Looking for a magic formula to be more successful on LinkedIn? The fact is you need to develop your own strategy. The key is understanding marketing, creating a system for developing trusting relationships, putting time in and recognizing the potential for the tools and opportunities LinkedIn offers.
Your success strategy must be part of an overall personal marketing plan and system. LinkedIn can and must be an integral component in a personal marketing effort. Having a strong profile is essential for networking, especially for trade show marketers and professionals who are meeting a multitude of people across different industries. LinkedIn is a tool to use for building a system for increasing your network and for creating personal brand awareness. Using social media including LinkedIn cannot be set on “auto pilot.” Just creating a profile and posting occasionally will only bring modest success.
These are eight steps on the road to becoming a power LinkedIn user:
Plan - Create a personal marketing plan and include LinkedIn as a vehicle for building your reputation, connecting with the right people, enhancing relationships and making it easy for those you want to do business with find you. A marketing plan that includes LinkedIn requires that the user spends time on the site, becomes familiar with each section and creates a strategy for using each part of LinkedIn. This step is broad but before you ride a bike or drive a car you have to know how it works and how it will get you from Point A to Point B. Your plan, like any marketing plan should have goals and objectives. Certainly business secured and funds generated are great goals, but there are many objectives you will have to achieve first. Set realistic and achievable goals, track when objectives are reached and what the results of activities were. Create questions and milestones that will help you judge success.
Don’t be a bystander – According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the average LinkedIn account/user checks in and uses the site for about 17 minutes per month. To be a power user you have to commit more time. You must be active, seen and remembered. This requires daily activity, attention and focus. At first it may take more effort, but over time you will find the activities, groups and interactions that will yield the greatest results. In marketing, strategies need to change. If an approach or tactic does not work, after time change it. For example, when using status updates the key is to generate a response and create a buzz. If your activities are not attracting attention look at the content of your posts, and compare them to the responses others are getting. Don’t be afraid to change or implement several different approaches at the same time.
Spend time but don’t waste time - The goal of marketing is to develop a system that allows for growth and the development of relationships and business. Focus on those activities that work, to prevent the wasting of energy. Create a schedule and time budget. A schedule is what you will do each week and the time budget is how much time you will spend. Do not exceed the amount of time you have allocated and don’t do less. Monitor and track this time and refer back to records to see if you are keeping with your goals. Time is money and must be spent in an efficient way.
Your profile, title and image- Much has been written on this and I will start briefly with your photo, it must be professional and clear. No image means fewer connections and only 1 in 7 will even look at your profile. Also stay away from logos, caricatures, and other images. These are frowned upon by users on LinkedIn and they don’t present you in a professional manner. What your profile and title says about you is key, and will make the difference between people getting to know you or moving on to someone else. Let’s start with your title. Here is an example of a big mistake, having President, CEO or account manager listed as your title. No one searches for president, CEO or account manager. If they do they will find thousands of people from all different sectors in no particular order. Be more specific with your title based on your industry and what you do. My title is Public Relations, Personal Branding and Social Media Consultant. I do list president of my firm but at the end not the beginning.
Your profile text must be optimized the same way. Include what you do, where you do it (geographic market) right at the beginning. Make sure those different terms that describe what you do and your industry appear often. To be the most effective and to connect with prospects your profile should be written in the first person, (I am the leading PR professional on Long Island…), should include some history, experience, accomplishments, success and some personal information about what you like to do when away from work. How much you share is up to you. However, we have found that in many cases this personal information is as important if not more important than business background and information. Why? This type of information allows you to offer and find common interests with others. This information helps people understand who you are, what you’re interested in and offers a great way to start conversations that have nothing to do with business. These easy conversations allow for relationships to start, grow and put you in a position to eventually do business with the other individuals. Text that only talks about company services, products or benefits thereof is an instant turn off and limits the effectiveness of your post. Your profile is where your personal brand will shine, take advantage of this opportunity.
