LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. It’s analogous to networking at a business conference or event.
It can be an important tool for you to drive potential customers to your business, network with peers, be introduced to individuals that you want to meet, recruit employees and more.
It probably takes less time to leverage a social networking site like LinkedIn for business then it does to attend a conference in person. Here are my recommendations for getting started with LinkedIn.
Set Up Your Personal Profile
The first thing to do after registering with LinkedIn is to create your profile. Your profile essentially looks like a resume summary, so you want to do a thoughtful job to appropriately impress potential customers, partners and employees. Create a compelling headline that describes what you do and be sure to include keywords that will help other people in the network find you. Upload a professional picture of yourself; it doesn’t have to be portrait quality but it needs to be in a business context and not casual/family context. Complete the rest of profile including summary background, specialty skills and past climate history.
If you are professional service provider it is particularly important for you to add at least 3 recommendations from customers on the social network. Those recommendations could help you secure higher-quality sales leads. You could simply send them an e-mail through LinkedIn to ask for their help with a recommendation posted to your profile.
Customize Your Profile
LinkedIn provides a choice of plug-in applications to further customize your profile. Here are three that I suggest you consider:
- With the Bloglink and WordPress apps you can have your profile automatically updated with your website blog posts.
- With Slideshare you can upload presentations to demonstrate your expertise. You can even embed audio and video that will play automatically whenever anyone visitor profile.
- With Events you can find professional events and connect with selected members/connections of LinkedIn.
Customize Your Public Profile
LinkedIn allows you to use your profile as a search friendly, public profile. By customizing this profile and inserting appropriate keywords for your business, your public profile could help provide a gateway to both your personal brand and your company.
Invite your contacts
LinkedIn will help you automatically import contacts from your e-mail accounts. You can invite all of them to be a connection on LinkedIn or you can choose which ones to invite. I recommend initially choosing those contacts that are already highlighted in the imported list as a member of LinkedIn. Make sure you personalize the default invitation message before letting LinkedIn do a mass invitation mailing.
Expand your connections by searching through LinkedIn for business colleagues from current and past employers (go to the Colleagues Tab) and from University alumni (Go to the Alumni Tab). You will be surprised at how many past colleagues you’ll be able to reconnect with.
You now have a number of tier 1 contacts. Each of these contacts has their tier 1 contacts, which appear as tier 2 contacts for you. Review your list of tier 2 contacts for people you know and can invite to be a member of your tier 1 contacts, thereby expanding your network further.
Friend or Fan?
There are two schools of thought regarding who should be your connection on LinkedIn; only invite and accept connections with people you know and trust, or, grow your connections as large as possible and therefore accept invitations from anyone who could become a follower/fan.
My recommendation is that you begin by only connecting with people you know. You can always expand your criteria at the later date.
Start Leveraging Your Connections
LinkedIn is a great tool to find new customers, suppliers, partnerships and employees.
Monitor the updates and contacts within your network of connections. You might notice something interesting or see an opportunity to create a valuable relationship.
If you find someone you’d like to connect with, see if you have any mutual connections with that person; ask your network connection if they would introduce you. Don’t use the introduction as an invitation to sell or spam. Use the introduction to start building a relationship.
Join appropriate groups to contribute and participate in a discussion. In time, people will be contacting you directly, and those people might be potential customers or employees.
Got the Answer?
Participate in LinkedIn Answers, which is a Q&A database of questions submitted by users. Your expert and thoughtful answers can be highlighted on your profile if you want. Or perhaps more importantly, they will be indexed by the search engines which could lead to increase traffic for your business.
Ensure Your Company Can Be Found
Create a company page to be included in the LinkedIn business directory and allow your company to be followed by interested users. Complete the company profile with keyword rich information and link it to your company blog to showcase your latest posts. Make your company page dynamic and active by regularly posting updates that ultimately point to your website into your blog.
LinkedIn offers a self-service, pay per click and pay per view advertising service to place ads on LinkedIn webpages, similar to Google Adwords within Google network. The ads consist of a headline, brief description and associated image. You can specify which LinkedIn members will review your ads by selecting your target audience by job title, job function, industry, company, LinkedIn group and more.
You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, which will be a cost of at least two dollars per click. You’ll need to manage your advertising campaign closely. If you spent $300 for 100 clicks, and only get one click converting to a customer, then you are paying $30 per lead and $300 per customer. If the ROI makes sense based on the profit generated by the transaction, then you can then optimize your ad to increase the number of clicks per dollar, and, you can optimize your landing page to increase the conversion rate of lead to customer.
If you want to try it, take a quick search of the Internet for any $50 promotional coupons.
With so many professionals on LinkedIn, it should be of no surprise that it is a great platform for recruiting.
A recruitment ad will cost only a few hundred dollars, but the real value is recognizing if the applicant has any mutual connections with your network. If everyone in your network is someone you know and trust, then their input on a candidate can be quite useful.
LinkedIn is only one of numerous social networks that you can market to. If you don’t have the time to effectively keep your company page updated a few times a day and your manage your advertising campaign to keep it running smoothly, or, you have more than one or two social networks to care for, then outsource your marketing. With Marketing Outfield you can outsource a lot of the day-to-day management of your social networking marketing to specialized, independent, social media specialists.