Social Basics: LinkedIn

What’s the point of LinkedIn? Most people assume LinkedIn is for finding a new job. This was the original case when the site launched. Now, LinkedIn is for digital professional networking with like-minded individuals and keeping up to date with various industry and business trends. LinkedIn, rightfully boasts about being the world’s largest professional network. Since it’s launch in 2003 LinkedIn has grown into a sales and marketing platform. It’s still a spot for your digital resume and job board, but it continues to grow beyond that. It’s time to jump into it.

Use the platform!

Even you, small business owner. Being small doesn’t mean you don’t need a profile page on LinkedIn. It’s a free spot to list your company’s information. This adds legitimacy to your business and gives your future customers one more spot to find you.

Next, after your business listing, it’s time to complete your personal profile. Show your future clients that you are, in fact, a real person! Don’t just do the basics (stock header, headshot, bland/generic summary), get into this step! This is another spot for your personality to shine, own it, keep it professional, but make it unique to you. You’ll also want to add any presentations, published work, awards, and infographics that you’ve created to show off your work. Just because you’re not actively seeking a job doesn’t mean your clients still aren’t ‘hiring’ you for a position. This is the spot to shine for them.

Make connections.

LinkedIn is the classy networking event where you talk with professionals, have real conversations, and explore what the future might hold. Take your time, navigate the social waters with a purpose. Be mindful that not everyone wants a sales pitch. Message prospective clients and find out what they’re working on or for small businesses just how things are going and if they need help with anything. Show some interest and don’t be a robot. Next thing you know you’ll find yourself connecting with new professionals. Those connections could easily turn into future sales leads. LinkedIn even brags about how ‘social selling’ is helping to grow businesses. (check out the pdf here). The easiest way to do this is what our next heading is about: joining groups.

Join groups.

Now that you’ve set up your profile what do you do? Join some industry groups and share your expertise. Small business groups, specific industries, or a specific skill set you have. Join a group that relates to something you have an active interest in and have knowledge about (find them via search). Then start sharing and engaging with the people there. Once you’ve started to interact it would be wise to piggyback on this ‘credit’ with some relevant content that further demonstrates your expertise.

Sharing and Publishing Content.

LinkedIn is quickly becoming a content-rich platform. With that, it’s positioned to thrive with unique stories and insights from other professionals. Are you a finance guy or gal that has something say about Basel bank capital standards? Or maybe you’re a marketing person and have thoughts on how traditional marketing is struggling next to an average social media campaign? This is the spot for them, among your peers and in a professional setting.

Present yourself as an expert in your industry. This is done by both curating (sharing) and creating content. Dive into your niche and don’t be worried about hitting a broad audience. The Basel capital standards (wiki if you’re REALLY bored and want to know more) example above is very specific to financial folks, but very few people that aren’t in your network are going to care about this, but lucky for you, you’re already connected with financial and banking people, and now you’ve piqued their interest. Which brings us smoothly (and honestly a little unplanned) into the next topic, engagement.

Engage.

LinkedIn makes this pretty simple for the beginner. LinkedIn is doing a great job of drawing attention to (sometimes with a notification) connections that have new jobs, when they hit an anniversary at work or when it’s their birthday. Take advantage of this and get bonus points by not using the canned responses like 99% of the other people commenting on their new job title.

From there you can start participating in discussions, answering questions from your network, and interacting with other content that finds its way into your newsfeed. The platform is all about engagement. The more you interact with the platform the more you’ll show up. LinkedIn is very reminiscent of early Facebook and Twitter, so take advantage of it, get the organic reach before its gone!

Cultivate Endorsements.

Someone endorsed you for “business strategy.” What is the point?

Endorsements and recommendations are testimonials, little bits of information that show off what you can do. Endorsements are the skills you’re using in your everyday life or skills you’ve honed (or are honing) over time. Recommendations, on the other hand, are the quick testimonials from your connections about your performance, skill, and ability to deliver what you say you will.

Both of these are easy to get from your current network, it starts by making the first move. Head over to your most respected coworker, teammate, or boss and give some feedback. Something specific, that took more than 5 minutes to write. You need to be thoughtful and practical. Recommendations on LinkedIn will be a window for future clients, coworkers, and colleagues, to view somebody through, avoiding generic platitudes and compliments is best. Be as specific as possible and provide context for people to evaluate them through.

Endorsements are even easier to get, they’re single clicks and LinkedIn even will ‘ask’ what certain network members are ‘good’ at, fill these out, click the little plus sign a few times and eventually people will start returning the favor.

Go.

LinkedIn is, and likely will always be, a giant database of professionals. Take advantage of this and start capitalizing on it. Find people to actively connect with and connect with them. If there’s enough traction we might revisit LinkedIn more in-depth to discuss some of the more exciting things like the messaging system, advertising, and gaining followers. But for now, go and start using the platform! Now go, grab that cheap organic content now before it’s gone!