I have been intrigued by LinkedIn for several years. The site has grown steadily in popularity: as of July 2010 more than 70 million people have LinkedIn profiles. I know that many people are actively using the site, but far more are not using it effectively, and some are not using it at all. There have been numerous informative articles about LinkedIn and lots of tips given. I have posted several dozen tips over the past few months myself. I use LinkedIn regularly; I update my profile, add links and my blog is connected. I post updates and host a number of groups, including the Grow Your Personal Brand LinkedIn Group. All this activity has allowed me to meet new people and expand my list of contacts.
There I an ongoing debate about whom one should connect with. Should people connect with people they don’t know or don’t know well? I changed my tune on this subject earlier this year. In the past I tried to limit my connections to people that I “actually” knew in the real world. This limited my ability to grow my contact list and network. Several months ago I started to contact people with whom I had some connection with or who were members of groups of which I am part. (Note: If you are a member of a group, you can directly contact other members and request to connect.) This has enabled me to grow my contact list and create new relationships.
For me, creating and developing my own personal brand, growing my list of contacts and keeping in touch with people are my main goals for LinkedIn. The following are some tips and strategies for using LinkedIn for your business.
Growing your list: Your contact list can be grown in a number of ways. You can search LinkedIn for people you know and request that they connect with you (often you will need their e-mail address). You can even send bulk connection requests by cutting and pasting in lists of your own e-mail contacts. If the individuals you communicate with are LinkedIn members, you can quickly connect using this method. If they are not members, the message will ask them to join. If you know these people and they are in business, you are doing them a favor by suggesting they join LinkedIn.
Growing a list can also be done one person at a time. For example, you can go to the contact list of a friend and see to whom they are connected. You can directly connect to them or ask your contact to introduce you. This direct process comes from a referral and can help facilitate relationships. Remember, once you connect, keep the conversation going.
Caution: Often names of individuals are recommended to you by LinkedIn. These are people you may know or perhaps they are in the same industry or group. LinkedIn is aggressively seeking to prevent people from soliciting connections from people that they do not know (there has to be some mutual relationship, mutual group membership, school or employment connection). If you solicit people to connect with you who do not know you, I strongly suggest you send them a personal note asking them to connect and not simply use the standard request LinkedIn provides. If you solicit people whom you do not know, they can report you, and your account could be limited or other actions taken. You have worked hard, so don’t risk losing your account.
Did you know that you can download your e-mail contacts from LinkedIn?
Follow this link for a brief demonstration video.
Join groups and show your expertise. LinkedIn gives you a tremendous opportunity to show your expertise and knowledge. Join groups and actively participate in conversations and discussions. Monitor the discussions; if someone replies to your comment keep, the conversation going or answer any questions that have been posed. Give thoughtful solutions and tactics they can adopt to overcome business challenges. Remember, showing your expertise and knowledge helps to grow your personal brand.
Bring the cyber world into the real world and vice versa. Armed with your list of contacts, you have a powerful tool to enhance your relationships. Review your contacts to see which people you would like to meet or get to know better. Invite them to meet for breakfast, lunch, a cup of coffee or simply a conference call. An invitation to a video conference would be something different, and if you both have the technology, go for it. On the flip side, if you meet someone in the real world, keep the relationship going through LinkedIn. Send them an e-mail to connect and exchange information. Communicate via internal InMail. Why communicate by InMail? People typically get fewer InMails even though the response rate is often better, and there is much less spam to deal with. However, most people tend to check InMail less often than regular e-mail.
Profiles and company description: We all have read boring corporate bios and company descriptions. Don’t let this happen to you; make your profile interesting, chock full of information, and try to tell a story. Remember, people recall stories more easily than a list of accomplishments. In your content on your LinkedIn site, use as many keywords as possible; this will help people find you when they go to Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. If you do not have a website, or a bio on your company website your LinkedIn profile can fill this gap. And remember if you move on to a new position with a new company, your LinkedIn profile and site stays in place. Your valuable contacts will have a way to contact you should your telephone numbers or other contact information change. (Note: always keep control of your LinkedIn profile user ID and password. Remember to have profiles proofread; there is nothing more embarrassing and unprofessional than having errors in your profile or company description.)
Don’t sell or spam: Many nonmarketing people confuse the terms “communication” and “marketing.” If you are selling anything or hosting a self-promotional event (an event where you will be charging and making money as part of your business), don’t use LinkedIn to promote it. This is considered inappropriate behavior and could cause people to disconnect with you or simply ignore you moving forward, which is the opposite of what you want to accomplish. LinkedIn should be used professionally, for discussions and as a forum to promote your expertise. If you are hosting a free event, speaking at an event or hosting an educational event, these should be promoted and used to bolster your personal brand and reputation. This is all done to enhance your personal brand and attract more followers and contacts.
Research: Use LinkedIn to research the backgrounds of people you know and people you want to get to know. With more people on LinkedIn every day, you are likely to find information about a person or a company that interests you. You can get information about where a person lives, which school he or she attended school and the organizations he or she belongs to. This is excellent information to have when seeking to start a conversation and a relationship. Use this information. It is easily available to you.
1. Grow your list constantly – add your own contacts regularly.
2. Connect with people who share your interests and members of the same groups.
3. Join groups to meet more people and become part of the discussion.
4. Show your expertise and knowledge through discussions; it will help you grow your personal brand and reputation.
5. Bring the cyber world into the real world and vice versa.
6. Never sell or spam with In-Mail or with posts.
7. Update profiles and keep control of user ID and password.
8. Use keywords in your profile for search engine optimization purposes.
9. Make sure profiles are error-free.
10. Don’t solicit people whom you do not know to connect without a proper introduction or well-written personal request.
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for all businesspersons interested in building relationships, growing their personal brands or simply communicating with contacts. I have found these tactics to be effective for me. Let me know if you have any other effective tips and tactics. I will include them in future blogs.