As I’ve built my business, two digital tools have been invaluable: my blog and LinkedIn. I was heartened to learn in a recent survey that of the Fortune 500 CEOs who use social media, 70% choose LinkedIn as their one social network. So LinkedIn is definitely where I want to be active and maybe you should be, too.
Can You Get Business?
Almost everyone I encounter who is finally getting serious about LinkedIn asks me the same question: Have I gotten business directly from LinkedIn?
The short answer: Yes. My participation on LinkedIn does bring in queries and revenue that continues to grow. Mostly, members ask for my help in defining their brands and updating their Professional Headlines and Summaries.
The longer answer: Yes, but my active involvement on LinkedIn has been equally important in making connections and building my brand. Do those things, and I believe the revenue will follow. My targets are B2B companies, an audience where LinkedIn shines. Some 92% of B2B companies have a LinkedIn profile, more than any other network.
But simply tossing up a profile and a bare-bones resume isn’t going to do it. You’ve got to be actively making connections.
Here’s how to leverage your participation in LinkedIn:
I cringe when I see so many profiles with simply a name and blank head where a photo should be. That can be terribly damaging to your professional image. If you don’t want to take the time to flesh out your profile, you would be wise to drop your membership. Really.
Your Professional Headline and Summary are the most important elements of your Profile. They should contain the key words that people are searching and define your personal and/or corporate brand. LinkedIn keeps adding new features that enable you to toot your own horn, like Posts where you can publish your own content.
You can also upload slide presentations from SlideShare (owned by LinkedIn), your resume, videos, and other important documents. There isn’t any other social network, in my view, that enables you to build such a robust profile of who you are and what you offer.
LinkedIn is all about connecting with other professionals for your mutual benefit. You can import your address book and begin to invite people you know to connect. LinkedIn supplies a default invitation that reads; “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
But it’s considered bad form to use the default invitation without giving the person you’re inviting a reason to connect. Many members automatically delete these invitations. Here’s a post I wrote about How to write a LinkedIn invitation that can help you get started. I encourage you to use a personalized invitation going forward if you’ve already started making connections.
You should actively post updates to your profile, which are distributed to your 1st Connections. These updates can be original content or links to your blog posts and other articles. I check my network’s updates regularly.
When I learn that someone has been promoted or taken a new job, I send a note. I even comment when connections post new images in their profiles. That always gets a happy response: You loved my new photo?! Each new contact is an opportunity to exchange ideas, set up dates for coffee, and talk business.
Not too long ago I congratulated someone on her new job. I had worked with her years ago as co-chair of a committee in our association. She wrote back that we should get together in the New Year because she could use my help.
I belong to almost 50 groups. Depending on the topic, I share my blog posts with the appropriate groups to spark conversations and to help drive traffic to my website.
When I started my blog, LinkedIn was my greatest source of traffic. Over time, I’ve risen in Google rankings so search now drives most of my traffic, but I still receive dozens a visits a month from LinkedIn users, and some have become subscribers and clients.
One caveat: LinkedIn Group owners are becoming stricter about what you can post, as they are getting too much spam that is masquerading as content.
One IT consultant in the WordPress Group was so helpful when I was having a problem with my blog that I that I eventually retained him as my webmaster — that was about four years ago and we’re still together.
So don’t consider LinkedIn as simply a source of business. You can also identify consultants and vendors — and they, in turn, can refer clients to you.
Bloggers Helping Bloggers, yet another subgroup, is a community of bloggers. We share tips and comment on one another’s blogs (which is good for SEO). I’ve collaborated with members of this group on projects and exchanged guest posts. I’ve known several of them for years and consider them friends as well as colleagues.
Start and comment on Group discussions. I innocently started a discussion about how companies terminate employees in the largest human-resources group on LinkedIn and it generated an explosion of comments — which got me ranked as one of the group’s Top Contributors for four straight weeks. I’ve achieved that ranking in several groups.
Posting comments in discussions can be very helpful in building your visibility and brand. Because then what happens? Bingo: new connections, new business inquiries and possible job leads.
LinkedIn started Company accounts a few years ago. They were slow to take hold at first.
But now most major companies have fairly robust accounts where they can share updates and employees/alumni can connect. I have a Write Speak Sell account, but I direct visitors to my Profile page where I am most active as an entrepreneur. Depending on your business, you can decide which will work best for you.
LinkedIn no doubt has the most successful job board of any social network. Recruiters from the largest to the smallest companies post their jobs on LinkedIn, as do recruiting firms. If you’re looking for new position, start with LinkedIn. I can name colleagues who have gotten great jobs through LinkedIn
If you need to hire someone, you will have a rich field of candidates to choose from.
You can also get business from LinkedIn as many companies advertise well-paying projects.
Of course, we can’t forget that LinkedIn is also an advertising vehicle. It’s a publicly held business, like Facebook and Twitter, with a fiduciary responsibility to provide a return to investors. So we will see more ads on LinkedIn over time. Right now, paid job listings are their principal source of revenue.
You can test drive their Targeted Advertising program which offers Sponsored Updates (similar to promoted Tweets on Twitter), text and image ads, video ads, and/or text only ads.
Give to Get
Many LinkedIn users abandon their accounts because there isn’t an immediate payoff in business. That’s a mistake. You’ve got to give first. Join a group and become part of the conversations. Start making friends. I’ve referred members to my connections, and I’ve referred my webmaster to several colleagues, who have become his clients. I know he’ll do the same for me.
I think of my LinkedIn connections — many of whom I didn’t know before I joined — as my business family. We all pitch in to help each other. It’s like planting seeds in a garden: eventually they’ll grow into new business or a better job.
But first you’ve got to establish yourself on LinkedIn before you can reap the rewards.