Let’s Connect: The Essentials of Marketing Yourself and Your Business on LinkedIn
LinkedIn launched as a social network for professionals in May 2003. Although it has undergone significant design and functionality changes since then, the primary purpose has not changed at all. Today it remains the largest network of professionals, with more than 250-million members from more than 200 countries and territories. With more than 184-million unique visitors per month, and students and recent college graduates representing their fastest growing demographic, it would be foolish for any business to ignore the importance of being active on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is not simply a career portal to be used when you are looking to hire new professionals; it is a very powerful network for any business to use for finding new suppliers, generating leads (primarily B2B), and increasing brand awareness. As with any marketing opportunities, it helps if you have some knowledge of the expected behavior, the best practices and rules that are commonly followed. This guide will take you through the steps involved, including:
- Profile essentials,
- Groups, and
- Business Pages
When last did you edit your profile? It might be acceptable for your profile on other social networks to remain static, or even incomplete, but not on LinkedIn. An outdated or incomplete profile on LinkedIn will never inspire confidence or trust, so spend a few minutes or hours fixing it.
Photo, Name & Headline
These are the three items that show up first all across LinkedIn, and first impressions count.
- Always use a good quality, focused headshot for your profile image, and never leave it blank.
- Only use your full birth name if that is how everyone knows you, otherwise list only your first and last name.
- Use your headline to inform. It can include quite a bit of information, which you can easily separate using dividers. List the name of the organization you work for, and the position you hold.
Update Your Contact Info
Make sure all your contact information is complete and up to date. Your email address, IM username, phone number and address are only visible to your connections, but your Twitter username and connected websites are visible to everyone. This information is especially important on LinkedIn.
Use your summary to tell your story; who you are, what your passions are, and your life and career goals. The rest of your profile gives you plenty of space to list your career accomplishments, skills and expertise. Allow your summary to reveal a little bit of your personality, while also discussing what you are looking for on LinkedIn
The Rest of Your Profile
Slowly work through the rest of your profile making sure it is complete, and adding new information as you work your way down. LinkedIn allows you to include everything from your experience through to your skills, projects you have worked on, professional organizations that you are a member of, and even any volunteer work you do. Fill in as much information as possible, especially everything relating to what you are currently doing.
Connections are a very important component of LinkedIn, and the more connections you have the more frequently you appear in search results. This does not, however, imply that you should attempt to connect to as many people as possible. At real world networking events, conferences and seminars you are most likely only handing your business cards to people you actually meet, talk to or are introduced to; and are interested in building a relationship with. Approach Connections on LinkedIn in the same way.
Connect first with people you know or have recently met, using the search function to find any not already in your network. Take time to write a proper message when you have to invite someone to connect on LinkedIn – explain who you are and how you know the person you are trying to connect to. As you begin to explore the many Groups on LinkedIn you will start interacting with new people. Some of these interactions will only be casual, while others could be with people you would like to have in your network. Slowly begin increasing your connections, and you will soon notice other people trying to connect with you first as you start showing up in the networks of other members.
Discover and Join Groups
LinkedIn Groups are the ideal way to meet new people, establish new connections and even do a bit of marketing. There are close to 2-million Groups on LinkedIn, but you can only join a maximum of 50 groups. If you are going to use LinkedIn primarily for lead generation, prospecting and general marketing, find and join groups that are relevant to your field or industry.
- Search for Groups using the search bar at the top of the page, using the drop down panel to limit your search to Groups only.
- Once you have selected a Group to join you should first click on the information icon next to the Join button. This reveals a panel that gives a snapshot overview of the Group, along with links to the Group profile, rules and statistics.
- Read through the profile, rules and a few of the discussions before you join. This helps in establishing how active the group is, what the group etiquette is, and whether the group is a good fit for your purposes.
- Some groups have automatic approval set up, meaning you are granted full access to the group almost immediately after selecting the Join button. Others are more actively moderated to reduce spam, or are set to private and limit membership only to professionals within a certain field.
- The Group rules will clearly state what is accepted in discussions. Obvious advertising and self-promotion are usually not allowed. Think again how you would act at a networking event; add value to all discussions, help out wherever you can, and establish yourself as an authority within your field.
- Share links to interesting industry news, but don’t simply post the link. Start a discussion by adding your thoughts and opinions on the news you have just shared. Respond to comments on discussions you start; this shows active involvement and increases your exposure within the Group.
Is a Company Page Necessary?
A Company Page is a great way for other members to learn more about your company, brand, products and people without leaving LinkedIn. Though it isn’t necessary for all businesses to create a Company Page, it is advisable if you intend using LinkedIn for recruiting purposes, or if you are involved in a B2B industry. If you decide to create a Company Page it is essential that you have a staff member or department who is able to manage it. Like your profile, your Company Page should never be outdated or obviously neglected.
Like all marketing, using LinkedIn to find prospects and drive sales requires commitment. The more effort you put into it, the more rewarding the experience can be. It helps to also remember that on LinkedIn you are dealing with other professionals, and all your interactions should take this into account.
Has LinkedIn been good for your business? What have you learned while using LinkedIn that has benefitted you personally or professionally? Add your comments below.
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