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Deciphering Social Media (and using LinkedIn for business) can elicit groans from some of our clients. “It’s a fad, one that will fizzle out,” they argue. It’s true that some media sites are hot one minute and cold the next (remember MySpace anyone?). But here’s a sobering statistic: as of August 2012, LinkedIn boasted 175 million members. And, this number continues to grow. This social media giant has established itself as the top professional network, carving a niche for finding and managing business connections. Companies advertise jobs and highlight their services, job seekers search for careers, and all of them connect with others in their industries. Regardless of the size or focus of your business, don’t ignore LinkedIn for business.
Here are 11 ways to use it effectively to raise your business’ visibility.
1. Expand Your Network
Even if you’re busy running your company, it’s worth the effort to expand your network. Beyond administrative follow-up, it’s about connecting with others inside and outside your industry and area of expertise. It’s no longer a world of 6 degrees of separation… on LinkedIn it’s shrunk down to three.
2. Make the Most of Status Updates
Status updates is a powerful component of using LinkedIn for business. Why? It gets amplified, sharing it via your networks’ news feeds. A status update can be as easy as a little blurb of what you’re working on, link to relevant industry-specific news, or newly released video blog. Calendar this task for at least once or twice a week; it should take less than 5 minutes. Or, if you can, delegate this administrative task to someone who can post consistently for you.
3. Recommendations Represent Credibility
When you ask your happy customers for a testimonial, see if they are also connected to you via LinkedIn. Not only will their LinkedIn recommendation give you more credibility, it is also a window to your business brand in action. As others check you out, your recommendations will speak for you.
4. Cross Pollination
There’s no reason why you can’t stretch your status updates to other Social Media platforms. However, we suggest tailoring your message (e.g., Twitter’s language is different than Facebook’s). For example, if you’re quoting some industry news, share different pieces of information or facts so the message is varied. By sharing your messages across platforms, you’ll gain new connections and increase your reach.
5. Collaboration & Generosity
Think of other businesses or vendors that offer complementary services but are not direct competitors. Social Media is all about community. What relationships could you foster that would be mutually beneficial? Following and commenting on each others’ posts is a way to begin online engagement.
6. Participate in Groups
Not to sound like a broken record… but social media is social. Join industry groups and participate in discussions. Answering questions will distinguish yourself as an authority in your industry. You’ll cultivate an online reputation as helpful, and it will be easier for prospective customers to find you when they search for reliable answers.
Located in the “More” tab is “Events.” This is where you can search for local events where you can meet online connections in person. Organizing an event? Post it and share it with your network to encourage participation. Real connections can start online and move offline.
8. Website Links
In your profile, you can list up to three websites. Don’t miss this opportunity to link to your main website, with the second slot for your business blog. Are you actively involved with an industry association? Use it in slot number three as it shows thought leadership and that you’re active in your industry’s community.
9. Demonstrate Ability
The Skills & Expertise section of your professional bio is one way to strut your stuff. These are searchable tags that users can use when looking for business services just like yours. You can also demonstrate ability by answering questions. Located in the “More” tab, look for questions posed in your expertise area(s). Answer enough questions and you’ll be labeled as an “expert.” For more detailed instructions, go to LinkedIn’s Learning Center about Answers.
10. Add Apps
There seems to be an app for everything these days. LinkedIn includes a way to easily link an Amazon Reading List, WordPress site, and a Portfolio to name just a few. Adding an app spices up your profile, illustrating what you’re up to or providing an opportunity to share useful information.
11. Measure It
It only makes good business sense to measure your social media marketing efforts. In the Home tab, you’ll notice Follower Statistics on the right hand side. If you haven’t already, be sure to activate this setting to begin collecting data. You can see who’s viewed your profile and how often you’re showing up in search results. Hungry for more metrics? Then dig into your Network Statistics in the Connections area for a deeper understanding of your contacts and their demographics. Plus, it shows activity and trends around your company status updates.
Now that you’ve got 11 ways to use LinkedIn for business, you may want a little more information. The Learning Center can walk you through features and user guides galore.