MS Vodcast Episode#27 | Mario Sundar, Social Media Manager for LinkedIn


How the social networking guys do social.

Our fifth in a new series of video podcasts (vodcasts) focussing on those interesting folks who manage social media for their brand / company / organisation.

Mario Sundar is the Senior Social Media Manager (Global) for LinkedIn, the professional online social network.

0.00 intro
0.15 about LinkedIn
1.05 day-to-day activities (LinkedIn answers, LinkedIn blog
03:36 rolling out a strategy across 12 countries
06:16 measuring impact and tracking success of their Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter profiles
13:43 advice for other companies
16:33 the future
17:51 outro

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00:07 Mario Sundar: Hi, this is Mario Sundar. I’m Social Media Manager at LinkedIn worldwide and I’m just happy to be here today.

00:15 DK: Brilliant. Well it’s a pleasure to have you with us man. Thanks for giving up your time. Let’s ask you a quick question about LinkedIn and for those people who live under rocks and never heard of it. What do you guys actually do?

00:27.0 Mario Sundar: Yeah, I would be surprised if a professional in particular hasn’t heard about LinkedIn. But for those who haven’t or for the very few or for the one guy who hasn’t heard about LinkedIn, we are a, the worlds largest professional networking site. And we have over 100 million professionals on LinkedIn today. And basically what these professionals do is LinkedIn enables them to 1) find a job, you know get a, and secondly be better at their job on a daily basis. So those are the two broad areas. And there are a lot of more specifics and I can talk about a little bit more in detail as we go through this interview.

01:05 DK: Okay, brilliant. Well that’s a great overview. I know you guys have been going as in LinkedIn for eight years. You recently had a birthday because I checked out the blog post; I’ll stick that in the blog notes. And I know you’ve been there since 2007. So what’s your day to day activities from a social media managing perspective for LinkedIn?

01:26 Mario Sundar: So yeah as you just described, LinkedIn’s been around for eight years and I’ve been at LinkedIn for half of that time. And I’ve been really lucky because half of that time has been quite an exciting journey for LinkedIn as well as for me obviously being a part of that, right. So as I mentioned, my role encompasses worldwide social media management. What that entails is both defining the strategy for social media for a social media company which makes it all the more exciting, as well as the tactics at implementing them. So for the first year or two when I first started, my primary role was defining what are the areas that we need to be a part of and engage with our community of users. What it meant was finding out where exactly are our users today globally. By that, I mean, which social media sites are they a part of? Obviously LinkedIn is kind of like the central point where we started whether its LinkedIn groups or LinkedIn answers. And at that point it was more LinkedIn answers. But then since then the idea was to start, lets say having a central presence on LinkedIn’s own blog, which is where I started, which is setting LinkedIn blog. And today we have a presence on five different social media channels besides LinkedIn which is where I engage with our community of users. So to answer your question, the first part is defining the strategy from the get go, where exactly do we engage with our users. And the second part on a daily basis is engaging with those users whether it’s commenting, you know exchanging information with them etc. And the third part is educating users on how best LinkedIn works as well as educating companies on how LinkedIn works which has taken up a bulk of my time. And in addition to that, of course my role given that its more of a worldwide, global, social media role is also replicating what we’ve done in the US; best practices, tips and tricks across the globe in many of our companies that we have, I’m sorry many of our centers across the globe whether its London, Dublin, Sydney, Mumbai, etc.

03:36 DK: Because I know you guys have 12 offices, over 1,000 employees. I’ve done my research. And I just kind of want to take you back a little bit talking about the strategic focus that you have. You know there’s a lot of people working for you and across geographically lots of centers. Kind of how do you roll out a strategy of social media management or social media use for all those guys and girls?

04:03 Mario Sundar: So I think its, the way we approach it is we had a tried and tested method in the US. Like as I said, when I first started, our goal was lets, as a pilot project, lets see what works best here. You know obviously more than half of our user bases in the US so that was a great place for us to start. And then once we figured out what that is, you know once — the blog by the way is focused on the US. But a lot of times we try to bring in as much international content as possible. Right now I’m in the process of redesigning the blog for global purposes. So basically it’s going to be in as many languages as LinkedIn is in today. So to answer your question, yeah, we started there, we figured out what are the best practices both in terms of the tools that we use whether it is a blog or whether it is YouTube or all of social media channels that we have. We figured out what the editorial strategy is keeping the US as a base. And now that we have — and then third part of is course the relationships that are built with our communities, in the US in the groups that they are in today with all of the five social media channels. Now that we have those best practices, my goal is to replicate them in all of our international markets. As it becomes very easy rather than try out different techniques all across the globe, it is we figure out what works and now my goal is to find out whether that works and these, whether it works in Asia, the APAC region and then fine tune it accordingly because each region has its own nuance as you’re probably very well aware. And so the idea is to test it out, see what works best in that market. So in some places for example, twitter which is one of our channels may not be as effective. Or maybe our community is not on twitter and it’s only on LinkedIn. In those cases, we may reduce the number of social media channels from five to four and then figure out how best can we both integrate that with our blog content as well as engage with our users better on those channels. So that’s basically the goal is to refine, fine tune, basically tweak it and then try out different techniques in each of these markets that I just talked about.

