LinkedIn is a huge social network that focuses on connecting people for business primarily, but it has many facets and uses that can be leveraged. I think that it’s a completely invaluable tool for business development and your professional career, so I wanted to write some of my favorite aspects of LinkedIn and how I think it can be used to: expand your business connections, grow your business, and be a valuable resource of information for you. I have built up over 4700 LinkedIn connections over the last several years in the Online Marketing industry and I have worked to build my network and leverage all of LinkedIn’s tools, so I have a good frame of reference on their system and how to maximize it. So here we go…
Uhg, there are so many social networks to be a part of, but where should you actually spend your oh-so valuable time so that you can really maximize your business-focused social networking? LinkedIn really is the best place to conduct online business development, business networking, or putting partnerships together with other companies. It’s also a great place to find new companies to work for so you don’t have to just go on interviews, these days you can contact companies in your area you want to work for and show them your LinkedIn profile and that in itself could get you the job.
There definitely is a certain amount of tact one should use when using LinkedIn because one of the main ways to connect with people is through people you are already connected to. But there is definitely a tremendous opportunity to build your business and professional network through LinkedIn if you work it properly. Here are some of the aspects I think are valuable when using LinkedIn:
1. Connecting with People/Invitations – LinkedIn actually lets you import all your Outlook contacts, Gmail contacts, or any csv file of contacts directly into their invite tools, and they will tell you who is already on LinkedIn and you can send them all an invite. They also support contact importing from: hotmail.com, gmail.com, yahoo.com, and aol.com. This is a great advantage but some people don’t use these email services anymore, but for those who do it’s amazing. Go ahead and send out a bunch of LinkedIn invites and you will build your LinkedIn connections quickly. You can also paste a series of email addresses into a box in the Add Connections area and it will see if they are on LinkedIn already. Get comfortable with sending LinkedIn invites to everyone you email with and have some business relations with. The more connections you have the more people can see your posts and activity, which can lead to any number of potential business development.
2. Utilizing Your Connections – Once you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you will be able to see who they are connected with…fun! And even more exciting is that you can reach out to those connections by sending your connection a “request to forward” email, which are almost always passed through, although they have the right to not do so if they don’t think it will be a fit.You can even go through several people to connect with someone. It’s sort of better if it’s just 1 connection away, otherwise you are bothering people to send it through you don’t know. But it is what it is and it works if you use it. When approaching people through LinkedIn you have be very nice, professional, and have a partnership idea in mind, don’t just say, “Hey Bill…do you want to parter with my company??” You have to be a lot smoother than that and don’t always look at it like a means to an end, actually try to make solid friendships and relationships with your connections and the people you are reaching out to. I call LinkedIn “the greatest, most under-utilized business social network on the planet” because for as many people as I’m connected to, I get so few forward requests, so people aren’t trying to connect through me enough. I think they will continue to build features to facilitate interaction so it should pick-up as an effective place to spend time. So the bottom line is step up your forward requests and you will do a ton of business!
3. LinkedIn Groups – I absolutely love LinkedIn Groups for a few reasons. First, if you start them about a topic with a decent amount of interest in a particular industry like say “Internet Marketing”, “Affiliate Marketing”, “SEO” or whatever it may be, people searching for Groups on LinkedIn will find them and join them. I have been running a Group called Linked Affiliate for the last 3 years and it’s up to 8300 members and gets 10 new joined members a day. So, it’s a great way to build a focused group of professionals in a certain industry. Another great feature with Groups is they let you email blast your entire member base once every 7 days through their mailing system. It can only be a text email, but the web addresses and email addresses hyperlink in the email so you can link to sites. If you run a Group of decent size you will have to “moderate” it by actively managing the posts, responding to people, and posting new topics, to really maximize the activity in the Group. LinkedIn recently made all the Group discussion topics spiderable by the search engines, so that content gets into search which is great. I use an outsourced moderator to make sure my Group stays spam-free and active, which is key to running a good Group on Linked.
4. Syndicating Content into Linkedin Groups – As a LinkedIn user you have the opportunity to join 50 Groups, which is a decent amount, which they will probably raise one day. One of the nice things about being a group member is you can start topics and comment on other topics just like a forum. You can also Like and Star people’s topics to interact easier, although this is a work in progress and will probably get better. LinkedIn Groups can be a great way to syndicate your blog or article content because through tools like Addthis and Sharethis you can “share” your posts into as many LinkedIn Groups that you are a member of. However, don’t share into Groups that aren’t relevant to your topic, otherwise it’s spammy and may get you kicked out of that Group. Also, when you share into Groups, it goes into the daily email updates that gets sent to Group members which brings more syndication and traffic. The last point about Groups is that you can actually directly contact up to 500 other Group members even if you aren’t connected with them on LinkedIn. But again do it with a strategy and purpose and you will be effective.
5. LinkedIn Recommendations – Getting LinkedIn Recommendations from your LinkedIn connections is a great way to build up your good reputation as a professional. People tend to leave really good recommendations for each other, so they look really impressive to people checking out your LinkedIn profile. You can build up your Recommendations by leaving them for other people first, then they are emailed and given the opportunity to leave you one back. I have 155 Recommendations which has taking forever to build up, working it now and then, but they are really impressive and it works in my favor with new business and people in general wanting to work with me and my company. So definitely make sure to work to increase your Recommendations and you can start by leaving ones for other people you think highly of. There’s also a tool in LinkedIn to ask your connections for recommendations which is a bit awkward but I’ve used and it’s worked to some extend.
6. LinkedIn Status Updates – LinkedIn has recently made people’s status updates visible like Facebook’s, with similar sharing options. But you can definitely do a lot of interacting within the status updates you see when you login and build the relationship with your connections. They also send an email with a list of your connection’s status updates and if they changed companies or add profile information, which is a great opportunity to comment back on the site, which they are notified about. They more you pro-actively interact and comment with your connections, the more they will return the favor, which their connections may see. You should try to interact with people as much as possible to ensure they will interact with your activity which increases exposure for you.
7. LinkedIn Company Pages – LinkedIn recently rolled out Company Pages which is a great feature! You can build it out with all your staff, company details, services you offer, and recommendations for your company from your clients (which are separate from personal recommendations). Here is a great LinkedIn blog post about Company Pages that will explain most of what needs to be said about it. I think it’s a must personally for your business.
These are some ways to maximize your time and effectiveness on LinkedIn. It really is a tremendous business networking tool and should be focused on if you are interested in doing any kind of business development or expanding your company. I recommend checking it 10 times a day to check the status updates and check your “See Who Viewed My Profile.” I like to reach out to the people that viewed my profile recently with a message. I didn’t even go into Jobs, but LinkedIn is a great place to find companies to work for and if you have a nice LinkedIn Profile if may just get you hired over someone with just a resume. You can also find jobs through connections that may know a company hiring. So from a job finding outlook its a great tool. I hope you enjoyed my little article on LinkedIn and some strategies to maximize it. Let me know what you think and I look forward to hearing from you!