Did you know that over 340 million people (and 4 million companies) are active on LinkedIn? That's a lot, right? Another thing you may not know is that LinkedIn is also one of the top-rated social media platforms for small businesses. Which is great news for small businesses looking to excel. What's even more important, is that small businesses consistently rank LinkedIn as an awesome avenue for sales leads, investors, and financial assistance. In fact, small businesses on LinkedIn have a better chance at finding leads than on Facebook. Best of all, bloggers can reap the benefits as well! So, why does it pay for small businesses AND bloggers to use LinkedIn? Let's check it out...
Take this into consideration: whenever you want to know what's going on in your city, you most likely check out Facebook. Or you might even head over to your local newspaper's website. The same can be said for LinkedIn, but the reasons are quite different. For those in the know, whenever they want to make a few business connections or sales leads, they typically go to LinkedIn. If you aren't already using LinkedIn, you should be. Especially as a small business or blogger. However the biggest mistake that most businesses make is assuming that LinkedIn is "Facebook for business", when it isn't. Actually it's pretty far from that! Granted there are a lot of similarities between the two... However, the focus of LinkedIn is VERY different from Facebook.
Instead, you should think of LinkedIn as a virtual office. One that you go to a few times a day to keep up with your company.
Their Free Service Gets You Pretty Far
Naturally, LinkedIn offers a lot of paid services, but most of their services are free. Especially the ones that the majority of small businesses and bloggers will use. All it really takes is time and effort, once LinkedIn is properly setup. First of all, your profile should have an "all-star" rating. You can check this by viewing the circle on your profile editor page. If it's not full, you still have some work to do. Keep in mind that if you aren't an "all-star" it can actually affect your rankings and the potential of getting the word out about your business. Therefore it's crucial to get that rating as soon as possible. It honestly doesn't take that long either. We'll cover more on that later...
Access You Won't Normally Find Somewhere Else
This is pretty awesome, you can use LinkedIn to gain access to key decision makers. To do this, everything about your profile (and presentation) needs to be crisp and sharp. If you have a 1st-level connection who knows your intended target, go ahead and ask for an introduction. The chances of that happening are pretty likely too, especially if you're in the same geographical region. However, it isn't inconceivable if you aren't.
Not only is this a great way to get exposure to the people you need, but it also opens an avenue for conversation. Just remember, if you get your introduction, make sure to personalize your greeting. The key is to make it about them and how your relationship can be one of mutual benefit.
Consistent Maintenance Keeps Your Profile Relevant
An awesome LinkedIn profile can boost your credibility. But only if it's done right. As a result, it makes it so more people will actually listen to you. Find out how to create a social media calendar to make things easier. The following tips can help:
- Don’t talk about yourself in the third person. Make it the first person. “I am..”, instead of “She is..” (Don't be like Jimmy from Seinfeld...)
- Remove any skills that are no longer part of your current skill set.
- Update your profile heading with rich keywords.
- Play with different phrasings. Take into consideration what your clients and partners want to hear.
- Do you have a skill you want to highlight? Make sure that you put them at the top.
- Share your expertise and publish a post on the publisher feature. You don't even need a blog for this one.
LINKEDIN FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
Create A Quick Strategy
As a small business, when you properly create a strategy, you have an opportunity to easily contact leads. You should spend at least twenty minutes a day creating a personal LinkedIn strategy. A good strategy includes focusing on connections. Therefore you should specifically connect with people who you have done or might do business with. You can also connect with vendors and peers. It's a good idea to strategically approach your connections:
- Connect with friends, colleagues, and family. Then broaden your connections to business contacts you may or may not know. Don't make the mistake of trying to connect with a lot of people you don't know.
- Use Doorway People. Doorway people should be your main sales contacts. Anyone connected to them will be able to see 2 levels of their connections. This is extremely important when it comes to sales.
- Connect with people you meet shortly thereafter. It makes connecting less awkward.
- Reach out to sales prospects, job candidates or other people you have interest in.
- Interact with people of your interest by commenting on their posts.
- Post a status update of your own. You can talk about a new product or a company event you're excited about.
This shouldn’t take you more than 3 minutes day. Best of all it costs nothing and can gain quite a bit.
Drive Awareness To Your Profile
- Depending on your strategy, you should update your status once or twice a week. This way you can grab the attention of contacts and turn them into fans.
- Ask for referrals from connections who might already be connected with a key contact you want to get introduced to.
- Carefully manage any competitor connections.
- Use LinkedIn as a precursor to a trade show you are going to attend. More often than not, trade shows have groups for the event but don't ever abuse that opportunity.
- Categorize your connections with tags. This way you can easily organize and reach out to your contacts.
