When it comes to social media, one site is all business: LinkedIn.com.
With over 50 million users, LinkedIn provides endless opportunities for individuals and businesses to network locally, nationally and internationally.
Individuals use LinkedIn to network, promote their services, locate business partners and service providers and even to get hired. Businesses and organizations can use LinkedIn to perform competitive analysis, monitor industry trends, establish executives as experts in their fields, locate potential clients and customers and to recruit key hires.
If you’ve never used LinkedIn, think of it as a combination of resume database, business directory and business networking on steroids.
When individuals join LinkedIn, they are given the opportunity to create a personal profile, while companies can create a company profile.
Personal profiles include work experience, education, and a summary of your skills. Personal profiles can also include a photograph recommendations written for you by other users.
Company profiles include a detailed company description, a list of specialties, links back to the company website and profiles of current and former employees.
Both personal and company profiles are completely searchable (although you can set certain privacy restrictions on your personal profile).
For individuals, this means you can find former classmates, colleagues, friends and acquaintances. For businesses, this means you can locate a specific kind of business and narrow your search by specialties, locations or even size. You can also search for possible new hires.
Below is an example of what a personal LinkedIn page looks like:
Below here, you’ll see an example of a company page on LinkedIn. To no one’s surprise, I have selected Blue Fountain Media’s company page.
Once you’ve created your personal and company LinkedIn pages, you can begin the process of using LinkedIn to enhance your business.
The key to broadcasting your personal and business messaging is to have a substantial audience. To create your audience on LinkedIn, you should reach out to all of your current contacts and invite them to connect with you. LinkedIn provides the tools to automatically import contacts from Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail and other sources.
To further expand your network, LinkedIn also provides tools that give you access to the contacts of your contacts. Just as in face-to-face networking, LinkedIn provides the mechanisms that allow your contacts to make online introductions to their contacts.
This function is great to get your foot in the door with prospective clients, colleagues and service providers.
Broadcast Your News and Updates
With LinkedIn, you can provide your connections with the latest news and offerings from your company. Every time you post, your connections are alerted. Whether it is a new product or service offering, positive press, a recent award, LinkedIn helps you stay on the radar of a wide circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
Enhance Your Web Presence
When people perform a Google search on your name, your LinkedIn profile is likely to be one of the first results shown. Because of this, it is important that your profile is complete, truthful and does not contain embarrassing content or photographs.
If you or your company is being researched, a positive LinkedIn profile can go a long way towards nailing down new business.
Establishing You and Your Business as Experts
One of the great tools on LinkedIn is the “Answers” tool. Anyone on LinkedIn has the ability to post a question, on any topic. As an expert in your field, you can demonstrate your expertise by answering the appropriate questions.
For example, a company that offers website design services can make a point of answering web design questions. At the very least, it gives your company the opportunity to provide free expert advice and create goodwill. At best, it is a tool for attracting new clients.
LinkedIn has become the primary hiring tool for many companies. Searching the member database gives businesses the opportunity to make highly targeted searches. It even allows businesses to recruit people currently employed by competitors.
LinkedIn members provide detailed information about themselves and their experience. Profiles are often as detailed as resumes. If your company is looking for someone with specific education, work history and experience, you can find them quickly and effectively on LinkedIn.
For example, a search for “Duke, MBA, New York City and Marketing” produces a significant list of potential employees.
When looking at a company profile, you not only get the full list of all employees who have LinkedIn accounts, you also get access to their biographical information.
Similarly, when you receive a resume from a prospective employee it is a good idea to check the credentials listed on the resume versus the credentials included in the LinkedIn profile. I can tell you from experience that the two don’t always match up.
When meeting with potential clients, it gives you a huge advantage if you’ve done your homework. If the potential client has a company page on LinkedIn, not only can you get detailed information about the client’s business, you can get specific information on the individual executives you’ll be meeting with.
- Education: Did you attend the same university?
- Work history: Do you know any of their current or former colleagues? Have you worked together previously?
- Club Memberships/Associations: Common interests, memberships?
- Contacts: Mutual friends or acquaintances?
This information can be used in cold calls (to personalize) or can be used in preparation for an initial client meeting. Either way, the more intelligence you have, the better chance you have of converting a prospect into a client.
These are just a few of the business uses of LinkedIn. As you become more experienced in using LinkedIn for your business, you are likely to find a dozen other ways you can use LinkedIn to enhance your brand, your prospects and your revenues.