These sites are viewed as the ‘fun’ cousins of the Social Media world, the site everyone seems to want to play with. But are they the only networking opportunities worth using for businesses?
LinkedIn is a very well known but hugely under-rated and under-used avenue of opportunity. Most people view LinkedIn as the ‘stuffed shirt’ of networking, and it’s true that if you go to LinkedIn, you won’t find a video of someone falling down or a cute picture of a cat hanging on a washing line. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Each networking site attracts a different set of potential clients. and LinkedIn is no different. In fact you could even find yourself networking and promoting yourself to more important people to your business than you ever thought possible.
Google any business or business person, and one of the first page entries in the search results will almost certainly be their LinkedIn profile (if they have one). These profile pages contain everything you want to know about the person or company, their products and services, and more.
So when creating your business profile on LinkedIn, it is vital to fill out and use every tool LinkedIn offers, including the customized ‘Products and Business’ section. This is a superb opportunity to create a stunningly professional yet informative section that can complement your website. In here, you can market your business and products with images, videos, detailed product descriptions, links to products on your website and more. What LinkedIn is really offering you is a virtual, digital brochure with tens of thousands of potential clients waiting to connect with you.
What alternative does a potential customer have if you don’t give them the information they are looking for yourself? Their only option is to go and look for the opinions of others in random blog entries and consumer forums, and you have no control over what is being said there, good or bad.
An essential element of any network is not simply to attract people to your profile, but to engage with and retain your audience for the long term. But while contact between users on sites such as Facebook and Twitter revolves around relaxed social interaction, LinkedIn is a business-orientated network. So if you can’t post pictures of cute animals in amusing situations, how can you keep interest in your brand going?
a) Daily Status Update
LinkedIn has many useful features, but none are so easy to use as the ‘Status Update’. These status updates appear in the feeds of those who are following your business page AND in the feeds of other LinkedIn members who are networked to your followers. So by posting an update on a daily basis, you are expanding both the exposure of your brand to more potential customers and giving more people the opportunity to network with your business.
b) Use A Poll
Polls are a simple yet versatile way of gathering useful information from your followers while still keeping them engaged. You can find out all sorts of relevant information about your potential customers; what they would like to discuss in the group; information about the group members themselves. Or you can use them just as a way of starting the conversation.
c) Useful Feedback
As LinkedIn members are business people themselves, use the opportunity to gather useful and significant feedback. Asking questions which relate directly to your brand can get you some incredibly valuable insights into both how your brand is seen and in learning more about what your potential customers need and want from your products and services.
d) Raise Your Profile – Sponsor An Event
Event sponsorship offers the opportunity to meet your online contacts in person. Within LinkedIn, members of a network can see every single upcoming event other members of the same network are involved in.
You may think your events look so interesting that everyone will want to come to them. But you can’t rely on people falling over your event on LinkedIn and being curious enough to come along, because it doesn’t happen that often. You have to make it happen – so make sure to send out individual invites to the members of your network in plenty of time and then follow it up with a reminder shortly before the event is due to happen.
Don’t just sponsor marketing events either. Getting involved with a charity fundraiser shows others that your business is a caring organisation, concerned about others and not just interested in profit and sales. After the event, publish and send an update with the results of the evening, pictures of people having a good time and a few testimonials if possible.
Don’t Go It Alone – Join A Group
When first joining any network, it’s only natural to start to connect with the people that you know. But in business, you constantly need to be looking for opportunities to increase the number of people you can showcase your business to. LinkedIn is perfect for that.
As you accept invites from other LinkedIn members, your networking potential and business profile grows. You don’t have to be shy in extending invitations to other members to connect with you either, especially if you think they will complement your own services.
Remember, it’s not just one connection you are making. Connecting with other LinkedIn members also joins you to their network of
contacts, growing both your own associated network of contacts and the amount of potential traffic to your LinkedIn business page.
Once you have the confidence, you can take it further and create your own groups around different aspects of your business or industry.
Not only will you be increasing the number of business contacts you have, but you will be actively taking and spreading the knowledge and awareness of your brand throughout the LinkedIn business network.
Companies themselves can’t join a LinkedIn group but individuals can. You could, as the business owner, join yourself, but how much more impressive would it be to your fellow LinkedIn members if some of your employees actively represented your brand within the LinkedIn group discussions and enthusiastically engages others on behalf of your brand?
The Power of Recommendations
To a potential customer, nothing gives more confidence than to hear someone do more than just praise a product, but to give it an outright recommendation. It says more than ‘I am happy with it’; it says to someone, ‘You need to use this too. It is so fantastic I had to tell you about it’.
