10 ways to use LinkedIn for your business
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with over 467 million users in more than 200 countries, and 2 new members joining the network every second.
If you operate in the B2B space, it should be the top priority on your social media list: it can help strengthen the relationships you have built in your career, reach out to new and interesting contacts and research the business you are keen to work with.
Of course, there are several paid-for or premium versions, but don’t dismiss the free version - you can derive tremendous value from it if you know what to do with it.
What follows are 10 simple, tried and tested ways to use LinkedIn for business purposes, all without spending a single penny.
Your LinkedIn profile will be the first impression that people have of you
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01. Make your profile page work for youYour LinkedIn profile will be the first impression that people have of you, so make it a good one.
Ensure that you have a good profile picture: adding a photo to your profile makes you 21 times more likely to get profile views. Ideally, get your headshot professionally taken, or at least check that your face is well-lit and that you come across as professional and friendly.
The second most obvious thing in your profile is your headline. By default, LinkedIn will show your latest job title as your headline, but consider whether you need to change it - some job titles are very descriptive, but others are meaningless. Your headline also needs to be optimised for search, so consider what people search for when they’re looking for someone like you, and, whenever possible, use their exact words.
Next up there’s the summary. Write it in the first person: after all, LinkedIn is a social network. Explain how you add value and the contribution you bring to the table. Highlight your credibility by mentioning the clients you’ve worked with, your specialisms, the professional bodies you belong to or your accreditations. And make sure your summary starts with a bang: the new version of LinkedIn only shows the first two lines of your summary on your main page, so use them wisely.
The experience, education and accomplishment sections should be complete, but remember that your LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for your CV. Focus on what’s relevant, prioritise your achievements and do not forget to use the right keywords for your audience. Finally, think of your profile page on LinkedIn as your always-on landing page for work-related opportunities. What do you want people to do when they land on their page? Give them a clear call-to-action.
02. Rally your advocates and supercharge your reputationLinkedIn is not the place to be modest or shy about your achievements, and adding them to your profile is just the start: you should always get others to shout out for you. Third-party references are immensely more powerful than you banging on about how great you are.
There are two built-in LinkedIn features that can help you get recommended on the platform. The first is the skills feature: you pick the things that you’re good at (and best describe what you do) and LinkedIn will prompt your connections to endorse you for each of them at the click of a button. It really couldn’t be easier!
The second option is the recommendations feature, where you ask your connections to validate your professional persona. The key is to make life easy for the person you’re asking. Always send them a personalised note (avoid the default “recommend me” message like the plague!), and whenever possible, remind them of the work you have done for them in the past and how you have added value. If you do your homework, you’ll be much more likely to get recommended.
03. Use messaging rules to your advantageOn LinkedIn, you can email and messenger your 1st-degree connections, but you can’t contact 2nd-degree connections unless you have a Premium account. The way to get around it is to send 2nd-degree connections a personalised invite to connect. Explain why you want to add them to your network and mention the contacts or experience you share. If they accept your invitation, they will become part of your 1st-degree connections, and you will be able to message them directly.
With 3rd-degree connections, the situation is slightly different. You used to be able to see how you were connected, but that's no longer the case for the free version of LinkedIn. However, if you can see their full name, you can invite them to connect just as you would a 2nd-degree connection. 3rd-degree connections whose name is not visible to you are off bounds: if you want to send them an invite to connect, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the Premium versions.
Finally, a neat little trick on LinkedIn is that you can message individuals who are on the same LinkedIn Groups as you. So, if your objective is to reach a particular person you’re otherwise not connected to, you could consider joining a group they’re already a member of. Some of the most popular LinkedIn groups have membership numbers running in the hundreds of thousands, so you might be surprised at how many people you can directly communicate with if you choose wisely.
04. Make friends - but be wary of strangersIt’s easy enough to send or accept invitations from people you already know and ignore spammy requests, but what if you get an invite from someone you’ve never heard of? What should you do if the invite to connect comes from someone who looks like the kind of person you’d like to have on your network? Easy. Accept the invite, but always follow up with a note asking them if there’s a particular reason why they’ve reached out to you. Keep an eye on any responses, and if they don’t get back to you within a reasonable time frame, be ruthless and remove them from your network.
There are two main reasons why you want to be protective of your network:
• First of all, by becoming a 1st-degree connection, new connections get access to all your other contacts. Do you really want to let strangers snoop around your network?
• Secondly, your genuine 1st-degree connections will assume that you know this person, and perhaps even that you consider them trustworthy enough to have them on your network. Are you prepared to grant a stranger the privilege?
The bottom line: avoid associating yourself to complete strangers, just like you would in the real world.
05. Get to grips with your privacy settingsUnderstanding how LinkedIn’s privacy settings work can be tremendously useful for a number of reasons:
They give you control on whether people in your network hear about you via LinkedIn or not. For example, suppose you have just won an award. If you update your profile and your privacy settings allow LinkedIn to make the information public, your achievement may appear in the update emails sent to your network.
