For a lot of executives and busy entrepreneurs social media runs along quietly in the background or shows up occasionally as something you might scan for a second or two, if you bother to pay attention at all. I hear frequently from business people that they don’t care what anyone had for lunch or where they went on vacation; so wasting time on social media sites is simply not on their radar. And then, there’s LinkedIn.
Touted as the world’s largest professional network (as of May 2014 there are 300 million active users with 2 more added each second(1)), LinkedIn is not just another time-wasting social media site. In fact, for today’s executive, its an important part of the digital landscape, so much so that if you’re not using LinkedIn you might be leaving money on the table, or worse, losing ground to your competition.
Started in 2002, LinkedIn has grown to encompass 200 countries and territories, is available in 20 languages, and spans every industry on the globe. Clearly, the working public have embraced the platform as not only a place to find a job, but more recently to streamline and enhance sales and marketing efforts. Social selling is a buzzword that has emerged along with the popularity of LinkedIn as a tool for lead generation. Old style selling habits such as cold calling and direct selling techniques are starting to take a back seat to the more innovative and valuable process of warming up to potential clients and prospects by building the relationships gradually using social media – and for this, LinkedIn takes the lead.
A publicly traded company, LinkedIn now offers a number of ways to satisfy it’s shareholders while at the same time amping up our ability to maximize the platform. You can manage client communication using their internal CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, highlight your expertise in a LinkedIn Group discussion, showcase your companies products and services on a LinkedIn Company Page and advertise your latest news in a status update and a number of advertisement options.
And then, there’s the jobs. Anyone looking to attract talent in today’s seemingly shrinking pool would be remiss to overlook the recruitment tools offered by LinkedIn. They have robust Premium Memberships in place for both Job Seekers and Recruiters that can save tons of time when interviewing and hiring.
I’m often asked about the value of upgrading to a Premium membership and the answer is always the same, “your membership should depend on your goals for the platform.” For instance, if your main job is sales you might want to test drive the LinkedIn for Sales Professionals membership – how would intelligent lead recommendations or real time account insights affect your productivity? Premium accounts also get more access to information about who is viewing you, which can help you decide who to spend time pursuing for your next opportunity. There are many Premium options and many benefits to upgrading, so do a little research to ensure you’re getting the most from your membership.
Perhaps one of the star features of LinkedIn is Groups. If you want to highlight your expertise, communicate directly with decision makers, build relationships based on commonalities and stay top-of-mind with your target audience, there is no better way than to participate in LinkedIn Groups. Spanning every industry, every niche and every geographic location there are bound to be a few groups containing your prospects. LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups and while that may be a lot for the average person to manage, you can segment them into different categories that will allow you to meet your objectives. I recommend joining 3 or 4 groups that encompass your industry to stay up-to-date on trends and news, join a few that discuss information you would like to learn, social media for instance, and then the rest should be groups filled with your target audience. After all, what’s the value of showing your expertise to your competition? Once you have found the best groups to meet your needs, jump in and take part in or start, discussions to get the ball rolling.
Finally, one of the best techniques to use to garner leads, interest, and positive regard on LinkedIn is to constantly ask how you can add value to your prospective audience and then do that. Be engaging, be social, be of value, and soon your target audience will see you as someone who appreciates them, enhances their work life, and even makes it easier – and who wouldn’t want to do business with that person?
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