Perhaps you set-up a LinkedIn account years ago, connected to a few colleagues and contacts at the time, but haven’t done much since.
And you know you really ought to be doing something with it.
Or you are someone with 500+ connections – including a good amount of clients, prospects and high-level influencers people in your industry.
Your profile’s up-to-date and looking reasonable (though to be fair your photo is a wee bit misleading as you haven’t looked like that since 1998).
But you’ve got that nagging feeling that you could – and should – be making a lot more of LinkedIn strategically to support your own career or your firm’s business development.
You know it’s common sense to get involved
Apart from any expert advice, common sense tells you that by being active instead of passive – by connecting, commenting and making original contributions – you could raise either your own profile, or that of your business/employer.
So just what are you waiting for?
Who is LinkedIn right for?
LinkedIn is a professional social network – and that puts it firmly into the world of work. For you, work might mean career – employment, job hunting and recruiters searching for talent – or it might mean getting your own job done, or running your own business.
You will see some people posting the good old inspirational quotes and funny pics. But you can tell by the responses (often negative, and becoming much more so) that if you’re serious about your work reputation, these are best kept for Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
LinkedIn is for business. Linked In is for reputations.
I’m going to leave the topics of job-hunting and head-hunting to one side. These are a huge part of LinkedIn, but it’s not what I’m focusing on now.
I’m looking at how you can use LinkedIn for business development, to improve your marketing, grow your reputation and drive sales. Because it very much can do that, but only when you use it in the right way.
LinkedIn – the biggest and longest-lasting industry event you have ever attended
Start by thinking of LinkedIn as a networking group, or an industry conference.
The biggest you have ever attended, with some of the most influential people in your industry speaking, presenting, mingling, running workshops, offering useful advice and connecting with others.
And remember. You’ve paid to be there (in time, if not in money), and you are there for a reason.
Since I went freelance 15 months ago, I’ve picked up three prospects through LinkedIn, and one client. Not huge numbers, granted, but highly significant for a self-employed consultant like me – with only one mouth to feed.
One prospect contacted me again recently after a gap of around nine months.
“I’ve been reading your LinkedIn posts with interest, and wondered if we could schedule a call to talk about our content marketing / social strategy….”
An earlier inbound email from another prospect began with:
“I Googled sales and marketing consultant on LinkedIn (I’m sure Google would love that), and you were the name that came up. I saw how close you live to us and that you were also a sailor (this was a business in the marine sector) and I thought it must be fate.”
This lovely prospect may not have known LinkedIn inside out, or even understood its basics, because she was simply using Google to actively search for a supplier.
And such is LinkedIn’s domain authority (and Google’s location-based thinking), that Google chose to present my LinkedIn profile to her in its first page of results.
And why did I appear? Thanks to Google (maybe), but I’d never have shown up had I not been an active LinkedIn commentator and contributor of long-form, original content for the past 12 months. If you’re curious, take a look at my profile and you’ll soon see the type of content I post, about what, and how often.
I’m a LinkedIn learner too
I am by no means an expert on LinkedIn.
I’m a medium-level user who’s understood the basics and is working hard to learn more about it whenever I can, from whomever I come across that knows more than me.
Will LinkedIn work for you?
Here’s a quick checklist to help you find out whether or not LinkedIn can be any use to you.
If your prospects are on LinkedIn, and are somewhere between having an up-to-date, half-decent profile through to actively contributing and posting, then it has the potential to be a powerful lead generation tool for you.
As well as the right tool to build your reputation in your industry. So let’s look a little deeper.
Open a new tab on your browser and start now. Run through these questions and jot the answers down on a notebook.
1. What percentage of your customers / prospects are on LinkedIn?
If you can hardly find any, take a look for others in your circle.
Trade bodies, networking groups, suppliers and colleagues – seeing how many, or how few, even just have their profile on LinkedIn will get you thinking.
2. How active are these people on LinkedIn?
Rate them 1 to 10 by benchmarking them against these descriptions:
- Very few contacts, no activity
- Building contacts with a reasonable amount of connections
- Lots of contacts and connetions but no activity
- Varying numbers of contacts, shares random Facebooky stuff, pictures, quotes etc. (Arghh!)