06:16 DK: Okay, thank you for that. So lets ask you specifically how you’ve been doing this for four years, I would imagine a lot of that time at the beginning was bedding in and strategic and on your own and out and that’s great. How do you measure success with social media specifically?

06:33 Mario Sundar: Yeah, I think that is an important question. If — are you asking specifically about ROI?

06:39 DK: Yes, both for you know from a LinkedIn strategies perspective when you have to probably feed back to the big girls and guys upstairs. And then probably from a personal perspective, you know how do you know when you’ve rolled out what’s worked in the US, maybe in Mumbai, kind of how did you know that that has succeeded?

06:59 Mario Sundar: So absolutely. So I think that the metrics are definitely a must have. I think every company, every team and every large fortune finder or small business has, need metrics in order to prove the viability of a specific social media strategy. Initially as you said, yes, the goal was let’s get a blog up and running, let’s figure out how can we engage with our users both on our blog as well as outside of the blog? Since then as I said, we have added four more channels. We have a twitter page as you’re probably aware, Facebook page for where our users are. And each of these chan — YouTube as well Flickr. So those are the five channels that I just described. And each of these channels has a specific purpose. The blog in our LinkedIn group, and I didn’t mention LinkedIn because that’s a give. You know we do have a presence on LinkedIn where it’s to engage with our users on whether its groups for the most part or answers whether you have questions about LinkedIn. Now with each of these cases — and of course I have to mention LinkedIn Company page which if you have checked out in the recent past, is improving by leaps and bounds regularly. So to answer your question, I think each of these channels has a specific — there is a specific goal for each of these channels. So for example, the blog is where we pull in all these different content and give it, sometimes we give lets say a real time live feed of what’s happening at LinkedIn. So the birthday party which you mentioned before, the blog was a way for us to bring in content from Flickr, you know Flickr had all the pictures, YouTube had a video summary of what the event looked like and then the blog is where we brought in all this content and we engage with our users basically to, you know to tell them, “Hey, this is what happened at LinkedIn, what do you think about it? We just want to share our celebration.”

In some other cases we, again, we use the blog to share the, you know sometimes we do a lot of analytic stuff on LinkedIn about ho — what is it that our users are doing on LinkedIn? Like what are top ten LinkedIn buzzwords among professionals for example. So we have these really cool graphics that we share with our users so they get to see and know what’s happening internally on LinkedIn both on the site, as well as what do we as a company do. So to answer your question, I believe each of these channels has a specific purpose, a specific target audience. So let’s take Facebook where we have a bunch of our users. We have roughly 60,000 followers on Facebook , 70,000, actually 95,000 on twitter; we have two twitter pages. On LinkedIn roughly again close to 60,000 followers on our LinkedIn company page. So as you can see, each of these has a specific purpose. So LinkedIn’s company page for example is probably the only one where we can reach out to our employees as well as to our users; both employees and users. Probably the only social media channel that you can do that on. And it’s consisted of a mix of feed that’s pulled from our blog as well as tweets that come in from twitter, etc would be for anyone who follows LinkedIn’s company page. On Facebook for example, we share a lot of photos, of events that happen at LinkedIn. Also the audience is slightly different, the audience is also for whether you’re a college grad for example, the chances are that you may stumble upon LinkedIn’s page on Facebook . Twitter is a mix of both LinkedIn as well as Facebook where twitter does more — there are a lot of marketers on twitter, folks who are you know — if we want to reach out to that community, then twitter is a good place for us to have the presence.

10:40 DK: You’re a popular guy.

