This article is an overview of LinkedIn and how you can use this social networking site to become known as “the expert” and to grow your business.
LinkedIn for businesses is a free and effective way to market yourself and your business to become known as “the expert“, to get sales leads and grow your business.
LinkedIn is a professional social networking site used primarily by business people for business reasons. It was created based on the concept of “six degrees of separation.” You connect with people you know and then they may allow you to see their connections. On LinkedIn, you can connect with professional colleagues, meet new people, join groups and look for new business leads. They also sell advertising.
LinkedIn describes themselves this way, “LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 180 million members in over 200 countries and territories. The company has a diversified business model with revenues coming from member subscriptions, marketing solutions and talent solutions. LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions business enables marketers to reach the most affluent and influential audience on the web through display media and social media products.”
LinkedIn is also becoming an influential content “curator”. A Forbes article dubbed LinkedIn “the perfect morning newspaper.” Most articles promoted on LinkedIn are tailored by industry so someone in the automotive industry is shown relevant articles than someone who is in real estate. Then there are general “Editor’s Pick” articles which get the most views. Those stories have the ability to be seen by all 175 million members (plus the two new people signing up every second).
How to Use LinkedIn for Marketing
1. Stay connected with people you’ve met or worked with
As people change emails, change jobs, change positions, change names, move, they (generally) update their LinkedIn profile, so you’ll have up-to-date information on how to contact them and they’ll know how to contact you.
LinkedIn makes it easy to stay up-to-date with your connections. You can export your email connections to LinkedIn so you can invite them to connect on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s tool will also show you people who you may know. They make it easy to send people emails through LinkedIn (you check off who you want to send a message to).
There’s also a way to export your LinkedIn connections and their contact information to create your own email list in Microsoft Outlook and other popular email services. At the bottom of the page of your connections, click “Export Connections”.
2. Ask your connections for help, advice, introductions, connections…
You can send all your LinkedIn connections, or specific people who are connections of yours on LinkedIn, an email to tell them about something you’re doing or to ask them for help or for a referral.
LinkedIn is especially helpful when you are hiring someone. Instead of contacting the three people they list as references (who will all say very nice things about them), you can instead do a little “detective work” to figure out what shared connections you have and then contact your connections (first or second degree) to ask them about the person you are considering hiring.
Best to phone people vs. email them to get for the most honest feedback.
3. Use LinkedIn as a tool for new business development and sales research
Generate new business and attract new clients and customers through using LinkedIn. This takes time but it can be done for free.
If you’re sending an email to someone you don’t know, you may want to do it through LinkedIn. Why? Emails you send through LinkedIn (they call them InMails) won’t go into someone’s spam folder. You’ll have to upgrade to a premium membership to send InMails, but it may be worth it to make sure your emails actually get to who you want them to in a timely manner.
4. Promote yourself as a personal brand and expert
Through endorsements and recommendations people make about you and showcasing your personal and work experience. Keep your contacts up-to-date with your accomplishments and activities through your status updates.
5. Generate website traffic and support your SEO efforts
Through links from LinkedIn to your website or blog.
6. Increase the visibility of your business and brand
From our experience: You want to learn all about what you can do for free on LinkedIn to market yourself and your business and then once you have all that set up, investigate and experiment with buying ads.
7. Create a Company Page on LinkedIn (it’s free)
Companies can add status updates to their Company Page. It works a lot like Facebook.
8. Get job offers and find people to hire
If your profile is up-to-date, you can be found by recruiters who use LinkedIn extensively. You can use it yourself this way too for hiring. Post and distribute job listings to find the best people to hire as employees and freelancers.
9. Get Found! Get new business leads!
LinkedIn is now offering something called “Services”. It’s under development and in beta testing so not everything works perfectly yet but it’s something to try (it’s free!).
10. Accelerate your business networking
I have found the best way to network is to target ‘exactly’ who you want to meet. I find my best contacts through trade journal articles and magazines along with studies conducted by research groups. I see an article. It quotes people I believe I should meet and get to know. I find them on the web. I read about them first and then I send along an introductory email either through legitimate online connection sites (LinkedIn for example) or using other methods. If a person has done their homework and knows what they want out of the connection, it works – almost every time. And when it doesn’t I always ask/say, ‘Please give me the names/numbers of a few people who you think my services/products could benefit.” And I move on from there. What’s the absolute worst thing someone can say: “No, sorry can’t help you.’ And to me that’s not so bad.”
