MOST MODERN professionals are aware of the incredible power that LinkedIn can deliver – perhaps that’s why nearly 90% of budget holders in FTSE100 companies have LinkedIn profiles. However, too many people are still signing up for an account, connecting with a few colleagues, and then adding a minimal career history that often fails to reflect where they are in their career right now.
These same people then spend the next few months wondering why they even bothered in the first place. The other common mistake that professionals make is assuming that LinkedIn is a tool for recruiters to hunt you down and target you for jobs that are unsuitable and irrelevant. This isn’t the case.
More than 250 million people globally are now using LinkedIn – and over 12 million of them are in the UK. However, even though these numbers are staggering, how many of the people are actually using it to maximum advantage?
While a laundry list of LinkedIn ‘tips and tricks’ can be helpful, it’s important not to be tempted to do everything that LinkedIn allows you to do, as this scattergun approach will actually make you much less effective. It’s much better to focus on one task at a time. For example, you can start by finding all your prospects using LinkedIn’s advanced search function, which is available on the free LinkedIn account.
However, once you find a new prospect that you want to connect with, you need to resist the urge to send the default LinkedIn invitation message. It’s bland. In fact, it’s almost rude. If you don’t know the recipient well (or at all), you should send them a tailored invite to connect. Remember, it’s very important that you come across as being relevant and useful to any prospects, as that will make them much more likely to connect with you.
The key to gaining maximum value from LinkedIn is to identify why you’re there and what your objectives are. This way, you can formulate a well-planned strategy to achieve these goals. Your objectives may range from professional networking (your online ‘little black book’) and hiring the best candidates to promoting your business or developing new sales leads. Or perhaps you just want to build your personal online brand as a means of future career development.
In any case, once you’ve given this question some thought, your first step will be to optimise your profile in line with your particular objectives. You’ll need to present an online persona that is engaging and professional – and optimised with key words that are linked to your expertise and that will make you easily identifiable in a search for that particular skill set.
A strong summary that tells your audience who you are and what drives you is instantly engaging, and much better than a summary of your day to day tasks and responsibilities. You should also consider links to videos, white papers, though- leadership documents and similar collateral in order to reinforce your expertise and knowledge.
Choosing what content to share here shouldn’t actually be very difficult, since most of your prospects on LinkedIn will tell you exactly what they’re interested in – just have a look at their profiles. What groups are they in? What does their career history tell you about them? What companies and influencers are they following? What are their outside-work interests? What Groups have they joined?
We believe that ‘content is currency’ on LinkedIn and that strong content can be used to create goodwill with your target market. You need to remember that people use LinkedIn to enhance their professional knowledge – and you are bound to have plenty of knowledge that your prospects want. However, you’ll need to package it in a way that’s useful – and offer it for free. In our experience, this magnanimous approach to information sharing is a sure-fire way of generating calls and meetings very quickly.
Sharing this useful content as part of your status update (and with your LinkedIn Groups) is a great first step and much advised. You also want to make sure that you are easily visible to your target audience, so do some research and join the LinkedIn Groups that your prospects are most likely to be interested in. This way, you can share your most useful research, white papers, thought leadership articles and insights with all of these people on a regular basis.
Once you whet their appetite with this kind of collateral, we’ve found that people will want to know more. As a result, they’ll often reach out to make contact – and that is the moment to start some meaningful conversations with some very interesting prospects.
Adam Gordon is managing director of Connecting Corporates, a Norman Broadbent company
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