Using LinkedIn to build your business network
Getting and Keeping Customers
There’s strong debate among entrepreneurs about LinkedIn – called the worlds’ largest social networking site for professionals.
Advocates of LinkedIn believe in its powerful ability to connect people and create opportunities. Skeptics scoff at the value of a ‘digital relationship’ on LinkedIn or any other social media platform, considering such participation to be a waste of time.
There’s certainly no arguing about the popularity of the free site. LinkedIn’s official website offers the following statistics:
• LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 135 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
• LinkedIn counts executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies as members; its corporate hiring solutions are used by 75 of the Fortune 100 companies.
• More than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages.
I’ll admit here that I was skeptical about the power of LinkedIn – until I tried it. If you’re game to sign on, consider these suggestions.
1. Complete your profile. Like an online resume, be sure to populate your profile with a lot of information about what you do well. Share your strengths, work experience and education. Carefully word your ‘Current’ and ‘Past’ titles; like newspaper headlines, your title must grab reader attention to pull them into your profile.
o Be descriptive, but not shy – you can change your profile information anytime.
2. Invite connections. Like ‘friends’ on Facebook, the ‘connections’ on LinkedIn are the people in your network. You can accept or decline an invitation to ‘connect’ with anyone who sends one. Once a person is a connection, you can access their full profile and view their professional connections (unless they have chosen to disable this feature).
It’s easy to build your network with a few minutes each day spent browsing the connections of your connections, and inviting a few of them to become your connection.
3. Research prospects. Given the above example you can see how valuable LinkedIn can be to research prospective customers. Found someone who should be your customer? Ask someone in your network to connect you. Want to monitor what a prospect is doing? Follow their company or join their discussion group.
4. Get recommendations. Testimonials from colleagues or customers will add to your credibility because anyone reading your profile will know you’re someone worth doing business with. Similarly, write a few kind words recommending people you like.
5. Say something. Draw attention to your profile by saying something worthwhile every day. Share a news link, give some advice or comment on a post. Like Twitter and Facebook, your posts elevate your visibility because you’ll appear in updates. However, unlike your personal Facebook page, remember that LinkedIn users prefer more business-oriented communications.
While face-to-face networking should remain a part of your marketing strategy, it isn’t always possible to meet a person as often as you’d like. Geography, scheduling, and travel costs limit our access to face time. LinkedIn changes all of that. It allows busy professionals and business owners to start, rekindle or maintain relationships easily.
As with any social networking site, it’s wise to limit your exposure to possible identity theft by omitting any sensitive personal information from your online communications.
Like every worthwhile endeavour, you’ll get out of LinkedIn what you put in. Invest a few minutes daily to reap the rewards of connection, information and community.
Are you using LinkedIn to network? Or, do you believe social networking is a waste of time? We want to hear your thoughts below.
By Roger Pierce