Unlike the other players in the social media arena, LinkedIn is specifically designed for business networking and allows you to connect with decision makers from virtually every business sector. As of August 4, LinkedIn boasted more than 120 million members from over 200 countries and territories worldwide. More than 2 million businesses have LinkedIn Company Pages.
So how can you harness the power of LinkedIn? Here are some essential steps.
Create a Complete LinkedIn Profile
Begin by creating a rich LinkedIn Profile. The Profile Page is your opportunity to tell the world about yourself and your business so make sure you provide ample information about your products and services. Include information about your education and the company history. If possible, it’s a good idea to include testimonials from satisfied customers. This can go a long way to building trust, especially if those customers also have LinkedIn profile pages.
Take advantage of the opportunities to add high quality photographs and videos and be sure to include keywords in your profile to ensure that you’re found by your target audience.
Finally, be sure to provide contact information including your physical address, email address, phone and fax number and Web site address.
Solicit Sales Leads
Although you don’t want to come off as “pushy”, letting people know what types of leads you’re interested in is completely acceptable. It’s o.k. to send a brief message to new contacts you make, letting them know that you appreciate any leads they send your way. Again, be brief, but specific about the types of leads you’re interested in receiving and offer to reciprocate the favor. At the very least, this can spark a conversation that can turn out to be mutually beneficial, if not now, then perhaps at a future date.
LinkedIn groups are a great place to get involved and generate leads. There are thousands of groups, dedicated to just about any business-related interest imaginable, so you’re bound to find one that is relevant to your small business. In fact, it’s best to join a few groups and participate in discussions.
As with all social media, these discussions are not the place to unabashedly tout your products and services out of context. Instead, use them to build relationships with like-minded professionals. Concentrate on adding value to the discussions and, over time, the leads will come your way.
You should also participate in LinkedIn Answers. As the name implies, LinkedIn Answers is where business people go to get answers to their business-related questions from other members within their LinkedIn network. This is a great place to showcase your knowledge and experience, and build credibility.
As with all marketing, consistency is critical. Be sure to participate on a regular basis and always respond to inquiries, comments and invitations in a timely and professional manner.