10:41 Mario Sundar: Let me just get rid of that. Hang on. So as I just mentioned, each of them have a specific purpose. Now the cool part is speaking of ROI and metrics, each of these tools have especially LinkedIn and Facebook , has its own suite of analytics, an insides data that allows you to find out how successful your engagement on that channel has been. So if you go to LinkedIn, you’ll notice that both under the careers tab which is where you engage with potential employees, prospected employees, as well as if you go to the products and services tab, you’ll be able to basically check out the analytics on how exactly the content that you’ve shared on that page has been viewed, consumed, and engaged with by your followers. You do the same on Facebook’s page. You — they also have like an insides tab for example and we’re able to see how our engagement has peaked or has improved month by month. So those analytics are very helpful to take back to the team and say, “Guess what, we spent x amount of time on these channels and this is what the payoff has been in terms of our engagement on those channels.” So from a brand perspective it’s very easy to track that. And then we have kind of like a running list of what has been the editorial on twitter as much, the same way you would on the blog for example to see how effective a specific tweet has been, who have been the people that have retweeted it, and how exactly has that coverage been for example. And then the last thing I also do want to mention the blog. Google Analytics is how I kind of plug that into the LinkedIn blog to see how widely the blog has been received. So we have annual, annually, we have millions of page views which has actually increased 100% year over year this past year alone. We also do have the ability to see geographically what are the countries that are checking out the content that we have on our blog which is a metric that I’m using right now while we redesign the blog for different regions, for different languages. So, these are just some of the tools that we use as I said out of the total of five or six social media channels. And each of them have a social media measurement tied to it. Now, that said, I think part of my role is also bringing it all together on under an umbrella and overall over arching team and to figure out hey, our ultimate goal is to be more engaged with our users in x number of channels. Our ultimate goal is to you know get you know this particular community or audience understanding LinkedIn better. And we have the tools necessary to figure out how each of these specific tactics or each of these specific social media tools is enabling that to happen. So I know it was along form version of an answer but that is basically how we measure the effectiveness on these social media channels.

13:43 DK: I think it’s a great answer. You know a lot people want to know specifics like that and especially some raw clients and just people we speak to anyway. Then that’s brilliant, so thank you for doing the long form not, “Yeah, we look at numbers.” You know so that’s great. Don’t worry about it. Some of the clients we work with are like CEO’s who have a certain attitude towards social media. Most of them do have a LinkedIn profile even though — I call it like a gateway social network. You know you can use LinkedIn and you can start to explore the functionality and then a lot of functionality you can find on other social networks as well. So it’s kind of a gateway you know to other spaces. So people get comfortable. You don’t want to say be comfortable and (inaudible). But lets come back to the questions anyway about, lets ask you specifically about what piece of advice, one piece of advice you would give to other companies out there who are just entering social media spaces from a social managing perspective? What one or two things that these brands or organizations be focused on?

14:42 Mario Sundar: Well, so absolutely. I’ve been saying this to, for a long, long time ever since I got on the speaking circuit. I think it is important for every company or every brand to start with two things in mind. One is, what are you trying to accomplish here? You know your goal is always comes first. And second is, what is your target audience and where can I find them, right? Because a lot of companies get excited by the hype. You know a lot of people say, “Hey do you have a Facebook page or do you have like you know, how many fans do you have?” And these really do not matter at the end of the day if you do not have a specific goal that you’re driving toward. And the third thing that I would add which is also very critical is how best can we integrate these tools, social media techniques with our existing marketing strategy, with our existing PR or HR strategy? Because that is often missed as well. So you may have, you know your audience may be completely you know not on the web which is highly unlikely but you know maybe its just you have to mail them. You know snail mail may be the best way to reach your audience. But by creating a Facebook fan page or a LinkedIn company page you don’t accomplish that. By the same token its important to understand, if your audience specifically is B to B oriented then you want to just focus all of your efforts or as much of your efforts on LinkedIn as possible because that may be the best channel for you to reach that B to B audience. So back to just summarize what I just said, I think there are three things that are important. First figure out what your goal is, what your target audience is and then thirdly if you want to be able to — hang on. We’ll just get rid of this. And thirdly, you want to be able to integrate that as effectively as possible with your existing marketing or PR or HR strategy.

16:33 DK: Great, great advice. So let’s wrap this interview up with a future question. What are you from a personal role perspective, what are you focused on in terms of the next months and year or so and then kind of from a LinkedIn perspective, what are you guys hoping to achieve?

16:51 Mario Sundar: I can speak for the first one obviously. My goal over the next few months or in the immediate future is how best can we replicate the success we have had in the US without social media channels globally? We already do have some great pieces of content for example on the blog for specific markets. But as I said redesigning the blog is an area that I’m really intensely involved in right now. So hopefully at the end of this process, no matter which part of the world a user is, if they’re using LinkedIn in any specific language, we’ll be able to provide them content. Social media content from LinkedIn from our team globally in each of those different languages. So globalization of our social media strategy as well as tactics is what I’m currently focused on. And so by the end of this year, or you know in the coming months you’ll start seeing a lot of cool content from LinkedIn on each of our social media channels that is both global and targeted for your part of the world.

17:51 DK: Brilliant. Well, thanks Mario for giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers. I really appreciate it. Thank you fell.

17:57 Mario Sundar: You’re welcome, and thanks for having me.