LinkedIn for business? I thought LinkedIn was an online CV? I still get that reaction from a lot of small to mid-sized business owners. They think of LinkedIn as a platform where they have posted their CV and are now collecting connections. It’s not completely wrong, but there’s so much more to LinkedIn !
In this post, a complete guide really, I want to give you the full picture of how to use LinkedIn for Business. I’ve also invited some fellow LinkedIn experts who are active contributors to my LinkedIn Challenge to submit their number one strategy when using LinkedIn for Business.This post is targeted at small to mid-sized companies.
- First things first: is your target audience on LinkedIn?
- The Personal LinkedIn Profile
- Getting visibility with the Personal Profiles
- The LinkedIn Company Page
- Get some followers for your Company Page
- Getting visibility with LinkedIn Company Pages
- LinkedIn Company Updates
- LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
- What kind of content goes on your LinkedIn Company Page?
- LinkedIn paid ads
- Engaging with prospects
- Best practices recommended by the experts
- Will you make LinkedIn a marketing priority?
First things first: is your target audience on LinkedIn?
Before I get you all excited about LinkedIn’s possibilities, you need to have a clear understanding of LinkedIn’s audience and figure out if your target audience is present on LinkedIn. To generalize: if you’re in the B2B sector there’s a good chance that your prospects or on LinkedIn, if you are a consultant, coach, or other business service provider, then your audience is there. If on the other hand you’re in the B2C sector, but sell consumer goods products, then Facebook is a better choice for you. That’s the theory. Then again, I’ve recently written a post about the watch industry: following this theory the watch makers wouldn’t need to be present on LinkedIn since they are selling a B2C product. However, knowing that the LinkedIn audience is by majority male, highly educated & has a higher average income then that of any of the other platforms, I suggested in my article that the luxury watchmakers are making a mistake if they don’t develop a presence on LinkedIn.
>>Blitz assessment: have you analyzed whether your target audience is on LinkedIn and whether it makes sense for you to develop your brand’s visibility on this platform?
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Personal LinkedIn Profile
People do business with people. So your personal LinkedIn profile needs to give a very professional first impression. It needs to be optimized for search results, stand out from the rest & be customer focused. Here are a few things you should change on your LinkedIn Profile right now. Sometimes business owners are worried that their employees build a network and then leave with those contacts. Yes, all connections that your employee adds while he is working for you are his and if he leaves your company he will take them with him. But isn’t that fair? He built those relationships, he was your loyal ambassador and generated sales for your business. Of course in return, you may ask him to professionally represent your brand with an optimized profile, a description of your company and services and a link to your LinkedIn Company Page. So whether you’re a business with 200 employees or a solopreneur, you need to start with reviewing your Personal LinkedIn Profiles.
Blitz assessment: is yours and your employee’s LinkedIn profile optimized and representing the professionalism of your brand?
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Getting Visibility With Personal Profiles
I often refer to the Personal Profile as your ‘mini-website’. Now, just like a website with no traffic is useless, it’s almost the same with a LinkedIn Profile. Don’t wait for people to find you! In order to get views to your profile, you need to be visible. But before I talk about visibility, let me say a few words about your network size. In short: the bigger your network, the bigger your reach, the higher your chance of finding prospects. BUT… of course you want to create a network of highly targeted contacts, that fit your business, and your industry. That’s why every connection strategy will be different and you have to find the one that fits your business model.
Back to the visibility: There are different ways to create that visibility, the 3 most important ones are:
1. Share content: one of the best ways to position yourself and your company as experts you need to share content regularly. Your own content or curated content that is relevant to your target audience.
2. Publish content: one of the new additions in 2014 was the LinkedIn Publisher, a platform for LinkedIn users where they can publish their own content. Find out how to publish your first post in this article.
3. Be active and engaging with your network and on LinkedIn Groups: Your newsfeed and the LinkedIn Groups are where you share your knowledge, advice & best practices with your target audience. Don’t think selling, think serving.
>> Blitz assessment: have you (and your employees) been regularly active on LinkedIn, sharing content, engaging with your network(s)?
