Did you know that LinkedIn has over 347 million users and every second two new people sign up to join the network?
That’s a lot of people, providing a lot of potential opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their operations.
So how effectively are you using LinkedIn?
Can you imagine what your business would be like if you were able to capitalise on even a sliver of that potential?
So often I see business owners dismiss LinkedIn because they think it’s only for people in the ‘corporate’ world and not relevant for their business.
Of course LinkedIn is a great tool for people in the corporate world, but what really matters in deciding whether the network is useful for your business purposes is not what you do but what your clients do.
For example, if you’re a business coach then LinkedIn is perfect for helping you grow your network of ideal business clients. Or if you run a printing firm providing services to local or national businesses then it makes sense for you to be on LinkedIn too.
However, LinkedIn can also be useful if you’re providing a service that involves clients who work in the corporate world. So a personal trainer, for example, who works with stressed out executives should seriously think about how they can use LinkedIn to grow their business. An holistic therapist who helps people gain more energy and achieve greater focus should certainly be using it. As should a stylist who helps people climb the corporate ladder by creating the right visual impact when they walk into a meeting.
Your business may not solely focus on people in the corporate world, but if a segment of your clients are employed and work in Corporate Britain then LinkedIn is a social media tool you should really be taking advantage of.
So for a wide range of different reasons, more and more entrepreneurs and small business operators are using LinkedIn as their ‘go to’ social media tool.
Read on to find out if that should be the case for you too.
A big part of the reason why LinkedIn is so useful for so many small businesses, is because it’s based on connecting people who might otherwise remain separated. The platform opens up the possibility of building relationships with individuals who are less than six degrees of separation away from you and who just might be your ideal clients.
In fact, providing you’re consistently connecting and engaging with people, there’s every reason to think that you’ll be able to connect directly with lots of individuals who are really interested in your services.
Social media is all about sharing thoughts and ideas and providing valuable content to the people you have chosen to connect with. Providing you are always doing this and sharing other peoples’ great content too, then reaching out and creating a connection has never been easier.
Bragging rights and wrongs
One of the most difficult things to do is ‘brag’ about your achievements in a way that doesn’t turn people off.
In the real world, even if you have a wealth of experience and knowledge in your field, you wouldn’t start reeling off bullet points of you CV to everyone you meet as if they are nuggets of wisdom. Can you think of anything worse?
But at the same time, you also want to put your best foot forward without coming across like a pushy sales person. And that’s where LinkedIn plays a fantastic role in helping users strike the right balance.
How many times after meeting someone or hearing about someone do you check them out online? As soon as you put their name into Google, nine times out of ten you’ll find their LinkedIn profile. And the great thing with LinkedIn is that you’re able to ‘brag’ about your achievements but in a factual way that doesn’t make you come across like a pushy sales person.
If you have 20+ years experience, held senior positions, been responsible for a large work force, or worked at a ‘big four’ or ‘magic circle’ firm, then putting all that information on your LinkedIn profile demonstrates the breadth of your experience. It’s factual information that’s accessible to anyone.
So, you can see how your LinkedIn profile enables you to ‘brag’ without coming across as being brash or arrogant.
Using LinkedIn as an unpaid sales team
You should think of your LinkedIn account as being part of your digital sales team, so make sure your team has the right tools to help promote you and your business by doing the following:
- Make sure your profile is client centric – click here to download your checklist on the Do’s and Don’ts of creating your network ready profile.
- Endorsements are the equivalent of ‘Likes’ on Facebook and their importance is growing, so encourage your contacts and clients to endorse you.
- Recommendations are gold dust. Always ask your satisfied clients for a recommendation after you have completed the work. With your client’s permission you can also use their recommendation on your website, in your proposals, webinars and sales letters, so make sure you get as many as you can.
- Add your contact details to the contact tab. If a potential client is looking to connect then having your details available is an absolute must. You should also make it as easy as possible for your clients to get in touch, so ensure you have a relevant email address, mobile number and website address clearly visible.
Converting connections into clients
The worst thing you can do when you connect with someone, is to send them an email promoting your product or service – it doesn’t matter how nicely you put it, as soon as that email lands in their message box they will know that you’re only interested in selling to them. When someone accepts your invitation to connect or vice versa, do the following:
- Review their profile and send them a welcome email – look for commonalities in their profile and make a quick reference, and then invite them to tell you a bit more about a specific element of their business or job role. Use statements like, ‘I’m really curious to find out more about xxx’ or ‘I see we are both interested in xxx’.
- Don’t put pressure on people to respond by sending them another email saying that you haven’t received a response. The fact is some people will respond whereas others will not, and if you send a communication pressuring them to respond it will turn people off no matter how politely you phrase it.
- When you get a response start to engage with the person as you would at a networking event, offer something of value like a great article you recently read or a YouTube video you think might be of interest, or maybe someone to follow on LinkedIn. Remember this is all about getting to the next stage in the development of your working relationship with this person, so be ready to take one step at a time.
- Always take advantage of the opportunity to congratulate someone on their new job or work anniversary.
Using groups to raise your profile
Groups are a fantastic way to participate in communities with like-minded people and to strengthen connections; it’s another way of building your network. Take a look at the Women Unlimited Group on LinkedIn and the activities that are going on there for example.
Now there is an amazing feature about groups. By default you cannot send messages to people you don’t know on LinkedIn, but if you’re in the same group, this option becomes available – how brilliant is that!
This function opens up a lot of fresh potential for making new connections but it can backfire with overuse. The danger is that you may become perceived as a spammer if you send out too many messages or requests, with LinkedIn users now able to block people in a similar way to Facebook and Twitter.
However, being active in a group by responding to questions and posing questions, will heighten your profile in the group and if you selectively reach out to people then you are far more likely to be seen as a valuable resource rather than a spammer.
LinkedIn is a powerful social media tool. I would love to learn about your experiences and results with LinkedIn, so please leave a comment in the box below. And if you have any questions about LinkedIn also pop them in the comment box.
photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com