Having grown to over 120 million users since its launch in 2003, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to meet a professional contact who isn’t a LinkedIn user. There’s no question that small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) – particularly those involved in business-to-business work – stand to gain a lot simply by creating a LinkedIn profile, but how can you maximise your use of this social network? Here are a few pointers…
1. Be social!
Many people make the mistake of treating LinkedIn simply as a static website where you can have a profile, but it’s so much more than that – it’s a social network! You have to treat it that way:
- Regardless of whether or not it’s directly relevant to your business, get involved with discussions and groups related to any topic that you’re generally interested in. Join 15-20 groups relevant to your business or of personal interest and track them. It won’t take much timer or effort, to join in the conversations from time to time. Where possible, share your expertise for free when people are looking for a some help on LinkedIn – it’s a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you’re an expert in your field and can very often lead to them actually hiring you!
- If you have a Twitter account, it’s worthwhile linking your Twitter account with your LinkedIn page so that your tweets/posts are automatically made to both simultaneously.
- Send personal notes rather than the generic LinkedIn invitation messages. Don’t go mad adding contacts – quality matters more than quantity; it’s much better to have 50 contacts who you genuinely interact with than 300 with whom you don’t.
2. Think of your profile as a job application form
A really helpful idea for SMBs is to treat your LinkedIn profile as if it’s an application form for a job – your potential customers will be reading their LinkedIn profile in much the same way as they would read the application form of a potential new employee.
Often, when SMB owners create a business page on LinkedIn, they don’t include anything about their education or their employment history! You need to demonstrate why your career up to this point qualifies you to do the job you want people to hire you to do. Equally, your educational background will obviously boost your credentials, but can also help foster a connection between you and potential business partners (e.g. you went to the same university, or lived in the same town when you were young) – this stuff can be really helpful in establishing a relationship. Listing your skills is very important, especially as this can help potential clients or customers search find you on LinkedIn. Even if some of your skills aren’t directly relevant to your business, it’s worth including them as they can help legitimise you and can lead to people finding you accidentally who might not have realised that a SMB with your exact set of skills is just what they need.
LinkedIn recently launched a new feature that allows users to list their voluntary activities as well, so that’s another opportunity to make yourself stand out from your competition.
3. Get a vanity URL
When you create a LinkedIn profile, it automatically generates a direct URL, which will be something rather long, messy looking, and hard to remember. You can however customize the URL for your public profile to make it something much simpler e.g. http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourbusiness which will make you much easier to find.
4. Keep up with developments in your sector
Sign-up for updates from your industry-sector, and regularly check through your update feed. Following a company you’d like to work with (and their employees) can give you a head-start when, for example, they decide to outsource some work that you might be able to do, giving you an opportunity to get in touch before they’ve even properly started looking.