Of all the social media outlets, LinkedIn is, by far, the most business-oriented and it’s an essential place to establish a profile, not just for yourself, but also for your business. As Dan Sherman, founder of the LinkedIn training company, Linked Success, told me: “If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re not in business.”
I think that’s accurate. Prospective customers and colleagues, especially in the business-to-business world, often check out your LinkedIn profile before doing business with you. And LinkedIn recently introduced a feature specifically to help business owners: It added status updates to Company pages, so you can now update your LinkedIn followers about your company’s products and services.
Since a basic LinkedIn profile is free, there’s really no reason not to sign up. (You can upgrade to a premium account costing $24.95 a month or $49.95 a month to send more direct messages to LinkedIn contacts and see more people in search results, but the basic profile is powerful, so start there.)
Here’s are six ways to use LinkedIn effectively to boost your business:
1. Develop a strong personal profile page. You’ll need a personal profile before you can create a LinkedIn page for your company. (Next Avenue has a comprehensive article on the best ways to improve your personal LinkedIn profile.) Also, check out Sherman’s LinkedIn profile for a great example of one.
A completed profile gets up to seven times more views than a skimpy one, according to LinkedIn. The site will prompt you periodically to fill in more information, so don’t feel like you have to do it all in one sitting.
2. Create your company page. David Gowel, author of The Power in a Link: Open Doors, Close Deals, and Change the Way You Do Business Using LinkedIn, says it’s extremely important to establish your company’s presence on LinkedIn in addition to your personal profile. Click on the "Companies" tab on LinkedIn’s upper navigation bar and you’ll be taken to a page where you can either search for companies or add a company.
Company pages don’t have as many features as LinkedIn personal pages — the four sections, or tabs, are "Overview," "Employees," "Product Pages" and "Statistics" — but they’re great ways to push out updates about your business and link to content of interest to your customers and prospects.
If you have employees, be sure they include your company in their personal profiles. That will increase exposure for your business through their LinkedIn networks.
3. Collect (the right) recommendations. Both your personal and company pages have places for people to make recommendations about doing business with you and share their experiences. Politely encourage your customers and clients to tout your company and you that way.
When Gowel hears a client saying something complimentary about his business, he emails back his written version of what he heard back, asking the client to edit the statement as desired then post it as a LinkedIn recommendation. That makes the recommendation process convenient for the client and gets the kudos on his LinkedIn profile quickly.
4. Update your status at least once a week. LinkedIn personal profiles and company pages have update functions, which are similar to status updates on Facebook. You can use them to post brief company-news updates, musings about your field, recommendations, links to articles you've read, and the like. Since LinkedIn is business-oriented, keep the updates related to your brand. (No opining about what you had for lunch — unless that’s relevant to what you sell.)
Each time you post an update, you appear on the home page of all your LinkedIn contacts, so they’ll automatically see what you’ve been up to lately. Share your success stories and thought leadership ideas as marketing opportunities.
5. Join and participate in LinkedIn groups. Once you’ve completed your personal and company profiles, start looking for LinkedIn groups where prospective clients might be then join them. (Go to the “Groups” tab to find them.)
Groups offer a great way to participate in communities with people who have similar interests to you, who might want your products and services, and who could recommend your company to others in their networks.
6. Work your contacts. As you build your personal profile network and attract new followers to your company page, Gowel strongly recommends using LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search to find prospective customers and others who would be valuable to add to your network then invite them to become contacts.
Here’s one way an advanced people search can help your company: Say you want to find out who the purchasing manager is at Big Company X so you can approach that firm about buying your products. Use the advanced people search to find the LinkedIn profile of that person by searching for the company and the job function. And you might even find, via your LinkedIn connections, that you know someone who knows that person and can make a recommendation or, at least, an introduction. This ability to exploit your network is one of the most important functions of LinkedIn, Gowel says.
Ready to start building and improving your LinkedIn pages?
Once you’ve done so, post a bit about yourself and a link to your profiles in the comments section below so we can do a bit of Next Avenue networking, too!