For professional service marketers, LinkedIn provides numerous ways to connect with key decision makers, showcase your firm’s expertise, build a personal brand, conduct market research and gather competitive intelligence. It helps to:
- Expand your network and keep track of your professional connections and their career moves.
- Research your competitors and business opportunities.
- Present a professional front to prospective customers and employees.
- Recruit top talent.
- Position yourself and your firm as an expert and thought leader, becoming the go-to resource for your contacts.
- Drive traffic back to your website or a blog and boost SEO rankings.
If you are a marketer, or a company executive, chances are you’re already on LinkedIn – the question is: Are you taking full advantage of this premier online networking platform? And is your firm leveraging LinkedIn’s multitude of strategic uses, including both marketing and lead intelligence?
Before you can dive into LinkedIn full-force, however, you need to make sure you are working from a strong foundation.
Set Yourself Up for Success
- Make sure that your Company Page and the Individual Profiles (beginning with the Management and Marketing teams) have photos and are complete and optimized for appropriate keywords.
- Keep networks active, constantly sharing valuable content, trends and updates – both generated by your firm and curated.
Build the Community
- Establish search parameters (title, industry, etc.) and use them to search for new connections.
- Subscribe to receive weekly reports for new connections within your key industry(s).
- Use second level connections to make introductions.
- Send invitations to existing contacts to follow your Company Page.
- Encourage all staff members connected to your firm on LinkedIn and to share content posted to Company Page.
- Research and join relevant LinkedIn Groups and begin participating in Group discussions.
- Set up regular discussions around original content (generated by your firm) within those Groups where your clients or industry influencers congregate.
- Share content and updates relevant to your target audiences.
- Make sure the Company Page is regularly updated, including new blog posts and PR mentions; new hires, promotions and achievements; new clients and projects; and more.
LinkedIn’s recently redesigned Company Page allows for a much more visually engaging and personalized experience. Beginning with the landing page’s large photo banner, to thumbnails next to each shared story, to the ability to create a 3-slide custom Services banner and a custom thumbnail for each service.
Make sure that your company profile is complete, optimized and includes all relevant information about your firm and your offerings. LinkedIn automatically associates all members listing your firm as their place of employment with your Company Page.
Use the Careers section to post your open positions – both potential employees and recruiters use LinkedIn more extensively than even before.
If you want multiple team members to post updates to your Company Page, you’ll need to grant admin privileges to those individuals.
Make sure you profile is complete with skills, education, volunteer organizations and board positions. If you want to truly engage with the LinkedIn community, provide as much info as you can. And make sure to update it as needed
Don’t be the faceless, flat gray person – add a profile photo and make sure it’s professional and recognizable. Your LinkedIn profile is a virtual equivalent of person-to-person networking and you want your name, and definitely your face to be remembered.
Get recommendations and use them as testimonials in online and offline marketing.
Skill endorsements are a way to endorse your 1st degree connections' skills and expertise with one click. Endorsements are all the rage and all cool kids are doing this! Should you? Proceed with caution.
According to LinkedIn, there have been 550 million Endorsements so far and growing at a rate of 10 million per day. And while some endorsements are legitimate, we all have probably gotten a skill endorsement from someone who has no experience with that particular skill. This makes the whole system suspect and more like a Facebook “like” rather than a LinkedIn “recommendation.”
A few guidelines:
- Don’t embark on endorsing all of your connections for all of their skills simply because you hope they’ll endorse you back.
- Don’t automatically accept every endorsement, especially if you are endorsed for skills you don’t have listed on your profile because and/or those you don’t want to highlight. You can also hide an endorsement (you can’t delete it).
- Use the endorsements you receive as a market research on how your personal brand is perceived by the marketplace. Are you being endorsed for the skills that you want to be known for? Which skills get the most endorsements? Is there a gap between your existing and desired brand perception?
With an ever-growing list of LinkedIn tools to grow your business, Groups remain one of the most effective.
Think strategically: Which groups should you join? While it’s a good idea to join some groups of like-minded professionals with discussion topics relevant to your day-to-day job so that you can stay on top of trends and best practices (and keep tabs on your competition), you should first think about joining groups where your clients are. Is your core expertise in Urban Development? Join groups for real estate developers and planning directors and learn what your prospects are talking about and what’s important to them.
Once you join a group, begin by “lurking” to see the group dynamics and then gradually become more active. Be careful not to promote your firm but seek to make truly valuable contributions to the group through your knowledge and expertise.
We’ve all agonized over whether or not we want our clients see our other clients and our connections see who our clients are. At some point you need to decide why you are on LinkedIn – if you want to expand your network, then you may need to be less guarded about initiating and accepting connections.
If someone wants to connect and you are not sure why but don’t want to offend them, send a message back: “Thank you for reaching out. Could you briefly tell me how you believe we both would benefit from connecting.” If it’s one of those people who shoves his/her business card into everyone’s hands at a live networking event, you’ll never hear back. If someone is connecting strategically, you never know what you may gain. And don’t take it personally when people don’t accept your invitations – many professionals are still new to online networking and simply not comfortable responding
To strategically and successfully grow your network through connecting:
- Customize your invite message – tell the recipient what your connection is, what you have in common and why you are requesting to connect. Unless you met at a networking event yesterday and agreed to connect, or know each other very well, the generic LinkedIn message may not be compelling enough for people to accept your connection request..
- Once connection email has been accepted, follow up with a request to connect by phone to learn more about each other.
- No blatant self-promotion – there’s no faster way to undermine your credibility, and negatively impact your reputation on LinkedIn, than a hard sell.
- Don’t be all business all the time. Without being unprofessional, show some personality and every now don’t be afraid to throw in fun info that is just plain entertaining.
What/How to share
- Start a discussion around a hot trend, industry challenge, or a piece of content you or your firm published.
- Comment on an open discussion.
- Share and comment on other people’s content.
- Post status updates.
- Share an article, a blog post, an accomplishment, and industry event.
Unlike more time-dependent social networks like Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn posts have a longer shelf life. Often, people treat LinkedIn digests that come to their inbox as their morning paper, so you may chose posting some discussions on Saturday afternoon and people will still see them/read them days later.