Benefiting from LinkedIn as a business is something that crept up on me. Like many others, I tried it early on, setting up my account around 4 years ago, taken with the idea that I could connect with people in business online. But I struggled to find many others who were on it then, the usual response being ” I haven’t got time to get to know this”.
LinkedIn now has over 80 million members in over 200 countries and increasingly I’m finding people ask me when I meet them if I’m on LinkedIn. Here are my top reasons to include LinkedIn as part of your marketing strategy:
1. Preparation – It’s really valuable as a research tool when you’re about to meet somebody, do business or even prior to a networking event so you know more about the people going. Even if you don’t have an account or you’re not connected to them, you can see people’s public profiles and company profiles. Use the search box at the top of your LinkedIn home page to find who you’re looking for.
2. Research - Apart from finding out more about individuals, getting involved in Groups and Answers means that you can conduct your own market research and discover a much more in-depth insight into a subject than you can outside of LinkedIn. In Groups for example, now that the group homepage is much improved, you can see at a glance what’s being talked about and start a discussion of your own to gauge feeling on a particular topic. In Answers you can post a question to obtain extremely specific responses, making very bespoke feedback.
3. Connecting with the right people – Are you an open or closed net-worker? Defining who you want to network with and why makes it much easier to get the full benefit from LinkedIn. There’s no right answer to this, only you will know what you’re trying to achieve but you don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation to connect for example. The obvious “no” is those who openly appear to be selling and you really don’t know, but the less obvious ones may be those that add no value to your objectives. The polite protocol here is to “archive” them rather than decline as you never know when your plans might change. The amazing thing is being able to reach connections you might never otherwise have found, just because they’re connected to somebody you know so it’s always worth having a look at your 1st level connections’s connections.
4. Demonstrating your expertise – A brilliant way of doing this is by answering a question, using LinkedIn “Answers”. Because people get rated when they provide answers, there is a clear incentive to provide a good one. If you have a topic that is puzzling you and need help this is great and another excellent way to conduct some research. You can only post questions if you have more than 5 connections and only 10 questions per month, so like wishes they need to be used wisely! But you can answer as many as you like and over time gain expert status if your answers are consistently ranked as “good”. This will show up in your profile and really highlights your expertise.
5. Tracking what’s going on – Another useful feature when you’re a member is being notified of what your connections are up to which includes who they’ve connected with this week, most recent updates from them, activity from the groups you’re signed up to and more. You can see this anyway when you’re logged in but you can opt to have an update emailed to you once a week (go to your account settings, then “email notifications”).
This for me is one of the most useful features of LinkedIn as for some reason when I dip in and out of the LinkedIn website I’ve usually got a purpose in mind and don’t appreciate all of the updates and new news in one go. The email update once a week is perfect as I get a much better picture.
6. Free advertising – for some things. You can post an event for example which will show up on your profile and enable people to book a place, and if you’re part of a group that has a job board, you can post a job for free. You have to pay for advertising jobs to the wider LinkedIn network and of course for other targeted advertising on LinkedIn, but you may not need to.
7. Making it easy for people to stay in touch with you. Add the link to your LinkedIn public profile on your website “contact us” page, business card, “about us” and anywhere else your potential customers are likely to look for contact details or more information about you.