The ‘Recommendation’ is a unique feature which separates LinkedIn from other Social networking sites. On LinkedIn, these recommendations, made by both clients and colleagues, allow others to give your business and professionalism a glowing report.
At the same time, you can forge new networking connections and opportunities, recommending the services and products of other members of the LinkedIn network AND using those recommendations to build up your own brand loyalty.
How? By using the Recommendation yourself to generate a good positive connection with other LinkedIn members.
When looking to recommend someone else’s product or service, don’t just choose someone who seems to be impressive and then add a standard vague ‘this product is good’ comment. Customers won’t be impressed, and it will simply look like one business doing another business a favour.
You want your recommendations to have merit and value to your customer. You want them to be able to trust what you are telling them, and for it to build confidence in you and your brand, so they will turn to your expertise when they need a service or product, so choose your recommendations wisely. Find services and products potential customers will find useful.
The other positive result of saying good, encouraging and generally positive things about the products and services of other LinkedIn businesses is they are far more likely to say something similar about yours.
You want your LinkedIn profile to increase your visibility on the internet and contribute to your rankings in the search engine results. By adjusting some of your profile wording, you can improve the Search Engine Optimisation of your LinkedIn site.
Inside the ‘Websites’ section, adding keywords to the title descriptions found in the ‘Other’ section will increase your page’s visibility on the internet searches.
Try to subtly add a few key search terms your customers may use when looking for your services, but don’t stuff your profile with them as search engines like Google and Bing can penalize your site if there is an overload of keywords.
Don’t overlook your URLs. When you join and create your LinkedIn profile and pages, LinkedIn automatically creates the URLs with random numbers not a name, but these links are customisable. Change it to something the search engines can pick up on – your name, job title or location. By being creative, you may even be able to get keywords in.
Studying statistical data may not be everybody’s favourite task, but it gives an impression of how effective your LinkedIn profile is, and within LinkedIn you can get detailed facts and figures on who is visiting your page, how often (or, more worryingly, not) they come, how many times someone clicks through the ‘Product and Services’ tab, which members are following your page, and a whole wealth of other stats broken down into very useful information.
The Admin of a business page can set up customized Product and Services pages.
This means when a visitor comes through to your page, the information shown to them will be tailored to them depending on things like: How local they are to your business; what business they are in; what position they hold in their company.
Network Your Network
Maximising your brand exposure is an fundamental key in getting new followers, so the easier you can make it to follow you the better. LinkedIn has 2 easy ways to do this:
‘Follow Company’ Button
By putting this button on your site, it lets followers connect quickly, and they can then track your LinkedIn activity easily and conveniently from within their own LinkedIn profile. Once your followers have grown to a decent number, add the number of your followers onto this button.
Market To A Captive Audience
With a rapidly growing membership, with hundreds of millions of business professionals worldwide, it would be a criminal oversight not to consider marketing your business to such a captive audience inside LinkedIn.
Available as Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression, the ads can be tailored to an exact audience based on a specific customer demographic like the size of the company, the business area, and occupation, to name just a few factors.
These ads can also be shown on specific pages. So you could target profile pages, company and group pages, member’s inbox or message pages, and more.
This type of targeted approach helps in getting the relevant information to the right sector of your audience – your potential clients.
There is also a choice of Ad Type:
Display Ad – An ad that can be placed on the page in a range of shapes and sizes, rather like a classified newspaper ad.
Text Link Ad – A static html link to a specific page or place
They encourage a particular course of action like the ‘Follow’, ‘Recommend’ or ‘Join Group’ ads.
Upgrade and Expand With Advanced Apps
Once you have a good work-ing knowledge of LinkedIn, it’s time to take your LinkedIn page to the next level with some of the many advanced applications that allow you to give your LinkedIn pages greater appeal and marketing power.
Rather than having a simple static photogallery of products or business statistics, you can really impress visitors with a professional and visually interesting slideshow presentation.
This app lets you share all your future travel plans and trips with your network, so they can see not only where you are now but where you are going to be and when.
This gives people a great opportunity to arrange to meet up for different business events and functions.
If you have something you’d like to share with your followers, why not make it downloadable? Box.net lets you share every-thing from photographs to portfolios, charts and presentations.
If you use WordPress, there are many specialist WordPress app or plug-ins that can do it for you simply and easily.
Collaborations can be notoriously tricky things.
Huddle Workspaces is designed to smooth out this rocky road. It lets you give different groups their own workspace, which means you can provide private remote access to documents that only they will see and have access to in their workspace.
Do you feel inspired to explore the world of LinkedIn?
Or have you previously registered but didn’t know about many of the features that we mentioned or have not had much success with it? If so, please contact us.
So many businesses have either not used LinkedIn to its full potential or they don’t understand.
As a result they are missing out on a lot of potential business and useful connections.