LinkedIn Company Page
Just like you have a business page on Facebook, your business should have a Company Page on LinkedIn (even if you’re a solopreneur). Agreed, it’s not as complete as the profile (you can only add a company description, a banner and some other details such as your website, number of employees etc), but the power of the company page is not the page itself but the engagement with its followers through the content that’s being shared. Go through the presentation below to see some good examples
>> Blitz assessment: Is your company represented with a Company Page on LinkedIn?
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Get some followers for your Company Page
The first thing you want to do is create an audience. Unfortunately your personal connections are not automatically followers of your company page. So first you need to add some followers. Start with your employees, after all they are your biggest advocates. Encourage them to link from their personal profile to the company page. They automatically become followers and can like, comment on, and share your company updates to help expand your reach. Then add a ‘Follow us’ button on your website, e-mail signatures & newsletters. Finally you could also invest in a paid ads campaign to get more followers.
>> Blitz assessment: How many followers does your Company Page have?
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Getting Visibility With LinkedIn Company Pages
As mentioned above, the page itself is not very complex, especially since LinkedIn has taken off the Products & Services tab. But what most businesses don’t understand is that the essence of the company page are the updates that are being published. Some pages actually have a decent number of followers, but have never published an update. What a waste of opportunities to engage with your followers.
Companies must think as Publishers. I do an exercise during my training sessions called “The cover story” in which people are encouraged to design a magazine to be sold in newsstands: title, cover, columns, tone of voice, etc. starting from their mission, their audience and their distinctive values. Usually, this simple exercise contributes to open their minds on content sharing and conversation.
Luca Isabella, Lucaisabella.it
So the 2 ways to generate visibility via the LinkedIn Company Page are:
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1. LinkedIn Company Updates
This is the free way of getting in front of the eyes of your existing followers. Posts will appear in chronological order on your Company Page and in the news feed of your followers.
>> Blitz assessment: How many followers does your Company Page have?
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2. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
On Facebook you can boost posts, on LinkedIn you can sponsor updates. This requires an advertising account that you need to set up before you can sponsor your first update. When sponsoring an update, make sure you only sponsor content that’s valuable and of interest to your target audience. Always use a visual to attract more attention.
You can target your audience by location, companies, job titles, gender, age, groups etc etc. You will then set a maximum bid for each click (CPC) or you could also choose to pay per thousand impressions (CPM). I recommend the CPC model where you only pay per click. And likes, comments & shares are free! Knowing how much each click will cost you, you can then define your daily budget, starting at 10$ per day.
In order to make sure that your campaign is effective, don’t forget to pay attention to the analytics tab. You will get data such as number of impressions, clicks, interactions, acquired followers & visual graphs for reach and engagement.
>> Blitz assessment: Have you ever sponsored an update?
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What kind of content goes on your LinkedIn Page?
It’s scary how many Company Pages I’ve seen with quite a good number of followers, but absolutely no updates. These followers clicked on the ‘follow’ button, but then never heard from the company again. So what kind of content should you share with your followers? Here are a few ideas:
- company news
- articles related to your industry
- Youtube videos related to your industry
- your own blog posts of course
- any press mentions or press releases
- your own SlideShare presentations or industry related presentations
- questions for your followers
- etc, etc.
Always include rich content such as images, infographics, videos, and SlideShare presentations to get more attention and keep things interesting for your audience.
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LinkedIn Paid Ads
LinkedIn Ads are another option to get visibility from a very targeted audience for as little as $10 per day. These ads appear in the user’s inbox and on the side and bottom of the homepage. You can include an image, as well as 25 character headline and 75 characters for a very brief description of what you’re offering. You have very little space, so make it count. Questions work really well in the headline.
Prospecting on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is THE place to identify and pro-actively search for prospects if you are in the B2B sector. And no, you don’t even need a paid account. Just go to the ‘Advanced’ button next to the top center search bar and use the advanced search criteria to look for potential clients. You can even save the searches and LinkedIn will then automatically send you new leads on a weekly basis.
With the same technique you can also find investors for your start-up, joint-venture partners or ‘competitors’.
>> Blitz assessment: Did you know about the ‘Advanced Search’ ?
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Engaging with prospects
Once you have identified the prospects, you need to add them to your network. Start with a personalized message, where you explain where you came across their profile (group, your connections, other…) and why you’d like to connect with them (common interest, common location etc).
