you search LinkedIn. Environmental Engineering Science, the official journal of the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors (AEESP), boasts a whopping (unaudited) audience of 14,504 in over 170 countries. About 7,000 in America. Not a single advertising rate is listed in the publication’s entire 2014 media kit, although they do offer the opportunity for sponsored content.

Move away from a niche market to something broader based and you’re likely to find almost every decision maker and influencer you could want to reach among LinkedIn’s 250 million worldwide members. You’ll also find those members gathered into discussion groups, talking about hot topics in their industry and actively searching for advice and solutions to challenges. Your brand needs to be part of those conversations.

At motum b2b, we strongly recommend that our clients have a company page, a discussion group, or both. And while we can help with content curation – finding good articles, videos and opinion pieces to share alongside branded content – just posting content isn’t enough to build a real following and get real engagement.

That’s where IT needs to come in. We can help marketing make a strong business case for allowing a company’s experts to have access to LinkedIn (even if Facebook remains verboten – we don’t need to play Candy Crush during business hours). We’ve found that when those experts share content with their followers and participate in discussion groups, they build their reputation as thought leaders. When they help potential customers find a solution to a challenge – not by sharing sales blather, but by having an intelligent conversation – they build trust. And trust can lead to more, higher-value sales in the long run.

For the risk averse, why not train people in the proper use of a professional networking site instead of locking them out altogether? When people feel confident in what is expected of them, they are more able and willing to meet those expectations.

And let’s face it; if a disgruntled employee is going to slam your company on social media, they care enough to log in from their home computer. Locking them out during office hours won’t help you there.

So instead of turning b2b social media policies into an Us versus Them battle between marketing and IT, why not let us help you with a strategy and training program that turns LinkedIn from lock out to knock out success?

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