This is my third in a series of posts on LinkedIn, writes Robert Clay of Marketing Wizdom. It is based on a subset of the content covered in my 3-day Quantum Leap Workshops, and focuses on:
- setting up your personal profile
- connecting with people you know
- giving and getting recommendations
- setting up your LikedIn company page
- and joining selected LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn, just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, is a powerful social networking site that facilitates business-to-business connections and opportunities and reinforces your brand. It is not a place where you socialise online, or chat about music or what you did on Saturday night.
The site has been around since 2003, and it is now by far the world’s largest professional network. It has rightly been said that if you’re in business and not on LinkedIn you may as well not exist. The fact that 499 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented by director-level employees and above just reinforces that point.
So what is LinkedIn?
On the face of it LinkedIn resembles a white pages directory that features over 120 million business professionals. It is also an increasingly powerful business tool that helps you find people, establish and maintain connections, generate recommendations, leads and introductions, network with others online, keep up to date with the latest developments … and do business deals.
It also makes the otherwise invisible networks of people you know visible, and it shows you the shortest route to connecting with whoever you choose, for a multitude of purposes, including:
- Driving traffic to your blog or website
- Building community
- Demonstrating your expertise
- Generating recommendations
- Building relationships
- Forming partnerships
- Developing sales
- Getting your dream job
- Attracting top talent
- Finding suppliers
- Doing business
If you want to develop credibility in your field or be seen as a trusted brand or as an expert in your field, it looks good to have a strong presence on LinkedIn, with lots of connections and credible recommendations. If you engage in LinkedIn Groups and demonstrate your expertise in answering questions in LinkedIn Answers, even better. And a strong presence on LinkedIn only reinforces the branding you’re doing elsewhere. For further information, see this article:
1. Set up your personal profile
If you haven’t already done so, your first step on LinkedIn should be to sign up for your Free personal account and create a great profile. A good LinkedIn profile contributes to your SEO rankings, so add a professional photo and describe what you do as you would if you were asked at a networking event. Complete ALL the fields in your profile, including your full career history, education, affiliations and activities.
Pay particular attention to the summary section. Make sure that whatever you put in this section would make the reader see you as someone they want to connect with. People don’t want to know how clever you are nor do they want to be bored by your past employment history. Instead tell them how many people you’ve helped; how instrumental you were in achieving specific targets and how beneficial that has been to others.
Your profile can feature automatically updated excerpts from your last few blog posts. That gives people who discover you another way to determine whether you’re worth connecting with. It also drives traffic to your blog.
You can link your profile to your slideshare account which allows you to feature Powerpoint or Keynote presentations on your profile. And you can add an Amazon reading list to showcase any books you’re reading or have read, which can further enhance your credibility.
Include a link to your profile as part of your standard email signature so that your email recipients can see your full credentials with a single click.
2. Connect with people you already know
A lot of your existing contacts will undoubtedly already be on LinkedIn. To start connecting with those people, you can upload your email addresses to LinkedIn from most desktop or online address books. LinkedIn will then tell you which of those contacts already use LinkedIn, so that you can connect with them. And it will alert you when your other contacts subsequently join.
LinkedIn is all about the quality of connections. It is NOT about connecting with anyone or everyone. To maintain its reputation for quality it works on the basis that you already know or have met anyone you connect to and could endorse them if you had to. And it is best to connect with people on that basis.
When people ask you to connect with them and you don’t know them, scrutinise their profile and decide whether they’re a credible connection, or not. The more complete their profile, and the more credible their recommendations the better. But if in doubt, don’t connect … especially if they just send you the generic connection invite. People who take the time and trouble to explain why they want to connect with you should be looked at more favourably. The following article provides additional information:
When you find other LinkedIn users you know or want to connect to, you click the “add to your network” link on their profile. You will then be asked how you know them. If they’re a friend you will be asked to enter their email address. If you claim a relationship that is is untrue, e.g. that they are a client or associate, they would have every right to take exception to your claim.
Tip: You can get around these restrictions by checking out what groups your intended contact is a member of, then join one of those groups, and once you’re accepted you can make contact as a fellow member of the same group.
If you need to connect with someone in particular, perform a search for them on LinkedIn and you will be shown who and how many people in your network already know the person. You can then ask them to introduce you.
Because LinkedIn is built on the basis of trusted connections, once you connect with people their contacts are visible to you and vice versa, up to three levels of separation. As your LinkedIn network grows and builds you will not only gain direct or indirect access to more and more people, but you will also become more visible on LinkedIn. In addition to appearing at the top of search results, people far prefer to work with people their friends already know and trust.
3. Give and get recommendations
When you consider that people buy from people, sincere personal recommendations on your profile give you immense credibility. Whereas people are rightly wary about fabricated testimonials, the beauty of LinkedIn is that every recommendation can be traced right back to its source with a single click. The more recommendations you receive, the higher you will rank in searches.
Don’t recommend other people just because they ask for it. Give a recommendations only when you feel people truly merit it. A lot of them will recommend you back again. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation if you know that you’ve done something that has been highly valued by the other person.
4. Set up your LinkedIn Company Page
If you don’t have a LinkedIn Company Page you’re not taking full advantage of what LinkedIn can do for you or your business.
A LinkedIn Company Page provides a great opportunity to promote who you are and what you do to the 120 million-strong LinkedIn network. Leads coming from LinkedIn Company Pages have been found to be more serious about gathering relevant information, and therefore spend longer on a website or blog than is the case from other traffic sources
Your LinkedIn Company Page is also listed in Google’s and LinkedIn’s search engines; allows others to follow your company’s updates; gives you a place to promote your products and services and even reports analytics. And you can further boost your credibility by featuring recommendations from your clients.
