In order to successfully market your company on a platform like LinkedIn, it's essential that you focus on meaningful conversation and engagement rather than constant brand boasting.
Think about it. You wouldn't approach a table full of professionals you don’t know and open up with “Buy my B2B marketing automation software! It will save you time and money.” Clearly it wouldn’t go over well, and it will likely squash any chance of having a meaningful interaction.
LinkedIn is a network for interacting socially with other professional, not a platform for screaming your marketing message (no matter how “awesome” it is) at unsuspecting victims. LinkedIn is still reigning as the world’s largest professional network with more than 175 million active users, which makes it the perfect platform for taking your business social.
So, I’m sure you’re thinking “this all sounds great” but how can I actually use LinkedIn to make meaningful business connections, form partnerships, and hopefully find a way to do business with other professionals? You’re in luck! Here are seven tips to get you started.
1 – Speak Human
Have you ever gotten a phone call, answered it, and realized it was a pre-recorded message? Believe me, I know from experience that no matter how many times you yell back at the recording, it wont respond (or stop talking).
You must always keep in mind that there is a human on the other end of that pined for LinkedIn connection, and there are certain things that make them tick. It’s your job to find out just what that is.
Remember, your ultimate goal is to form personal relationships on LinkedIn. These relationships take time and effort to establish. You want to create a dialogue that is tailored to a specific individual, not broadcast a one-size-fits-all canned marketing message.
2 – Connect With Clients
Take advantage of the existing team that you have within your organization. Connecting with customers and following their company updates on LinkedIn is a fantastic opportunity to stay up to date on any changes within the organization, and learn more about the individuals that you work with.
Say for example that you’re browsing your LinkedIn feed while drinking your morning cup of Joe and read that Sara Samuelson from ABC marketing (your favorite client) wrote “I was in a bad fender bender this morning, but just a couple bumps and bruises.”
Chances are the next time you talk to Sara, you’ll share that you heard she was in an accident and express concern for how she’s doing. Or better yet, send her an inexpensive but thoughtful care package from your team with band-aids and chocolates. Sometimes it’s the small stuff that makes a big difference.
3 – Share Notable Accomplishments
Even though we’ve discussed the dangers of blatant brand boasting, there is an opportunity to utilize LinkedIn to share information on company accomplishments. Say your team broke a record or goal you set for yourself, hired a new rock star employee, or participated in a community event that you would like to share.
Let’s face it, most people like to be recognized for their accomplishments. John and Mike from your sales department will most likely appreciate a simple update such as “John and Mike from the business development department have been knocking it out of the park this month. Join our team congratulating them for a job well done!” can put a smile on the face of your employees, attract job seekers, and show prospective clients that you aren’t afraid to thank your team for having an impact.
4 – When Connecting, See Who You Know In Common
How did you meet your circle of friends? One might venture to guess that some of them were friends of friends who were introduced to the group, and eventually you exchanged phone numbers and began seeing them more often (after a strict screening of course).
Because of the privacy settings on LinkedIn it may be difficult to connect with people within companies that you haven’t worked with previously, or met in person. Before sending out a blind connect request, see whom you might know in common. You could either ask that person if they wouldn’t mind introducing you, or mention in your invite that you happen to know someone in common.
When making first contact with someone who may not know you, find a hook. Perhaps you went to the same college and could share an anecdote about your mascot, maybe they live in Seattle and you’ve always wanted to visit. Find a way to relate to your audience and your chances of a successful connection are much greater.
5 – Don’t Underestimate the Power of Groups
LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers contain a wealth of insight for individuals and businesses. Based on your profile preferences and connections, LinkedIn has a list of “Groups You May Like” that can be accessed directly from the “Groups” tab within LinkedIn.
If you’re an online marketer it would make sense to join groups such as “Strategies and Tips on Social Media Marketing” or “Online Marketing Professionals Group”, the options are nearly limitless.
Don’t be afraid to pose a question. Monitor and participate in groups (without being phony or overly sales focused) that have potential to open up conversations with prospective customers. Also, LinkedIn displays how active specific groups are, how many members there are, as well as if anyone within your existing network is part of the group.
6 – Give & Ask For Meaningful Recommendations
Think of LinkedIn Recommendations as a place to display your trophies. What do you have to show for all of your hard work?
Say you work for a sales company and just landed a huge deal for one of your clients. Of course you’re looking forward to the commission you’ll get off of closing a new customer, but you’re also going to thrive from the positive feedback your client shares with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask your client if they would mind sharing a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. If they’re busy, offer to draft it yourself so all they have to do is make minor edits and post it on your profile.
Another great way to begin getting more recommendations for your work is to write great recommendations for other professionals that you have had the privilege of working with in the past. Chances are, they will likely return the favor.
7 – Use New LinkedIn Endorsements
LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature allows uses to recognize connections for a particular skill set or area of expertise. It's as simple as clicking a button, or recommending a short phrase. If you’re looking for an easy way to shine a light on the professionals in your network, endorse via this new LinkedIn feature.
When you make an endorsement of someone’s skill set, they receive a notification, which lets them know that you think that they are awesome at “Digital Marketing” or “Sales Strategy” or “Paintball”. Once you’ve shown a little endorsement love, they are likely to return the favor.
What do all of these tips teach us (other than how to professionally network like a pro)? Whatever your goals for professional networking may be, you have to give to get.
If you’re going to invest the time in utilizing a platform like LinkedIn, do it right. And remember, shouting at your potential customers via social networking can ruin any future you might have with them.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!