This article is meant for those of you who have either never used LinkedIn, or have used it, but don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Think about this: as of September 30, 2012, LinkedIn had over 6 million members in Canada, and globally, 187m+ members. There are bound to be people using LinkedIn who can help you with your business.
Try these five tactics for developing your business using LinkedIn, and calculate the value you receive relative to the time you spend on implementation. Then, leave a comment to let us know what works best for your business.
1. Research people and companies.
If you’re new to the social media world and uncertain about sending your information into cyber-space, start the way most people do: as a lurker. Go to www.linkedin.com, create a basic profile, set your privacy settings so no one can find you, and search for the following:
- A prospect you’d like to meet
- A company you’ve been doing business with
- A competitor that drives you crazy
- A colleague you think of as successful
- A prospective employee
LinkedIn holds a lot of information for those (like you, now) who use it correctly. You can find press releases, people who know people you know, information about big projects in your industry, and more. It is your own personal newsfeed on the business world, and it is totally relevant to you – that is, assuming you have connected with some people who matter to you.
One tactic our clients find particularly helpful is to use LinkedIn to convert a cold call into a warm introduction. By typing a prospect’s name in the search box at the top of the screen, you can quickly learn whether you know someone who knows the prospect, because you’ll see a “2nd” next to the name. This indicates that one of your direct connections knows your prospect. Now instead of a cold call, you can ask your contact for an introduction.
Alternatively, if you are prospecting a specific company, but don’t know anyone who works there, you can search the company name and a box will appear that shows you whether you are connected to anyone, and through whom.
2. Market yourself.
If someone Googles your first and last name, chances are your LinkedIn profile will rank in the top five results. When they click through, you want your expertise and professional credentials to be displayed in a way that speaks to the reader. Yes, that includes testimonials, recommendations, and awards. A good photo is also a key part of the message you send, so choose something professional for your profile.
Before I go to a meeting with someone I’ve never met before, (and after I meet a new contact for the first time) I look them up on LinkedIn. It is the main source for first or second impressions in the business world, which is why it’s critical that you make an effort to improve your personal LinkedIn profile.
3. Provide benefit to those in your network.
Did you read (or write) a great article that you know others in your network would find valuable? Post it on your LinkedIn profile. It will show up in your connections’ newsfeeds and they can click the description to read more. The more you post, the more important you will appear to them. Of course, the information must be valuable and relevant – otherwise you may be perceived as a spammer who is too focused on self-promotion.
4. Gather information.
Have you ever wondered how other people make business decisions? There are groups you can join on LinkedIn where like-minded individuals are actively available to help you with your business. For example, the group “Small Business: Globe and Mail” has a strong following, and people often post articles relevant to Canadian small business owners. The group is also open for people to post questions for others to answer.
5. Personally Link with others.
Your LinkedIn network’s value increases as its size increases. Choose relevant professional contacts and Link with as many of them as you can. However, remember this adage (although it pains me to include such a cliché): “people do business with people they like.” If we can agree on that old chestnut, then let us also assume that receiving the LinkedIn-generated generic email below is aloof, unfriendly and possibly harmful to your relationship:
I’d like to include you in my professional network.
– Tara Landes
Instead of clicking “send” without a second thought, tell the person how you met, why you want to connect, or wish them luck on an upcoming project. Do something to customize your ask.
Part of your LinkedIn strategy should be to help your staff learn to use LinkedIn effectively. Now you might be thinking:
Encourage my staff to use LinkedIn?! Recruiters will use it to poach them.
Good point. If you have a strong complement of staff who you are actively promoting on LinkedIn, recruiters will find out about it. So will your prospects and your clients, mind you. Yes, LinkedIn makes it easier to find the right person and contact them directly, but your phone directory can yield similar results to a determined recruiter. Don’t let fear of the unknown make you miss out on the opportunities LinkedIn provides. Start by putting your own profile out there, and see how many calls you receive.
Let us know how it works for you.