LinkedIn began many years ago as a job search site for executives and other white collar professionals. To look at it this way today would be incredibly short sighted. It can be an extremely effective B2B marketing tool and is a relevant social media platform in its own right. Much has been written on how to use LinkedIn forr business effectively, but the reality is, it can be used for a number of different things. The most important step then is to decide what facet of LinkedIn will provide the most value to you or your business. It can still be a great job search engine, but perhaps it's greatest strength in my view is the potential to be a lead generation tool that can give you an inside track to generating more business.
LinkedIn For Business
As with any social media platform, the foundation is your profile. Of course this is the most important piece and where some time should be spent crafting your online business card or presence. In essence, your LinkedIn profile is your resume with the ability to continually update career and experience history. Reviewing your profile will be all that some people that come across you will ever do, and vice versa. Very quickly they will decide if you or your company are a good target for their message, brand or opportunity. Similarly, you will do the same when looking for increased reach for your name, brands or products and services. First impressions are important so don't waste yours. Use a good image!
Photo and Headline
We're a visual society now more than ever, so make sure that your profile picture is recognizable as you. These days it's perfectly acceptable NOT to be wearing a suit, but a drunken selfie from the office holiday party would not be a good idea. Unique, but not too unique, professional but not stuffy. Accompany your profile picture with a relevant headline. It absolutely should include your title and your company at the very least.
Don't forget the social aspect of a social media platform, professional or not. What do we do when we get to know someone? Ask about their life outside of work. Answer some of those questions in your profile, head them off at the pass. It humanizes you and shows that you know how to balance a successful professional life with a happy and varied personal one. Include hobbies, pastimes, favorite travel destinations, family etc. Include community activities or philanthropic groups that you belong to or support as this will expand your potential LinkedIn connection opportunities even further than your professional groups will.
There was a day not many years ago that having 500 LinkedIn connections was a huge milestone. This is no longer the case, and I'm not so sure it ever should have been a real measure of LinkedIn success. Of course the most important thing is having connections that are meaningful, people that you actually know and can reach out to if need be, either to help them or to ask them for help. Over the past two years I am much more likely to remove a connection that I don't feel close to than I used to, and I certainly never blindly accept an invitation to connect if I don't know the person well or, and this is important, they are a referral from someone that I do know and respect. These types of connections or referrals are very important and should be the bread and butter of your LinkedIn for business activity, finding and making important introductions for your network, and, in time and with some effort, these will come back around to you.
If you have used LinkedIn for any length of time you are familiar with the email "Someone has recommended you for XXX." This means that someone has recommended you for a particular skill and it's a great and simple way to enhance your online reputation. The more recommendations you have, and across varied areas of expertise, the more proof there is that you are a respected professional with credibility in your field. There are a number of ways to get recommendations, but the two simplest are to give them, and to ask for them. LinkedIn has a built in "Request Recommendations" tool that is very straightforward and easy to use. It's no more difficult than requesting a LinkedIn connection from someone, very similar in fact. I'd follow the same advice here that I give people with that tool. CHANGE the default message! It takes only a moment or two to customize and personalize the default message but it will yield greater results. No one wants to receive a template right? Make it personal where you can, short and to the point.
If you read a few profile summaries one after the other you will begin to notice a disturbing trend, and one that you should fly in the face of. Hollow sounding, team player, synergistic, goal oriented, over achiever, I did it all on my own, flag waving horse hockey. Use this important real estate for one simple and straightforward message. Why are you doing what you do?! What got you to the point in your life that you're doing what you're doing? Why do you love what you're doing? Why should the reader care that you love what you're doing and you're doing what you love? Boom, lay it out there. Take out the fluff, leave out the Teflon, tell me why I should dig you, connect with you, do business with you.
It should go without saying that for our purposes, B2B social networking and marketing, your profile should be public. I do know some people that have a private LinkedIn presence but it's usually for some good reason not related to marketing. Your public LinkedIn profile will be visible on search engines and as time goes on, easier and easier to find as it gets indexed by the major companies. Take advantage of this knowledge by optimizing your summary for search engine optimization (SEO). Do not use abbreviations or pronouns and provide links to your website or content pages directly within your summary as appropriate. These can be quite powerful and frankly essential for LinkedIn for business.
Advertise your Profile
Update your email signature with your LinkedIn profile. I've made mine a clickable LinkedIn logo which takes people directly to my profile page. It's attached to each and every email I send out. This one simple step will increase traffic to your profile beginning immediately. It's a great starting point to help you connect with others. The Email Signature Tool provides a number of options to manage the styles and logos.
So now you have a much better than average LinkedIn for business Profile if you've followed some of the preceding advice and tips. It's a place to start, but the job is never quite done. Like the old adage goes, it's a journey, not a destination. As LinkedIn continues to develop as an important B2B social networking platform, they will continue to roll out new features and benefits, methods and tools, all with the ability to find a useful place in your marketing toolbox. Used properly and regularly, these tools can drive increased targeted traffic to your business, and...as I learned decades ago, but was reminded of yet again today, it's really not a business until somebody buys something.