LinkedIn is considered the online networking platform for professionals. Wikipedia describes it as “a business-oriented social networking service”. LinkedIn started out over 10 years ago and now has over 300 Million users. There are 6 Million just in Australia.
Who should use LinkedIn
In the corporate world, a lot of employees access LinkedIn for seeking work and use it as an online, public resume.
For small business use, LinkedIn works best for B2B (Business to Business), more so than B2C (Business to Consumer), because it is more attuned to people than product.
Your LinkedIn profile can also help people find you via the search engines. Try to Google someone by name and you’ll likely see their LinkedIn profile listing at or near the top of the search results.
How to use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is about building connections and widening your audience.
You know the “6 degrees of separation” theory? Well, with LinkedIn, you’ll often find there’s only 2 or 3 degrees between you and the person you want to meet. Make use of current connections to find other people/professions that can help you. You can request an “introduction” from people you’re already connected with, just as you might at a party or networking event.
To ensure they’ll want to connect with you:
1. Setup your Profile:
When you setup your profile, remember that this is a professional network.
- Use a quality headshot for your profile image
- Be truthful about your skills and experience
- Add a video or slideshow if you prefer more visual forms of communication
- Collect several recommendations (testimonials) to enhance your credibility
From your personal profile, you can also build a Company page. However, a Company needs to gain Followers, which is harder than gathering your own personal connections. If you’re a soloist or run a small business, I’d say you’re best presenting your personal profile to the world.
2. Share quality Content:
You can post simple updates, with links and attachments. These might include:
- Drawing attention to your latest blog or scheduled event
- Asking for recommendations for a service or product you require
- Sharing an article or presentation you’ve found useful for your business
One of the more recent changes to LinkedIn allows you to publish content via their “publishing platform”. It’s still in the roll-out stage but will soon mean anyone can write full-length articles directly on LinkedIn and they’ll appear on the newsfeed of their connections. (And from there, hopefully they’ll travel further by people sharing and commenting.)
- I suggest only sharing quality content, and not spamming people, as you don’t want people dis-connecting or worse, complaining.
- I also suggest you don’t publish duplicate content (ie. on your blog and on LinkedIn). If Google can index posts within LinkedIn (which I expect they can), they might disregard one (and it’s more likely your blog will be the one that gets quashed). If anyone knows the reality of this, please add comments.
3. Contribute and Get Involved:
You can join various interest Groups (up to 50) and follow “INfluencers” (high-profile identities and thought leaders who’ve been invited to publish for LinkedIn).
- Engage. Comment. Ask questions. You never know where these might lead or what connections may be cemented by getting involved.
- Steer clear of Groups that attract lots of spam and self-promotion. Seek out those that encourage discussion.
Some Groups are open, while others you may need to gain approval before joining (the latter are – hopefully – less likely to attract spammers).
Who to Connect with
I’ve heard two main schools of thought on this:
- One says “only ever connect with people that you have met in real life, or dealt with more than once online”,while
- the other says “the whole point of LinkedIn is growing connections as you never know where leads may surface”.
So far, in my introverted manner, I’ve adhered to the first one.
Yes, LinkedIn is more a ‘professional’ network than Facebook. But I prefer to approach its users in the same way as Facebook’s. If someone I’ve never met invites me to be their ‘friend’ on Facebook, it raises my suspicion. I generally question their motives and am not likely to accept. Yet on LinkedIn, people seem to accept approaches from complete strangers because their own motivation is “this is a business connection which could lead to something of value”.
When you do invite someone to connect, don’t leave the default text in place – it looks lazy and impersonal. It only takes a sentence or two. If you’ve met someone at an external event, mention this (to help jog their memory) and perhaps recall something particular about the meeting, and why you want to stay connected.
And if you’re using LinkedIn to ‘cold call’ someone you haven’t met before (certainly online is less scary than on the phone), try to highlight a win-win aspect to forming a relationship.
Tips on using LinkedIn
To help you make the most of it, here are some tips I’ve gleaned about LinkedIn:
- Don’t use #hashtags on LinkedIn. Unlike some other social platforms, they have no meaning or effect here, and can make you look naïve, or lazy (if they come in the form of an automated post pushed out to more than one of your social networks).
- Use Advanced Search when targeting new contacts. It allows you to select more granular criteria than the Quick Search.
- You can group your contacts into different folders, through the use of tags on each of your Contacts. This is especially important when sharing content, so that you only share with those who might find it relevant and useful.
- On your profile, under the heading “Websites”, you can list up to 3 links. So add a direct link to your blog and perhaps to your Facebook Page.
- In the section on Twitter, you’re not restricted to just one Twitter identity, so add more (up to 3) if you have different handles.
- Stick with the free version – it provides more than enough access and features, especially for small business.
For more ideas on getting the most from LinkedIn, check this ‘cheat sheet‘ from HubSpot.