I recently heard a CEO refer to LinkedIn as the sleeping giant of social networks. With last week's announcement of 100 million members, the SEC filing in January (in preparation of going public) and 2010 being LinkedIn's first profitable year since the company's eight-year existence -- I'd say the giant has awakened.
For those of us active on LinkedIn, it's obvious the company is moving aggressively. Even this week, you may have received an email invitation to spend your first $50 worth of advertising free of charge via LinkedIn Ads (formerly called DirectAds).
Still, there's a lot to be discovered about how to best utilize this social network. Would you believe the most popular advice about using LinkedIn begins with making sure your account profile/setup is designated "100 percent complete," including the upload of a real picture of yourself?
Sure, that's valuable advice -- but a bit elementary, don't you think? Hopefully, you'll find some of the tips described herein even more useful.
Tip 1: Sharing is Caring
LinkedIn began releasing tools in early 2010 to enable new ways to share, but the end-of-year launch of the LinkedIn share button was a game changer -- essentially catching LinkedIn up to Facebook in its ease of bringing outside content in.
As marketers we want our content shared on LinkedIn just as we want it shared on Facebook. The newness of LinkedIn Share Buttons means we don't yet have hard usage stats. Regardless, the recommendation is to start implementing them around appropriately shareable (especially blog-related) content.
Tip 2: Do Your Detective Work
If we agree that knowledge is power, this should become a fundamental exercise in preparing for meetings, calls, insights and talking points. As best stated by Lindsey Pollak: "look up everyone." Even having small amounts of information about people can break the ice in conversations, giving you an edge in presentations or sales calls.
As a helpful reminder, I use the Rapportive plugin in my web browser, giving me fast access (via the right column of my Gmail account) to a person's LinkedIn, Facebook, recent Tweets and more.
Tip 3: Leverage Expert Content with Advertising
Last year, Guy Kawasaki not only pointed to the prospect of winning new business via LinkedIn by answering questions associated with your expertise -- but also recommended promoting unique (blog) content using LinkedIn's small text ads. As of late January 2011, these text ads enable targeting by job title, company and groups.
Whether you're part of a small emerging business or a Fortune 500, the value of establishing and maintaining thought leadership is priceless. If you have the right (expert) content, promoting it in conjunction with the new ad targeting features is a winning approach.
Note: LinkedIn states that "good ads" in their network will have a click-through rate (CTR) greater than 0.025 percent. Yes, it's low -- but arguably consistent with what many report on the lower-end CTR performance of their Facebook ad campaigns. LinkedIn offers some insight to best practices for advertising here.
Tip 4: Be Part of the New News
Beyond promoting your content with ads, the simple sharing of it may also extend the reach of your expertise, thanks to the new LinkedIn Today news delivery format.
This new feature aggregates and delivers shared headlines from your network and industry via tweets and LinkedIn sharing. It also enables topic search functions with categorical filtering through industries, companies, etc.
The connection/algorithm between LinkedIn share buttons and what appears in LinkedIn Today content isn't clear -- but given the nature of how content is shared in LinkedIn Groups, it's certainly high time you join and begin contributing to at least one.
Tip 5: Get Radical with Recruiting
It would be remiss to skip mentioning LinkedIn as a recruiting tool. From resume searching to identification of funding sources, finding people to fill your knowledge gaps is critical to business growth.
Although you may not see firsthand use of companies targeting their competitor's employees for hire, Marty Weintraub's step-by-step tutorial demonstrates how the guerilla nature of acquiring talent just got kicked up a notch.
With this "awakening," LinkedIn continues demonstrating it warrants our business attention. If you still find yourself in the process of making friends with this giant, I'd love to hear more about how you are getting along. For quickly ramping up your LinkedIn strategy, also consider tapping into some of the starter resources out there from folks like Lewis Howes.
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