The short answer to this question is “probably not.”
You may have noticed that LinkedIn, with the infinite wisdom that social media channels possess, has done away with the product and services tab on its Company Pages. If you are a small business who carefully crafted your product pages, complete with descriptions, images and videos, well…you’re up a creek without a paddle. Your pages are gone.
In their place, LinkedIn has introduced Showcase Pages. These are dedicated pages for “individual brands” or areas of your business that deserve their own spotlight. Here’s what Linkedin says: “Showcase Pages allow you to extend your Company Page presence by creating a dedicated page for prominent products and services. A Showcase Page should be used for building long-term relationships with members who want to follow specific aspects of your business, and not for short-term marketing campaigns.”
The concept behind the idea isn’t bad. LinkedIn says that they’re trying to provide a better user experience with more targeted content. For a content junkie like me, this is music to my ears and if you have products that are targeted to different audiences, this could definitely mean more engagement for your brand. The content on these pages will be laser focused and highly relevant. That’s a good thing. It’s no accident that the design features a large “hero” image like Google+ and Facebook. Good grief. Every platform is going to eventually look pretty much the same, at this rate.
Showcase Pages are not connected to your Company Page. They have a different URL and you have to update them separately. Think you spend a lot of time posting updates to your Company Page? Try adding posting for several different Showcase Pages to your schedule. Actually, you can have up to ten pages, which would make a grand total of 11 pages to administer. Hopefully, third-party social tools will be able to publish to these pages to make it easier. Oh, and you will have to build your audience from scratch. Your new page will have exactly zero followers. There will be Showcase Page links in the right sidebar of your company page, but I think companies will also need to actively promote their pages for people to find them.
Time to build another, dedicated community. Isn’t that what you wanted to do? Build yet another community to add to your social portfolio? LinkedIn says that it’s so you can start conversations about a particular product or brand. Basically, they’ve carved out another, custom social space for companies.
What about small businesses? Well, I hope you know how to swim, because LinkedIn took away your paddle. Even if you have different products, if they all have pretty much the same target audience and your messaging is consistent across the board, you don’t need the Showcase Pages. In other words, they are a good fit for Microsoft.
The good news. Remember those recommendations that you worked so hard to get customers to write for your products and/or services? They still exist – at least until May 30th. You can contact LinkedIn and request a copy of your recommendations. (Make sure you get permission from the person who wrote the recommendation to use it somewhere else, like your website.) I just logged onto the site and did this for one of my clients; we’ll see how long it takes.* Where to use them? That’s a good question and one reason that I think Google+ is probably excited about LinkedIn’s move. A Google+ Business Page will show your customer reviews (which are indexed into Google’s SERPs), plus your business can be found on Google Search, Maps and mobile devices. It’s Google, for heavens sake.
The even better news. If you have a company website, guess what? You can have whatever your little heart desires in the way of product or service tabs. Remember when some companies started ditching their websites in favor of only a Facebook page? Don’t do it. Never depend on a social channel to be the heartbeat of your brand. Sooner or later, monetization or data collection or some other infinitely wiser plan (see above) might come between you and your marketing goals. It’s very important to remember this: you are a digital sharecropper. (Read the article; it’s great.) Speaking of your website….if each Showcase Page has a different URL, then you’re looking at adding quite a few buttons, I guess?
The bottom line. If you have products and services with distinct target markets, then ignore most of what you’ve just read and go straight to this great guide for creating LinkedIn Showcase Pages. But don’t invest too much time in them. You never know when they might disappear. 😉
*Update: It didn’t take long. I had an email waiting on me this morning, with a file attached with the recommendations. Less than an hour later, I received an email offering $50 of free advertising for sponsored updates.