The internet is full of junk-especially about social media marketing.
Theory being peddled as fact.
What’s the story with LinkedIn?
Should you spend time on it?
Or is it just Facebook for professionals (or fake, wanna be professionals), with an expensive Premium version and eye wateringly expensive advertising rates?
By the end of this piece, I guarantee you will be clear on whether you should be using LinkedIn, and if so, how to use it most effectively.
And I promise not to give you rehashed guff that you can read elsewhere on the internet, but what I know actually works-because it works, and has worked, for me.
Is LinkedIn for you?
Firstly, is LinkedIn for you?
This really depends on your business-you need to think where your best prospects for your business are likely to hang out, and whether using LinkedIn is going to help you meet them in economically justifiable numbers.
If, for example, you have a coffee shop, convenience store, hairdressers, barber shop, hardware store, retail business, or other business that requires the customer to be physically present, its unlikely LinkedIn will be of any benefit to generate new business for you. That’s not to say that it may not be of huge benefit in creating new contacts in your industry, or new suppliers for example.
But it’s unlikely to be of any benefit if your business is highly reliant on selling cheap petrol/diesel, or the best sandwich or doughnut in your neighbourhood.
You need to think carefully about this and the reality is that nobody knows your business better than you. Ten minutes clear, distraction free thinking about it will quickly help you decide whether there is anything to be gained there or not..
Even if it’s unlikely to be of any benefit to you to generate new clients or customers, there are two other aspects that may be of interest:
- Creating new contacts in your industry
- Making contact with potential new hires who may well add to your bottom line.
By contrast, if you are a professional services provider, you are likely to find LinkedIn to be fertile ground worth ploughing-especially if your professional service is aimed towards small and medium type businesses.
So, if you are an accountant, tax advisor, or lawyer you should find LinkedIn very useful, provided you use it properly. But only if you know and understand how to exploit it to it’s full potential.
Let’s take a look how to do that.
How to use LinkedIn for business
There are some basic, but essential, steps you will need to take care of first.
1) Fill out your profile-fully
This is critical and will be your shop window in marketing yourself and/or your business or service. You need to strike a balance between you and your profile, and what you can do for the reader of that profile. Who do you help? How do you help them? Why should people use you, as opposed to other accountants, for example? What are your specialities? Have you an interesting back story?
Stories sell, you know, and the only thing separating you from many of your competitors will be your story-assuming that you don’t want to separate yourself on the basis of price, which is not the most successful route you can choose to grow your market share.
2) Your profile headline
Your profile headline is vitally important and will also have a huge impact in how you are found on LinkedIn when somebody uses the “people” search box.
Your profile headline should include keywords or phrases that you would like to be found for such as ‘seo expert’, ‘intellectual property lawyer’, ‘taxation specialist’ or whatever.
And your headline-just like your entire profile- also needs to immediately convey the benefit that you can provide to the visitor, if they choose to do business with you.
3) Profile summary
Your profile summary is a great opportunity to describe more fully what you do, who you can help, what your expertise is, and any other vital information you want to convey.
Make sure also that your profile summary includes your target keyphrases sprinkled through it as you will have a good chance of coming up in the internal LinkedIn search engine or other search engines for your target keywords or phrases.
(Google loves LinkedIn and on many occasions if you do a Google search for a person it is their LinkedIn profile that will appear at the top of the search engine results-so make sure it is a good, complete profile that does you and your business justice).
4) Your website/blog links
Your profile also gives you the opportunity to link back to your web properties.
However, simply putting in your website url address in the “my website” box is a wasted opportunity-be sure to edit the “my website” option to include your company name and/or a keyphrase relevant to your business.
This is easily done by a simple edit but so many people have non descriptive and poorly search engine optimized titles beside their website address such as “my website” or “company website”.
You can also use one of these link opportunities to insert a call to action. For example, if you are doing a special offer on your website or giving something away for free, edit one of the website boxes to create a call to action such as “get your free report”, or whatever it is you are offering, to build your email list.
You are building an email list, aren’t you?
To maximize LinkedIn to its fullest, it is essential that you create a great profile and let people know about your expertise, how you help people and who you help.
Assuming you have fully completed your profile you then need to get connected.
5) Get connected
Building connections is critical-it is social networking, after all.
To do this, use LinkedIn’s built in feature which allows you to import your contacts.
You can easily import all your email contacts from your Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other accounts (by importing a spreadsheet of your contacts). Then you need to systematically go through your list of contacts and see who you would want to connect with on LinkedIn by sending them a personalized message.
