Have you been avoiding LinkedIn like the plague? Do you think it’s not a whole lot more than a hangout for job searchers and HR people?
It’s okay. You can admit it. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. Even though LinkedIn has over 200 million members from around the world as of the beginning of this year, many people still have no idea that they can use the network to grow their businesses as well as promote themselves professionally. In fact, so many of the people who ask me about LinkedIn know they are missing opportunities staying away from the site. The problem is they don’t know where to start.
If you’re in the same boat, now is as good a time as any to get yourself up to speed. Here are five things you can easily do today to make a significant difference in leveraging LinkedIn for your small business.
1) Optimize your profile
The number one most important thing you can do, if nothing else, is optimize your profile for search using keywords that are relevant for your industry. The search function on LinkedIn is how others find you and your business. Every piece of your profile, down to the title underneath your name, needs to be well thought out and carefully pulled together. Not to mention the fact that Google loves LinkedIn. Do a Google search on most people and if they have a LinkedIn profile, it will be the first thing that pops up.
Take a look at Mari Smith’s profile above. This is a terrific example of how to use words specific to an industry for searchability.
If you’re thinking this really can’t be all that important, think again. While doing some research on a client’s competition, I went through the process of doing a search based on keywords of her industry. You know what happened? All of her competitors showed up in my search on LinkedIn but her. I looked at her profile and sure enough she had none of the key phrases or words in her title or summary that made the most sense to base a search on.
The big takeaway: Don’t be lulled into thinking that you can get by being lazy with how you use words in your profile. Simply adding the title, “Owner at XYZ Company,” under your name will do very little to help get you found by a prospective client.
2) Get active
Part of why people seem to do a drive by of LinkedIn instead of camping out on it like other platforms is they tend to forget that it’s another social network. Really, it’s not a whole lot different than any other platform except that there’s not all the cat memes and inspirational quotes.
You can start being active by sharing high quality content with either all of LinkedIn, your connections or a particular group in order to generate interest or start up a conversation. If you’re not contributing, you’re reducing the likelihood of being seen.
3) Join groups
There are groups on LinkedIn for just about every industry. Since you can join up to 50 groups, choose a smattering that both relate to your industry and where you might be able to add value while connecting with people who may be potential clients. For example, I belong to several women focused entrepreneurial groups. Many of the women members have had questions with regards to using social media. I make it a point to go in and answer them. I’m able to help the group while showcasing my expertise. I’ve received a number of requests to find out more about my services along with a couple of referrals from doing this.
Hint: Most people who are members of groups allow others within the group to message them privately. If there is someone who is not already a connection that you would like to interact with, see if that person is in one of your groups. If he or she is generating discussions, begin interacting in them. Start developing a relationship and where appropriate send a message to introduce yourself.
4) Research your prospects and your competition
If you haven’t already realized, search is a key component to getting the most out of LinkedIn. I mentioned in the hint above that merely scrolling down the list of members in a group you belong to can yield fantastic results.
Use the Search function drop down menu at the top of the site to find items other than just people. Target specific companies and then see all of the employees with LinkedIn profiles that work there. Or, you can do an Advanced search where you can set criteria such as only searching for people who are at least a 2nd connection to yourself. Find out who might be someone you’d like to collaborate with or become a new client. See who they are connected to and who might be able to initiate an introduction on your behalf.
5) Aggregate your contacts
LinkedIn just recently added in a new Contacts feature that allows users to sync their Google, Yahoo and Outlook contacts and calendars and iPhone address books with their LinkedIn account. This looks like LinkedIn’s foray into the world of CRM systems. Considering not every small business owner can afford all of the necessary systems as soon as they get up and running, this may be a nice stop gap solution. You can create tags for each person along with seeing when the last time you’ve interacted with them and how.
Bonus: If you have an iPhone, download the free Card Munch app. It allows you to take a picture of a business card and then upload that information straight to your LinkedIn contacts.
I hope this has inspired you to take a second look at LinkedIn. Or, if you’re already active on the site, let us know how you are making LinkedIn work for you and your business.