- Active by liking/sharing other people’s content
- Active through commenting on other content
- Shares relevant content with added opinion – you feel as though they are actually reading the posts they share
- Creative original posts relevant to their occupation or specialism
- Creating original posts which other people are liking, sharing and commenting on
- Sharing relevant content with added opinion; creating regular, original posts on their own feed with others in their network engage with; and actively contributing within a number of relevant groups
Work out which groups of people, and how many, fall into each category.
3. Where are your competitors?
Identify a bunch of people or businesses who would be looking after your customers if you weren’t.
Or those who are looking after the customers you would like to have.
4. How active are your competitors?
Assess how well you think they are using LinkedIn – referring back to the statements above.
5. Which groups are they active on, if any?
LinkedIn groups are a very mixed bag. Many were, and still are, started by proactive suppliers in their relevant sector with the aim of driving debate, sharing opinion and inviting engagement and involvement.
All well and good.
Many, however, are started in order just to sell. So beware.
Don’t just go about joining relevant sounding groups without assessing them first – and make sure you clean up your group membership on a regular basis.
LinkedIn builds people’s reputations
By going through this exercise, you’ll quickly learn and understand whether it’s right for you. You’ll see examples of best practice – and probably some of the worst – and you’ll start to get a feeling for the way LinkedIn can build and grow a reputation.
It is usually an individual’s reputation that is built, because the voice that others see and hear is theirs. It is only their connection to a business – through employment / ownership – that supports that firm’s own reputation.
So if and when a person moves on to another company, the reputation they have built will travel with them. Which, you see, is why recruiters and headhunters love it so much. And ambitious people.
How to build your reputation on LinkedIn
I’ve got some overview thoughts to help get you started.
Write original stuff
Yes, I mean it. Original stuff that answers real questions or solves real problems that your customers have. You might want to think about doing a spot of customer research to find out what they what they would find valuable.
Quality is better than quantity when it comes to content
There is so much noise, don’t add to it.
So many blog posts of 300-500 words that – in truth – say nothing new, relevant or interesting. Or even worse, they are self-promoting and salesy. Me, me, me. My firm, our services, buy us.
The content is light, bland and devoid of opinion or value. And so often, badly written to boot.
Google tells us to hire expert writers
Google didn’t specifically mean on LinkedIn. It meant everywhere, online, if Google is your search engine of choice. (!)
In a hugely layman’s nutshell…… Because Google’s algorithms have changed, it knows when writing is focused, valuable and well constructed. So it values it more, and ranks it higher.
When the writing is poor quality – sentence structure is weak, grammar questionable, spellings just plain wrong – it values it less and ranks it accordingly. I’m just hoping it can tell English from American…
This is a big thing to think about if you’re planning on writing your own stuff.
If that’s the case, it’s worth finding out more about Google’s view on expertly written content. This’ll have you thinking seriously about hiring a professional copywriter by the end of the third paragraph.
Look closely at what the people you follow do and say
If you don’t follow anyone or read any industry opinion on LinkedIn, you’re either new to it or not taking it seriously enough (yet). Or, of course, it’s not right for you (more on that in the next paragraph, but my writing isn’t expert enough to segue into that in quite the right place).
But if there are people on LinkedIn whose posts you read with interest, whose opinions you take seriously and who you would be proud to have engage with your own content – ask yourself why that is.
Especially if you haven’t met them yourself, or you’re not connected.
Suss out exactly what it is they’ve done – and still do. Look for their LinkedIn strategy behind the content, and apply it to yourself. I don’t mean copy what they write – that would be up there amongst some of the worst things you can do – but apply their methods to help get you started.
You then just need to find your own voice, your own niche, your very own topic of interest to become an expert on. I’ll warn you, this can be harder than it sounds – and is all about your positioning.
Have a read of this if you’re newer to positioning, or would welcome some advice and tips to help get yours sorted.
LinkedIn is not for everyone
Of course it isn’t. No media channel is right for everyone. It would be a nightmare if there was one that was – because the whole population would be on it, all the time.
Imagine the noise.
If your customers, influencers, suppliers, thought-leaders, spokespeople and associations aren’t active on LinkedIn, chances are you can give it a miss for now.
Or – and I have to say this – you just might want to get to know it better to be the one who leads the way. Just a thought.
I’ll leave you with that and with one small request – please do share this with those you also think might find it useful. You could share it on LinkedIn…
Comments welcome, as always.