Do take the time to go through your list because you will have many contacts in your email accounts who you may not wish or need to contact with on LinkedIn-strictly social contacts or family, for example.
6) Seek recommendations
Social proof in the form of recommendations from clients, work colleagues, employers, companies or individuals who you have done business with in the past is a powerful method of demonstrating your expertise.
The best way to get recommendations is to actually give them first but don’t abuse this-don’t give a recommendation for someone to simply receive one if you cannot truly recommend the other person. A profile with a good number of recommendations from real people is a vitally important tool of persuasion and influence.
7) Join groups
This step is critical. Join groups in your industry or area of interest or both. Contribute to discussions and offer genuinely good, thoughtful responses and you will be amazed at how many requests you receive to connect with people.
When you contribute something useful, beneficial, wise, or witty, many members of the group will indulge their basic human nature-and check out your profile. Sometimes this is called ‘rubbernecking’. Regardless, you can use it to your advantage.
This is why the steps above about creating a comprehensive profile with an eye on your visitor will pay off in spades.
What groups should you join?
If you want to focus solely on using LinkedIn to grow your business, then apply one question to every group you think of joining: are the members of this group likely to be interested in what my business offers?
If the answer is ‘yes’, join it.
Joining relevant groups will increase your area of influence exponentially.
Another real benefit of being in groups is the ability to contact people in your group without needing their email address as you can contact fellow group members through LinkedIn internal messaging.
This is a very valuable aspect of LinkedIn but a word of warning-don’t abuse it or spam group members simply because you can.
There is a common piece of advice you will read elsewhere when the question of LinkedIn groups is considered, and that is: start your own group. Starting your own group and being the leader of a group gives you additional benefits such as being able to send messages to group members once a week and raising your profile as an expert and leader in your area of expertise.
However, a word of warning: unless you have the capability of growing a big group quickly, the return on your time and effort is very unlikely to be worth it. Because you will have to look after a group in a kind of twilight zone: not enough members to make it worthwhile, but still needing time and effort to grow and maintain it.
So, think carefully about starting your own group. My view is that you will get a far better return by joining other groups in an astute and strategic fashion.
Let’s call a spade a spade here: we are piggybacking off the work of others to a certain extent, assuming they have built a decent sized group of real people.
In summary then, there are three critical aspects to exploiting LinkedIn to its full extent:
- Ensuring your profile is full and comprehensive
- Contributing and sharing well in discussions
- Joining the most appropriate groups for you, and your business.
One word of warning: like all social media sites you will need to be careful that your social media marketing does not become counterproductive by becoming a big time suck. This should not be a problem provided you decide at the outset which are the best social media platforms for you, being disciplined about your time management, and ignoring a lot of the ‘received wisdom’ that’s passed around by people who rely on theory rather than practical knowledge and experience.
‘A man walks into a bar’
I’ve kept this tip until the end because it’s the most important one.
All of your social media activity and engagement should have one prime purpose: getting people to visit your website or blog.
Now, I accept that some-perhaps many-people will disagree with me about this. But I promised at the beginning of this piece to tell you what I have found works, and not just rehash baloney you will read elsewhere.
So, that’s what I am going to do.
There’s a phrase you may have heard, ‘facts tell, stories sell’.
People are hardwired for story, and have been since time immemorial. One thing you need to tell your story, though, is a hook to drag the casual surfer in. You do this with your headline.
So, when you share links, articles, resources to your LinkedIn groups, don’t use a boring, ho-hum headline like: ‘Read my latest blog post’, or ‘New blog (my boss just wrote this and he thinks it rocks)’
Use one that will effortlessly pull the casual reader in. How do you do this?
There are many ways. But the simplest, and probably most effective is to use curiosity and a benefit (C+B=I, curiosity + benefit=interest).
Here’s a few examples of headlines which are more likely to have people clicking the link (back to your website/blog) to read the intriguing, benefit filled article, and to see ‘what the hell is he on about’:
“13 Things Your Accountant/Solicitor/Business Advisor Won’t Tell You”
“The Shocking Truth About Facebook Ads”
“Can We Really Trust Gmail?”
“27 Reasons Why It Would Have Paid You to Respond to Our Ad a Few Months Ago”
“How I Made a Fortune With a ‘Fool Idea’, And You Can Too”
“How I Got 47 New Clients on Twitter in the Last 135 Days”
So, that’s LinkedIn marketing. This is what I know works.
How about you?
Are you using LinkedIn effectively?
What have you found works effectively?