To set up your Company Page you need an email address with your company domain. Email addresses like AOL, hotmail, yahoo and gmail are not permitted.
It takes around 30 minutes to set up your company profile. You can easily add your Twitter updates; blog feed; searches that share news about your business, as appropriate, and even videos, which can be an effective way to introduce people to your business. These feeds keep your Company Page active, relevant and current. You can also add up to five different location addresses, and add employees.
A products and services tab allows you promote who you are and what you do. You can assign a name to each of your products and/or services, add a logo, a description, list key features, post a disclaimer, add a URL, list a company contact, add a promotional link and link to YouTube video.
There is also an analytics tab which allows you to track page views and unique visitors to your Page. And you can compare how your company is performing against similar companies.
Once you’ve completed the steps for setting up your Company Page, LinkedIn will also pull in data about your company from around the site, e.g. Your job listings will automatically appear together with links to the profiles of all current and former employees.
LinkedIn also analyses your company and the connections that your employees have on the network, calculating such things as your company’s median age, other companies that they’re well connected to and a whole lot more. This all happens automatically once you’ve set up your company page, and it also updates automatically as you and your team use LinkedIn.
5. Join Some LinkedIn Groups
If you want to build influential relationships you need to find ways of consistently adding value, spending quality time and having engaging conversations with your ideal target clients.
LinkedIn Groups are very effective for this. So what are they? They’re online communities that come together to focus on a common topic. Groups exist for just about any topic you can imagine, and many have very active communities of individuals who share similar interests. You’re likely to find high concentrations of your ideal clients, referrers and prospects in certain Groups.
By joining the right Groups, especially those with a few hundred to a few thousand members, you can get to know, learn from, engage with, be seen by and have meaningful discussions with their members, and turn many of those members into valuable contacts.
So if you haven’t already done so, use the LinkedIn Groups Directory to find and join relevant groups in your sector, or where high concentrations of your ideal clients, referrers and prospects are likely to hang out. Some groups are open to anyone to join, while others require you to apply for membership.
When you join a group you can pose questions, share interesting links and resources for the group’s benefit, contribute to existing discussions, or start new ones. By joining debates, commenting on others’ articles, writing them yourself and demonstrating your expertise you can build some excellent connections that can lead to direct or referred business.
It is important though NOT to hosepipe your groups with your product or service offering, or hijack your LinkedIn group to do your direct mail campaigns. Blatant selling, self-promotion or promotion of your products, services or content within groups will quickly be seen for what it is and if you do that you will not be welcome for long. After you’ve earned some credibility within the group it’s acceptable to post one of your own articles from time to time as long as it answers a question or solves a problem for members.
Instead you should “earn” attention and respect through the quality of your interactions and contributions. If you have something interesting to say, and you add value to the group, people will want to know more about you. Once you’ve built a degree of trust, leads will normally start coming your way BECAUSE you are adding value, NOT because you’re foisting your products or services on other members of the group.
Once you’ve earned the respect of other members, you can expect very high conversion rates to your newsletter, offers etc. LeadFormix carried out some research that found that 1 in 3 visitors from LinkedIn groups were happy to fill subscription form on a website when asked by other actively engaged members. That impressive conversion rate indicates that participation in LinkedIn Groups should become an integral part of every B2B social media marketing plan.
To raise your visibility you should focus initially on the 3-5 groups that most accurately represent your target demographic. Plan to proactively visit each of your top groups 2-3 times a week. Identify your best opportunities and plan to make frequent and consistent appearances. Engaging in the most popular discussions within each group will generally give you the most visibility.
You engage by responding to existing comments, providing insights or opinions, and asking thought provoking questions to generate additional comments. You can also “Like” and “Share” these discussion with your connections. If you’re truly engaging with members of the group you’ll be recognised as a “Top Influencer” in the group page sidebar which can also help you build visibility and authority within the group.
Once you’ve spent some time participating in the top discussions and observing the contributions of the most active participants and what matters to them, you can start your own discussion threads within your key groups. Your goal in doing this should be to encourage as much engagement as possible.
Starting your own LinkedIn group
Further down the track you may also decide to start your own group which gives you much greater control and visibility over your target audience. Starting a new group only takes about 5 minutes, and when you do, it should fill a need for the specific audience you’re targeting. Running a group requires a regular ongoing commitment, but approach it the right way and you can build a sales funnel that can delivers dozens of fresh, highly targeted leads every day.
Connect in real life as well
Once you’ve made connections on LinkedIn, the real relationships will start to develop when you also start to connect outside LinkedIn. So pick up the phone, meet people whenever you can, invite them for coffee … and say something that adds value, rather than just looking at it as another sales opportunity.
This really only scratches the surface of what you can do on LinkedIn. You can also use LinkedIn to provide regular status updates; network with other people; share content; drive traffic to your blog; boost your SEO rankings; track people, companies or industries; ask and answer questions; get high quality advice; carry out research; seek employment; help others; and a whole lot more. I will be covering some of these topics in more depth in future posts.
If you want to grow your business then there is no better platform than LinkedIn.
I hope this post has been helpful for you. I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and personal experiences, so if you have anything to add to the post, or would like to give illustrative examples or elaborate further on any of the points I’ve touched on here, please comment below. I welcome anything you can contribute to the discussion.
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