11. Use LinkedIn Mobile – LinkedIn has a mobile application. If you haven’t already downloaded it to your smart phone, go to your app store and download it for free. The LinkedIn mobile app is useful at a trade show or an event where you’re making one-on-one contacts. During a conversation with a prospect, ask them to turn on LinkedIn on their smart phone. Then, bump your phones together lightly. If they have their settings correct, then LinkedIn will transfer your contact information between phones using Bluetooth. No typing, no misspelled words — just instant transfer of information. Pretty cool!
Know this about LinkedIn
- LinkedIn is NOT a mass-market platform. It is intended to make it easy for members to identify key business contacts and establish one-to-one relationships with them. Instead of reaching a few million people, the vast majority of whom may not be interested in your service, LinkedIn allows members to target and reach individuals.
- It’s primarily used by F500 companies and companies that sell to them. Many small business owners and partners don’t find it as indispensable a tool as people from larger companies do. That could change if more small businesses start using it the way the large companies do.
- You can tell how valuable LinkedIn’s tool is to someone by how many connections they have. If they have less than 50 connections, it’s probably not used much or very valuable to them. If they have 200, it’s a valuable tool to connect with their extended network. If they have thousands of connections, it’s like their blog and they’re not very “exclusive.”
How LinkedIn Works
It attracts business leaders and high income adults.
Nielson Online called LinkedIn, “The world’s largest audience of affluent, influential professionals.” LinkedIn has some millions of members in 200 countries. Not all of them are active and have up-to-date profiles but if half of them are, that means you have the potential to reach 40 million people who are most likely high income adults. LinkedIn’s members are educated and their average household income is more than $100,000 per year. These are company leaders and decision makers.
LinkedIn is free. Or, you can choose to pay for additional privileges.
With either type of account, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments (sort like an online resume).
You then invite people you know to connect to you on LinkedIn using their invitation tool. They make this easy and you can download your email address book to look for people who you know who are already on LinkedIn and others you want to invite to connect.
Once you “link” with someone, then they may give you access to their connections (or they can block that and keep it private).
From our experience
It’s worthwhile to invest the time to create a LinkedIn profile page and use it to connect with business and professional colleagues. Start with the free service and then decide if it’s worthwhile to pay for the upgrade. Your LinkedIn profile is part of establishing a personal brand for yourself.
To get new business leads and referrals
Build and network your connections…
1. Upload your email address book and use that to start making connections
LinkedIn’s tools make it easy to see who you know is already on LinkedIn so you can send them an invitation to connect.
2. Personalize your invitations to connect to people
LinkedIn has a template for inviting people to connect. If you use this, it looks like you don’t really value the other person.
You can and should personalize your invitations. Email an invitation that says something to the effect of: “Marilyn, I’m starting to use LinkedIn and see you’re a member. I’ve enjoyed working with you on the Chamber of Commerce events. I think some of my connections can help you with your business. Let’s connect on LinkedIn.” and sign your name.
Know this: One of the biggest mistakes you can make on LinkedIn is to send a request to connect with a former colleague or business partner using the generic LinkedIn invitation line ‘Please Join My Professional Network’. That says to someone essentially that they are not special or important to you. Same thing happens if you send a generic cover note with your resume and don’t invest the time to personalize it.
Search for old connections
LinkedIn makes this easy with their search tools. They’ll also start to recommend people who know people you have as connections to see if you want to link to them.
Reach out to former clients and colleagues and anyone you’ve been on a committee with. Also people you went to college or graduate school with.
Proactively seek out the Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point has a lot of great information and ideas on who generates the most word-of-mouth
- Connectors are people who have lots of varied connections to different types of people and act as human bridges to help others make connections and “cross-pollinate” information and ideas. They don’t get paid to do this. They just do this for free. It’s how they operate.
- Mavens are people who like to be seen as experts and help other people make informed decisions. They’re the “go to” people and “smart friends” and “experts” who people seek out.
- Salesmen are people who are persuasive in selling, inducing others’ to do or buy something. In social media, these “salesmen” (and women) do this for free. They’re like a free sales force if you can harness them to recommend and advocate your product, company or services.
Connectors, mavens and salespeople personality types are the vocal people who are most likely to spread word-of-mouth, help you make connections and give you referrals.
Decide who you will, and will not, accept connections from
Some people ask for connections with anyone. They’ll generally send the template invitation. Do you want these people in your network that you don’t personally know? That’s a judgment call. If they’re a connection of yours, other people may ask you for a recommendation about them and then what do you say? “I don’t really know them.” And if you don’t know their reputation, do you want yours linked to them?
When you get a new business card from someone
Look the person up on LinkedIn and invite that person to connect with you.