Let’s be honest: LinkedIn isn’t a platform that comes naturally for many of us to use. There’s a misperception that LinkedIn is only for recruiters and career professionals or even a digital re-hash of your resume. This couldn’t be farther from true, and if you’re a business owner, whether your customers or clients are on LinkedIn or not, you could be using LinkedIn to:
- grow your professional profile and business brand for guest speaking or writing opportunities;
- seek board or advisory appointments;
- develop BTC or B2B opportunities both in Australian or international markets;
- engage in strategic research for tendering, project, contract or supplier opportunities;
- connect with and build relationships with sector/industry professionals and stakeholders;
- remain up to date with matters and events relating to your business or industry.
If you still think that the people who can help you grow your professional profile or business aren’t on LinkedIn, take a look at some of these stats:
- LinkedIn is the world’s number one professional networking platform, with 590 million global users (at 12/2018) and growing, with over 9 million of those in Australia;
- 45% of LinkedIn users are upper management (read: nearly half of LinkedIn’s users are decision makers);
- LinkedIn generates three times more conversions than Twitter and Facebook.
If I had a dollar for every time a small business owner told me they shy away from or don’t see a benefit in using LinkedIn, I’d be writing this article from a beach in Tahiti! It’s not at all daunting once you get started. Here are five quick tips on developing and using LinkedIn to grow your professional profile and business.
- Do away with your business cards.
As a business owner, you could think of LinkedIn as a smart way to keep connected beyond a meeting. How many times have you been given a business card, only for it to be condemned to the deep, dark recesses of your handbag? More and more people are doing away with business cards and using LinkedIn instead (myself included!), saving cards only for people who aren’t on the platform. Instead of your card leading a lonely existence in a bag or worse yet – the bin – continue building new-found connections by adding them to your LinkedIn, there and then! Just as quick as pulling a card out, pull your phone out tap on the app and add the person live on the spot. Not only will this make losing your details virtually impossible, but they’ll be able to learn far more about you and your business than the couple of lines you squeezed onto your business card.
- Brand yourself right.
Use your LinkedIn profile to build your credibility, showcase your highlights and offerings, and carry through your consistent business branding.
Remember when you built your website and the letters ‘S-E-O’ were seared into your brain? LinkedIn, like your website or Facebook page, rewards you for including rich media content, such as photos, videos, slideshows, and documents, so include rich media throughout your profile. Weave searchable keywords into your creatively written headline and summary to compel your target reader to click the magical ‘see more’ button. Customise your URL, and use a well-branded and engaging top card (banner photo) to promote your business or yourself and of course, a well-thought-out headshot (a great headshot will win you approximately 14x more views than those who don’t!).
Developing a company page on LinkedIn is another tool you can use to engage potential customers, clients, industry connections and consumers of your expertise. I have several clients who use the LinkedIn company page as a website alternative where a website didn’t support their strategy or finances at start-up stage didn’t allow for it.
- Connect strategically.
There are three schools of thought on how you connect with others and who you accept connections from on LinkedIn: add everyone vs add strategically vs a combination of the first two.
Which camp you fall in will be entirely up to you as the business owner, what your marketing or business objectives are, or if LinkedIn is driving your own professional brand for opportunities outside of business generation (guest speaking, board appointments, etc). Much like you would with other platforms like Facebook, setting goals for LinkedIn is important. Who you connect with and who you accept connections from – building your network – should be shaped by how LinkedIn factors into your overall business and marketing strategy. Most people will likely fall into the ‘mixed’ category where a mix of acquaintances and former colleagues who don’t relate directly to your business or profile growth strategy (but can provide endorsements and recommendations) are combined with carefully selected and accepted connections with those people who can potentially assist with achieving business or professional goals.
- Share content strategically.
Many Facebook natives feel like a fish out of water when joining and interacting on LinkedIn as it does have a different social culture from most other platforms. Even I found it difficult to interact at the start, but it does help to liken conversational tone and topics on LinkedIn to those you’d have at an in-person networking event or those in professional workplaces.
Publish articles and share content that is relevant and engaging to your target audience/market. Many people may tell you that regaling personal stories on LinkedIn (like many do on Facebook) is a big no-no. I don’t believe this generalisation to be true, depending on what your business is. I see many life coaches, working parent/mother associations, bloggers, health and wellness professionals, and career coaches, just to name a few, share personal stories through a professional lens which reaches their target audience, strike genuine connections with others and find new customers… after all, isn’t this what social media is for?! Make sure what you share is true to you, your brand, your business, and serves to support your goals.
How you share matters too. LinkedIn’s algorithms prioritise multimedia rich content, where images get twice as many comments, and video garners three times as much engagement as text only posts.
To quote LinkedIn guru and colleague of mine, Jo Saunders: “It’s called social media, not selling media!”. You only get out what you put in on LinkedIn. Simply hitting the ‘like’ button and nothing more, is much like dropping your business card on the table of a networking event and walking out the door again—not effective! Both your credibility and network relationships are built by consistently offering genuine insights, adding quality contributions to conversations and starting or sharing your expertise and opinions to discussions.
Join industry or interest groups and follow relevant hashtags to help you find and subsequently add to discussions on topics of professional (or personal!) interest, and begin building you and your business’ credibility, and cultivate new and forming professional relationships.
LinkedIn is an underutilised tool for many small business owners—are you one of them? With a half-billion strong platform of working professionals ready to do business, what could a strong presence on the platform do for you or your business?