LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) has established itself as the place to be seen for businesses and business professionals alike with a UK membership of over 4 million and 90 million worldwide.
Whilst it doesn’t have the apps of Facebook or the music of MySpace (or perhaps because it doesn’t have those features), LinkedIn has become an established place to make new contacts, to seek out opportunities and to find answers to burning questions.
Gareth Edwards, Associate e-Marketing Consultant at The National B2B Centre, puts forward a few pointers on how you can get the most out of this tool.
Using LinkedIn effectively really isn’t all that difficult but like most Social Media tools achieving success requires more effort than many people realise. You can use LinkedIn to tell people about yourself and your organisation, to find people and information using the extensive search facilities and most importantly to engage people individually or in groups about topics of mutual interest.
Here are some key tips to being seen and having a voice.
- Make sure that your profile is up to date. Add in all educational establishments and places of employment: it helps old colleagues find you. Focus on your summary and specialities to highlight what you have done for people and what you are good at.
- Change your “professional headline” so that it reflects what you do (to help clients) not just your job title. I changed mine to “Online marketing advisor. Helping you tell compelling business stories to the people that matter”. It might be a bit long but it does stand out. And I would make sure that you have a professionally taken photo for your profile too.
- Your Status Update snippet is an ideal opportunity to tell people what you are up to. Visitors to your profile will see it and your connections get update emails too. I get quite a few comments or emails every week from people I know, which helps me to keep in touch with people. And of course I look out for what my contacts say too.
You can connect the Status Update to Twitter, which is a handy way of keeping it looking fresh. It’s always good to add LinkedIn only content from time to time though. It’s also possible to display content such as blog posts and presentations on your profile too.
- Not everybody realises that LinkedIn can automatically find people you might already know by checking your email address book. Use the “Add Connections” option (Contacts>Add Connections) to set-this up. It’s very easy to do if your contacts are in Gmail or Hotmail but you use Outlook you’ll need to export contacts into a CSV file.
- Naturally when you meet people at networking events it makes sense to check if they are on LinkedIn and if so, connect with them. You can also add LinkedIn icon and/or text link in your email signatures and on your website to make it easy for people to connect.
- LinkedIn has a various features that make it easy to be proactive. The first step is to look at your contacts’ contacts. If somebody you already know is connected to someone you’d like to know then you can request an introduction.
- The site also has search tools allow you to search for people, companies and groups quite easily. It is possible to find potential customers on LinkedIn – though you may have to pay the premium services to get in touch if you aren’t connected by friends or friends of friends.
- There are a lot of Groups on LinkedIn that provide a great opportunity to participate in discussions and find out what’s going on in the marketplace. It’s a good way of getting your name about and accessing more contacts.Groups cover pretty much any subject that you can think of (just do a search on the name of your industry or speciality) and are provided by a wide range of businesses and organisations. For SMEs you might want to start with “The National B2B Centre Members Group”, “Business Link Networking Groups” or “UK Business Network”.
- Finally you can even use the “Answers” section to get answers to your burning business questions from the entire LinkedIn membership. Interestingly you can also answer other people’s questions: maybe that’s a good way of showcasing your own expertise.
So you can see that there are lots of opportunities to use LinkedIn to your advantage. But what needs to happen for you to be successful.
Well firstly it makes sense to check that the types of people you want to talk to are actually on LinkedIn. Be careful with this thought because it may be that your target prospects aren’t here but somebody else who is important is. At a recent workshop somebody offering high-end fashion to teenagers highlighted that while the teenagers themselves were probably on Facebook, their parents (who might be the ones paying) could be LinkedIn users.
Perhaps more importantly you need to be clear about how much time you want to spend on it and how proactive you feel like being. If you only post a status update from time to time, don’t connect with people you meet and don’t search for new people to make contact with then, well, you probably won’t get much out of it.
It makes sense to create a schedule that operates at a level of activity that you are comfortable with but also results in updates, changes or conversations at least, say, 4 to 6 times per week. The people who get the most out of it are also quite proactive: looking out for new opportunities to connect with people and engage in some sort of dialogue.
The great thing is that you can try it out and see what happens, painlessly. Monitor emails, phone calls, hits on your website or blog and Twitter activity. If it isn’t working for you then change what you are doing or stop.
Let us know what your experiences of using LinkedIn are via Twitter @b2b_centre.
The National B2B Centre offers a wide range range of digital marketing training courses. Check out our course schedule today.