There has been much written about LinkedIn over the years and how it can work for you in business. Given that I have spent the last 10 years training companies and individuals on it, you are likely to expect that I’m going to be positive about what it offers. You’d be right, I’m a fan.
Having said that, I also recognise there is no single way to benefit from it – from job seeking to recruiting, networking to online training, business development to inbound marketing, the potential uses are many and very varied.
There are, however, some key underlying elements that we can all tap into – key steps to success if you like – and what we are going to look at below are some that will prove beneficial to using LinkedIn effectively, whatever your motives are for being on the site.
1. Decide what your current objectives are
LinkedIn is such a potentially wide-ranging tool, that you can use for a whole host of different reasons. Indeed, during your career as you enter different phases, your use will be radically different according to your current needs, situation and role.
Therefore, our first challenge is to be clear in our own mind what we want to achieve from our time spent on LinkedIn. Understanding your personal business objectives on LinkedIn will influence everything else that you do – who you want to talk to, how you present yourself, who you connect to and what you share with others. Having a clear focus will allow to present a strong and clear message too.
Conversely, the adage that, ‘if you don’t know where you are going then any path will do,’ is certainly true – on LinkedIn, to make it work effectively for you, you definitely need to know where you are going!
2. Create a focused Personal Profile
Your Personal Profile on LinkedIn is you and lies at the heart of all your activity. It creates the first impression people take away of you and needs to deliver a very clear message to the audience you outlined, in step 1.
If you are looking for a job, then it is likely to be a CV type of format talking to the people who might want to invite you in for interview – as a salesperson, business owner or consultant, you need to be talking to the potential buyers of your products or services and so your profile takes on more of the role of a sales and marketing brochure, highlighting opportunities and benefits for them.
In both cases, use the tools available to you – make sure LinkedIn’s Introduction Card (the top part of your profile) delivers a punch with a strong banner image and good professional photo, backed up with a Headline that is your statement of intent, rather than just your job title and company name. All these elements need to make you stand out and make people want to read more.
3. Get savvy about search
The search on LinkedIn is way more powerful than most people give it credit for. When you walk into a big networking event, imagine being able to pinpoint the people that you want to talk to, according to what they do, where they’re based, who they work for and whether you can be introduced by someone you both know. That’s what LinkedIn can offer you!
Understanding how to get to the Advanced Search (as it used to be called) allows you to be much more specific about the people you want to target. Don’t rely on simply typing your search in the top left-hand corner, that’s just a keyword search and not going to give you sufficient control or detail
Instead, get to the People search and then click on All filters – that will give you access to full set of elements you can search with and use to identify exactly the people you want to talk to. You’ll love the results!
4. Talk to people
LinkedIn revolves around people – you and I – talking to each other, engaging and discussing topics of mutual interest and ultimately, doing business.
We start the process by putting a personal message in our request to connect, by leaving a suitable comment on other people’s articles or updates, or perhaps by sending a message directly to people on LinkedIn. In each of these cases, the personal contact is hugely important and starts to define the business relationship that follows.
Using these aspects of LinkedIn is important – it is not just a big database. You wouldn’t want to be thought of as simply a piece of data or a cell in a spreadsheet, would you? Then don’t treat your connections and potential clients on LinkedIn like that!
Instead, talk to them – it is through conversation that we show our expertise, we get to know someone and ultimately gain their trust, ready to do business.
5. Keep visible by posting
There is a lot of information on LinkedIn and more and more is added daily. We need to be part of that, but the challenge we face is to make sure that we get seen and remain front of mind for our contacts and prospects.
Posting on LinkedIn is probably going to be our main distribution method – these posts are the news and information that appear in the newsfeed on our homepages. To work this effectively, we need to keep a consistent approach to what we are sharing, but we also need to mix up the type of content and the format we publish, just as we would in other marketing media.
Video, text and links to external content are all relevant and it’s really a case of ensuring that we deliver what will appeal to our target audience (back to the planning again!) as well as deliver, in terms of LinkedIn’s marketing algorithm too. Have a plan but mix it up – different content will appeal to different people, so let’s make sure that we cover all those key areas for you.
So, to sum up – are these 5 steps are going to guarantee your success on LinkedIn? No, sorry – it doesn’t work that way. These are, however, key tools that will put you on the right track, but it is YOU that ultimately makes the difference.
Use it in the right way, present yourself and communicate effectively and LinkedIn can quickly become a tool that allows you to identify and tap into your network, and the group of advocates you already have around you … but in a way that makes it so much more effective!