- Actively follow others. It's important to follow customers, prospects, and even competitors.
Use LinkedIn's profile search to narrow down your search criteria.
- Just like any site, LinkedIn's Backlinks can help improve your SEO. As a result, you can figure out which keywords you want to rank with. Afterwards, you can decide which URLs on your website have content that utilizes those keywords.
- Bonus Tip: On your profile, underneath "Connections," add your three links to the "Websites" section.
How To Optimize Your Presence With LinkedIn
- Enlist your experts to produce content. Simply decide who's going to do what. Your social media department is your best bet.
- Choose your keywords. LinkedIn has a massive search engine. Therefore your keywords in your profile need to be chosen wisely.
- Make it look good. Use custom banners with your logo with your brand's font and colors. LinkedIn banner sizes are 646x220.
- Update regularly. The more you update the better your exposure. Twice a day is a good idea.
- Invite people to follow you. This is a great way to increase your company's visibility.
- Link to the right website. Instead of linking to your website's homepage, opt for something more strategic. Link to a custom landing page that allows you a chance to introduce them to your brand.
- Post videos. Videos gain huge engagement on LinkedIn. You can place a video on your profile page as a way to keep users on your profile page longer.
- Use A Showcase Page. LinkedIn doesn't have services tabs anymore. Instead, they have "showcase pages". They're on the right-hand side of a company page and they're intended to promote a specific product or service. You can have up to 10 showcase pages - each one gets a unique banner, logo, and individual analytics. However, you should keep in mind that these pages can be followed just like company pages. The more you use them, the more updates you'll need to keep up with.
LINKEDIN FOR BLOGGERS
Yes, LinkedIn can even benefit bloggers - just as much as small businesses can. You might be cringing at the idea of adding another social media platform to your arsenal. But there's a lot to gain from LinkedIn as a blogger. Thankfully, it requires less maintenance time than Instagram or Twitter.
- Use a nice head shot for your profile picture. Don’t use your blog logo or a picture that has other people in the shot with you.
- Choose a professional heading. The name of your blog will automatically appear in your headline. Therefore it's important to use keywords in your professional heading. Something like, “Writer, Editor, and Social Media Consultant” sounds a lot better than, “I Write Stuff About Things".
- Under Contact Info, make sure to add the link to your blog. Under website, choose “other” and type in the name of your blog along with the URL. This works because people are more likely to click on a personalized link, than on one that just says “blog.”
- Fill out the summary section with a short bio and share your work. You can also include pictures and links.
- Have you been published in a major publication or on a large website? Have you won any big awards? Include those in the appropriate sections.
How To Spread the Word of Your Brand
1. Make Connections Personal. Whenever you invite someone to connect with you, it doesn't hurt to remind them where you met. This way they know why the should connect with you. You can even connect with other bloggers, past employers, or people you hope to work with. It's also a good idea to connect with people you want to get to know. The more connections you have, the better it is for your brand.
2. Research Contacts. LinkedIn is a great place to research companies you are interested in working with. Once you search for and select a company, you'll be able to see employees and common connections. Afterwards, you can reach out to the appropriate people.
3. Join Groups. Make sure to join groups that are relevant to your blog and interests. Most importantly, you need to participate in their discussions. This gives you a chance to see what is being shared in your niche. It's also a great way to connect with new people. You can answer questions from other group members too! Remember you shouldn't engage in anything that comes across as spammy. And whatever you do, don't self-promote. Whenever you interact, you need to come off as a person of authority. The more you do this, the more people will start to seek you out.
4. Give and Request Recommendations. LinkedIn gives you two different ways to interact with someone's profile - endorsements and recommendations.
- Endorsements are quick and easy. When you look at the bottom of someone’s profile, you will see a list of items under Skills and Endorsements. When you click the + sign next to one of these it will give an endorsement.
- Recommendations are more involved and carry more weight. These are written testimonials. Which means it's very important to get recommendations. For example, you might want to reach out to fellow bloggers. Whenever you ask for a recommendation, don't just use the form request from LinkedIn. Instead, make your request persona. When you do, you are more likely to get results. Recommendations will then appear on your profile under the appropriate job or project.
5. Use Status Updates. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to share links and other information in your status updates. However, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is a professional network. This is NOT the place to talk about your dog or your kids. Most of all, it's not the place to share any work-related woes. It IS the place to share your own blog posts and posts from others within your niche.
As with most things in life, LinkedIn is as useful as you make it. If you create an interesting and engaging profile, participate in groups thoughtfully, and use it as a professional resource, you can get a lot out of the time you spend on LinkedIn. It doesn't hurt to also use some inbound marketing tactics as well.