Succeed at LinkedIn – new study in which researchers and companies collaborate

It was just prior to the pandemic that researchers at the University of Borås and the company Vinga of Sweden began collaborating in relation to the company's account on LinkedIn. The timing could not have been better. Håkan Alm, Senior Lecturer and researcher in Business and IT, spoke about why they were curious about the potential of social media.

“There is some form of shared belief in business administration that relationships between companies are built upon personal encounters. We do not dispute that, but in our experiments we have shown how to build or improve personal relationships to some extent in social media, as well.”

The company Vinga Sweden, based in Borås, sells gift items and interior design products, both directly to customers and to companies, so-called business to business. They have between 20–30 employees and 900 resellers. Niklas Larsson is a Business Developer at Vinga Sweden and spoke about how they, together with researchers Håkan Alm and Malin Sundström, experimented with three types of posts to see what would lead to the best engagement: product-oriented, values-based, and action-oriented posts.

Humour and honesty engaged

In the product-oriented posts, sellers chose a favourite product, and in a personal way, without showing the price, told why they liked the product and how they used it in their everyday lives. “That type of post did not lead to much interaction. It was the type of post that did the most poorly, which is perhaps not so strange since LinkedIn is not so sales-oriented,” said Niklas Larsson.

The values-based and action-oriented posts did much better. For example, the company posted a video of a colleague dancing to pep herself before a presentation. “The video was widely shared and discussed. I think the feeling it gives is that we are close-knit team that has fun at work,” says Niklas Larsson.

Together, they developed an idea to encourage followers to take some form of action where they could also show their commitment to sustainability. There were some towels in the warehouse that had not been sold. The storage space was needed, but what should they do with the towels? Would they dare to put the question to LinkedIn, or would the followers just think they were unsuccessful and unable to sell their products?
“We were a little unsure of how it would be perceived, but it was well-received. Lots of people got engaged in the subject; people came up with many different ideas, of all kinds. It’s because we were authentic; our followers saw it and wanted to reach out and help,” said Niklas Larsson.

In the end, the towels were being donated to purposes that the followers had suggested: a young entrepreneur’s company, a women’s shelter, and the Red Cross.

"Super fun and extremely instructive"

The study is a small part of a sub-project within the larger research project, Data-Driven Innovation, which is a collaboration with a number of companies.

Working this close to companies is a good way to get good data and good examples. “It does not work to just talk about theories when we are working with a company,” said Håkan Alm in regards to the collaboration.

For Niklas Larsson and colleague Oskar Dahlin, it has been instructive to work together with researchers at the University of Borås. “It has been super fun and extremely instructive. Both Håkan and Malin go into a lot of depth and analysis, and we get good synergies. The collaboration gives us much more follow-up, which we as a fairly small company otherwise can easily deprioritise. We also had more time for reflection and worked much more systematically, in, for example, testing hypotheses and making comparisons with theories,” said Niklas Larsson.

Elements of the results can be useful for many, according to Håkan Alm. “The article can work almost like an instruction manual for what you can do and cannot do on LinkedIn. We have shown that social media can complement and to some extent compensate for the lack of physical interaction. It’s possible that you may not need to meet quite as often if you have activities on LinkedIn, although it probably cannot replace all physical contacts.”

The results for Vinga Sweden were very good. From a newly started account in 2019, they currently have about 1,000 followers and are planning 1-2 posts a week.

Tips for companies that want to try out LinkedIn

  1. LinkedIn is used for networking, job searching, competence development, and exchanges of experience. Ads to sell things do not work in that context. Ad-like posts may have the opposite effect and are perceived as spam.
  2. In working with social media, it is important to give a quick response, thank people for suggestions, and give an update on what is happening.
  3. Be honest, genuine, and personal.
  4. Followers want to help; asking for help with problems leads to good levels of engagement.
  5. Compared to some other forms of social media, the posts last longer, so 1-2 posts a week may therefore be sufficient.
  6. Set aside time for planning. It takes time to create good content.

Read more

Article B2B social media content: engagement on LinkedIn

Håkan Alm’s Researcher Profile page

Malin Sundström's Researcher Profile page

Vinga Sweden on LinkedIn  

More research in the field of Business and IT