Who to connect with? – You should consider connecting with almost everyone. However, keep a sharp eye out for people who are not serious LinkedIn users or those who are likely to place you on a sales solicitation or an e-mail marketing list. There are easy ways to determine if someone is a good connection or not. Some of the immediate red flags are: no photo or one of poor quality; no status update activity; few endorsements; few contacts; no personal “who I am” details in the profile, and ambiguity about what it is the person actually does. When reviewing a new potential contact, consider whether the person could be an ally or a competitor. For example, some attorneys want to connect with other attorneys, but marketing professionals may not want to connect with their competitors located down the block.
When you are approached to connect with people you don’t know or with whom you are casually acquainted, you must ask them to provide you with more information. Questions should be posed to them. Ask questions such as: Who do you want to meet? Whom do you network with? Whom are your ideal clients? This process also gives you the opportunity to tell them who you are and who you want to meet. We have found that those who are not serious LinkedIn users never respond to these requests. This nonresponse is a good indication that they will not communicate in the future. If they will not engage, they are likely not interested in developing a relationship. If the individual responds to the questions posed, move forward and connect or ask additional questions. Whom you are connected with is important. You will develop relationships with these individuals and connect them to others on LinkedIn. Starting relationships the right way creates the right foundation of trust.
Bring real world networking into the LinkedIn cyber world – The process of networking, meeting people and developing business relationships, existed long before LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn offers a platform that can be used strategically to enhance and facilitate real world networking. LinkedIn can make networking and networking follow-up more effective. Most importantly, when used strategically, LinkedIn can speed up the relationship development process. Basically, LinkedIn will assist in building trust, which is essential in the business relationship growth process. Without trust there is no relationship. How do you use LinkedIn to build trust? Start by bringing your real world contacts into the online LinkedIn world. Often the first step in the networking process is meeting and talking with new people at events or meetings in the real world. You will collect business cards and begin communicating.
One easy way to bring the people you meet in the real world into your LinkedIn world is to use the mobile app produced by LinkedIn called CardMunch. Use this app to scan the business cards you receive. The app makes it easy to send a connection request and quickly connect with people. This can all be done using your smartphone on the road or even during a networking event.
Groups – Strategically pick the groups you join. If you have limited time, pick two or three groups where you can be very active. Remember to join groups that offer a target-rich environment for business development and potential referral sources. If you are an accountant and rarely get referrals from other accountants, limit your membership in groups that are geared toward accounting professionals. Find groups where you can demonstrate your expertise and connect with individuals that fit your ideal client or ideal referral source profile.
Regionally focused groups should be considered. Even if every person in the group is not an ideal direct prospect or referral source, relationships matter. Having contacts and connections in different business sectors will allow you to connect to people looking for a wide variety of services or solutions. Groups are where you can build a reputation as a giver and provider of information as well as share connections. When you can assist individuals advance their career, help them solve a business issue or most importantly drive business to them, they will remember you and your efforts. This strategy is one of the most effective business lead generators available to networkers.
Recommendations and Endorsements – LinkedIn users benefit from recommendations from individuals whom they have worked or whom they know. Recommendations help to reinforce the value of individual skills, abilities and services that can be provided. We have suggested that to be effective on LinkedIn users should secure one to four recommendations each month. This shows continuous activity and makes it known to your contacts that you are somebody that people like and respect working with. Recommendations and endorsements of services assist in building brand awareness and are effective in demonstrating and reinforcing to others your stature and expertise in a given area. These recognitions are particularly important for people who are just getting to know who you are and the areas in which you are a leader. Recommendations are also a good way to get feedback on your personal marketing efforts. If you receive a number of endorsements recognizing your expertise in a specialized area, then it is clear that those who are connected with you know what you do and what you do well. If you are getting endorsements for services you do not provide, then you have to review how you are marketing and communicating with contacts. If this is out of sync you need to work on how you are perceived in your market.
© 2013 by William "Bill" Corbett, Jr.