What’s not so cool is to appear in someone’s feed if all you’re doing is updating your profile, so in this case, you’re better off turning off your activity feed alerts.
The privacy settings page is also your gateway to LinkedIn’s private mode.
On LinkedIn you leave a trail on the pages you visit, but by using the private mode option, you can check other people’s profiles while keeping your identity secret - very handy when carrying out research and finding out more about people in your industry without appearing like a stalker.
However, remember to change your settings once you’ve finished, or you will not be able to see who’s viewed your profile. Also, bear in mind that activating the option will erase your “who’s viewed your profile” history.
06. Claim your personalised LinkedIn URLIf you haven’t done so (and it’s still available) get your customised LinkedIn USL pronto: go to “Edit your public profile” either from your main profile page or the settings and privacy tab and click on “Edit your public profile”, and then “Edit your profile URL”.
This is what the process should look like:
Having a customised URL means that, instead of the default long string of name and numbers, to see your public profile on the platform users simply have to type in www.linkedin.com/in/yourname.
Personalised LinkedIn URLs can be very useful: you can use them in your email signature, forward them to prospects as part of your proposal, even include them on your business cards. They will also help you rank high in search engines when someone types your name.
07. Engage with your network (but don’t be a robot)The new LinkedIn interface makes it easier than ever to keep in touch. You can post updates, upload photographs and share links, and chose to make them visible to everyone on the wider network, or keep them for your connections only. If your content is always compelling, relevant and valuable, you’re on to a good start.
Just like with other social networking sites, the LinkedIn activity feed will show you what your connections have been up to, and give you the option to like, comment or share other people's updates. It’s good to get into the habit of checking your activity feed at least a couple of times a week and interact with those who feature in it. Your contacts will appreciate and remember your support.
LinkedIn also likes to inform you of birthdays and work anniversaries, and send quick congratulatory messages to your contacts, but beware. The fact they’re so easy to send means that they can come across as spammy. If someone in your network gets a new job, don’t just click on the “Say congrats” option; take the time to drop them a quick note. They’ll appreciate it that you’re behaving like a person, not a robot.
08. Share your thoughts with the world - and boost your visibilityIf you have a talent for writing, LinkedIn Publishing is a fabulous platform to put your articles in front of an already existing audience. It’s essentially like a huge blog, with the unique advantage of having a built-in audience of millions of LinkedIn members.
Publishing original and thought-provoking content illustrated by beautiful photographs is another great way to stand out for the right reasons, and you never know who may read what you write. Just click on "Write an article" at the top of the main activity feed and a LinkedIn Publishing window will open.
Here are the 2 exceptionally simple steps:
09. Prospect on LinkedIn, the right wayIf you want to take a more systematic approach to finding potential clients or employers on LinkedIn, carry out a search, targeting individuals that match your ideal audience. Use the search filters we discussed earlier to drill down into your search results.
Next, create a spreadsheet with the names of the people you would like to add to your network, starting with second-degree connections. Take note of how you are connected. Then, send them an invitation to join your network. Mention what you have in common and explain why you would like to connect. Keep your notes short and relevant, and never use the default message. Track your new connections using the spreadsheet, and follow-up with them if necessary (but don't be a pest).
Be aware that if you send too many invitations, and they are mostly rejected or ignored, you will not be able to add any more contacts to your network. You'll need to cancel your outstanding requests to connect to be able to send new ones. Go to "My Network", then click on "Manage all" in the "Received invitations" tab".
10. Own your LinkedIn dataLinkedIn is a brilliant tool, but remember that it is not a charity. The access to the content you freely upload to the network is entirely dependent on the whims of LinkedIn Corporation. The organisation could decide to change its features from one day to the next, as happened recently with the tag feature (much to the dismay of thousands of professionals worldwide), or start charging you to access your connections, and you would be unable to do anything about it.
As a result, it's a sensible precaution to regularly backup the data you have stored on LinkedIn, from your contacts to your recommendations. Owning your data not only puts you in a much better position in the event of drastic platform changes; having a spreadsheet of your contacts can also be very useful on certain occasions, for example, if you send cards at Christmas time.
To request an archive of your data, go to “Account Settings & Privacy" option in the “Me” icon, then click on the “Account” tab and scroll down to “Getting an archive of your data”. You will receive it in your inbox shortly afterwards (the fast file is probably enough).
Let’s sum this upYou now have 10 actionable ways to make the most of LinkedIn right here – what are you waiting for?
LinkedIn is critical for B2B businesses of all sizes, so getting to grips and implementing the above is the least you should be considering.
Have a go and let us know what you think. And if you have any questions on the above, then ask away; your experience, stories and feedback and a great way to help inform the wider digital marketing community.
Think you are up to the task?The Digital Co offer The Complete Guide to Social Media Training suitable for beginners and those starting out in Social Media. Is this course for you? Check it out.
You can find more on Alba here and follow her at AlbaSort.com.
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