Once they are a connection, they will start seeing your updates in their news feed, you can comment on, like and share their updates. You can also endorse them for skills, send them a birthday message and follow them on twitter. Basically put in place a post-connection strategy.
LinkedIn is all about relationships, not just numbers. And it’s not about mass mailing, it’s about highly targeted, individual relationship building ! In her book ‘Cracking the LinkedIn Code‘ Melonie Dodaro says that you need to ‘Slow down the sale in order to speed it up!’ So true. It’s not about selling, it’s about value adding !
Best Practices Recommended by the Experts
I’ve asked several colleagues who are also on the LinkedIn Challenge expert team to share their best practices when it comes to using LinkedIn for Business. Below are their comments:
There is one core strategy to get more clients through LinkedIn almost immediately.
When was the last time you actually talked to all your connections who meet your ideal client standards?
That’s probably the fastest way to get more clients through LinkedIn because they are already in your circle of influence. But if you think you can just send them a few sales messages and then reap the rewards, think again.
It’s not about selling them something, it’s about caring and giving. It’s about reaching out to them to learn more about their business and lives and see if you are a good match. It’s about talking to them to help them develop a plan to achieve their big goals. If both of you feel that it’s a good idea to work with each other after that, great. If not, that’s great as well. There’s only certain people you are meant to serve, and others you are not.
Daniel Jordi, Jordico.com
Use LinkedIn as an extension of your in-person efforts and use it to network as you do face-to-face. It may be on online tool, but think of it as a doorway to many opportunities. Start with a well defined connection strategy and create your own process.
1. Take the time to introduce yourself, with a personal message on connection, or when joining a Group. When others ask to connect to you, connect with conversation. A connection is an opportunity to build a relationship, and simply hitting Connect or Accept without any social interaction is a lost opportunity. It is the equivalent of exchanging business cards silently – always smile and take time to say hello.
2. Once connected or part of a Group, be conversational. Don’t go into sales mode and treat your connections like faceless numbers, or ignore them altogether. Take the time to get to know them and allow them to get to you through valuable comments and good old-fashioned conversation.
3. Take relationships offline where possible and get to know them in person. Locally this is easy. For further afield connections these are opportunities when travelling to catch up for coffee, or organize a virtual coffee via Skype.
Invest time in getting to know your network, as you never know where relationships will lead.
Jo Saunders, WildFireSocialMarketing.com
The real power of LinkedIn lies in the incredible reach that we can create in our extended networks i.e. the combined reach of 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections. However many small and medium sized businesses are missing out on one very obvious opportunity – their employee and customer networks. These are both groups which have a vested interest in the business thriving. Big corporates like Hewlett Packard and IBM have long realised the value of customers and employees as brand ambassadors with an ability to spread positive messages about the business well beyond existing networks. How you approach this will depend on the size and sophistication of your business. For a Solopreneur it could be as simple as a friendly conversation with customers asking them to share your posts occasionally. In a larger business it may be necessary to have a more structured process in place with guidelines for employees on what should be shared, how and by whom and a formal customer ambassador programme. I recently worked with a 200 strong organisation that wanted to leverage the power of its employees on LinkedIn. We started by making sure that everyone understood the basics of LinkedIn, then explaining why it was important that everyone was involved in helping to promote the business. The marketing team create and co-ordinate most of the content to be shared but also identified key individuals within the business who should be creating original content. In an age when few people trust advertising, and prospective customers are well informed about what you and your competitors offer, what employees and customers say and share about your business can give you that extra reach and competitive edge which makes the difference.
Greg Cooper, FrontOfMindCoaching.co.uk
It’s critically important that your LinkedIn profile and usage align with your personal and professional goals. If you’re trying to develop authority in your industry and attract clients, don’t treat your LinkedIn profile and presence like a resume! Instead, treat it as a sales page and ongoing platform for your overall message.
Mike Allton, TheSocialMediaHat.com
Will you make LinkedIn a marketing priority?
If you’re in the B2B sector, your clients are on LinkedIn! So will you invest in learning more about this platform, train your employees and put in place a focused marketing strategy for your business & customized to your audience? Contact me if you need help with setting it up – or if you are a solopreneur make sure to grab my 10 Ingredient Recipe for LinkedIn Success below!
And keep building these relationships on LinkedIn!