We are all well aware of the effectiveness of LinkedIn when it comes to networking and marketing for businesses. But I'd like to re-iterate some key points, especially for the growing community of entrepreneurs looking to leverage this tool to grow their network and utilize it as a data mining search engine.
Because of my LinkedIn presence and the book I wrote (LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day), I have a good understanding of this social medium - it makes sense to me. Having started early in the social media game and nabbing the moniker “LinkedInExpert,” I would like to give you a few tips on how entrepreneurs can look to maximize their online business presence since LinkedIn can virtually become a lead generation machine.
1. Keyword Positioning
First off – be sure you have the right keywords or search terms in your profile. This will make you more findable in a keyword search on LinkedIn. A warning: don’t “keyword stuff” your profile so it is unreadable, but “bake in” your keywords where they are relevant and where it makes sense. Add them to your Professional Headline, Title Field, Projects, Summary section and Interests.
2. Creating the Trust Factor!
My good friend Bob Burg says in his latest book, Adversaries into Allies, “All things being equal, people do business with, refer business to and allow themselves to be influenced by those they know like and trust.” So on LinkedIn, the first thing you want to do is up your Trust Factor! Position yourself as someone helpful, someone to be trusted; share valuable information; be of service.
Being findable and sharing valuable content will attract leads to you. Except for the occasional LinkedIn ad, push selling just doesn't work on LinkedIn.
So that’s the bad news – as an entrepreneur it is unlikely you will sell a product or service on or through LinkedIn. The likelihood of someone seeing an update you have posted on how you sell the best gadget or responding to a message asking him or her to buy your service is unlikely. LinkedIn is about creating relationships with people. Once you have established a connection and are moving from the “know” each other to the “like and trust” each other level of relationship – only then do you have a good change of sharing your product and service with someone likely to purchase it. But these relationships take effort and nurturing. Establishing that sense of “like and trust” might seem like a lot of work, but the payoff can be monumental. Getting people to buy from you on LinkedIn means a time investment, but to me is well worth it.
3. Thought Leader Positioning
One way to get from know to like and trust is to position yourself as a thought leader in your particular industry. You can do this both by creating and curating valuable content to your target markets. Consider the 80/20 rule. In fact, I would make it the 90/10 rule. Share 90% useful content, and 10% promotional content. Doing the opposite means a big #FAIL. A great way to share valuable content is to customize LinkedIn Pulse to your interests and the interests of your audience. Then simply find a good article or two a day and send them to your network in an update, to your groups, to twitter and to a few individual prospects that you want to stay top of mind with.
4. Stay Organized to Attract More Business
The good news is that LinkedIn is a great equalizer. A solopreneur can have almost as much impact as a Fortune 500 company. If you are willing to do the research, take the time, and invest in the few tools necessary for creating a professional presence, and you create strategic campaigns to reach out and relate to people, LinkedIn can be one of the best marketing and sales tools around. But you must be organized!
Schedule your time and you’ll be less likely to fall down the rabbit hole of funny cat videos. If you create a LinkedIn daily action checklist, you'll get in – do what you need to – and get out more effectively and in a much shorter time. If you can afford one, get a Virtual Assistant to sift through the noise for you.
Give yourself goals and time frames:
- I'll have these many connections and have made these many sales by this date.
- I'll have met this person and had a conversation with that person by this date.
If you don't set yourself up with achievable goals in achievable time frames you are more likely to wallow in your business. And every time you achieve one of your goals, you'll be spurred to move on to the next. You have a real feeling of determined accomplishment.
5. Ask and You Shall Receive!
Finally, to become a master of networking don't be afraid to ask! At a recent event I met a young woman who had made a concerted effort through LinkedIn to connect with me prior to the event itself. Because of her efforts, I was happy to give her some of my time and even invited her to sit in on a couple conversations with other influencers. Of all the people who wanted to meet me, only one person had the audacity to ask! I love that kind of audacity.
Don't be afraid to ask people to meet with you, chat on the phone with you, or even have coffee with you. If they can't they'll say no. And make it super easy for them. Don't expect them to call you, you call them first. Buy their coffee. Go to them. My personal success is a direct result of connecting to the amazing people who have supported me my entire career. People like Neal Schaffer, Jason Alba, Mari Smith, Bob Burg, Steve Cassidy - all folks I met through social media and because I had the audacity to reach out to them.
Of course I also like to share what I've learned with other people too. Giving a hand UP (not out) is what makes this world work.
Don’t Ignore LinkedIn
As an entrepreneur, you ignore LinkedIn at your own peril. You will never know if you are losing business opportunities and/or connections if you do not have a strong LinkedIn profile and activity plan. If you are still on the fence, search for a few of your competitors. If you find them easily on LinkedIn, then your customers and prospects are on it too.
Viveka von Rosen is author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and is known internationally as the “LinkedIn Expert”. CEO of Linked Into Business and co-founder of LinkedProspecting, she also hosts the biggest LinkedIn chat on Twitter and co-moderates LinkedStrategies, the largest LinkedIn strategy group on LinkedIn. She was also listed as Forbes 20 Most Influential Women in Social Media (2011, 2012, 2013), and she has been cited in Money Magazine, Simple Living, Ragan, CNN, Forbes, Mashable, The Miami Herald, Social Media Today and The Social Media Examiner.