This is not a shopping list, nor is it a To Do list for using LinkedIn. Please don’t think that if you complete all 10 that you will be an expert or you will have done all that you need to do. For me, LinkedIn, like other social networking tools, requires lazer focus, grunt work and refinement. It is a Never Ending Story.
1. Think about the brand called You
What message do you want to convey to your prospective LinkedIn audience? If you haven’t yet done a SWOT analysis on your persona, then do one.
2. How can you make what you do sound interesting?
Don’t, whatever you do, cut and past your C.V. Write like your buyers want to read.
If you don’t know what that means then ask one of them!
One tip that might make the exercise fun is to write in a particular style. For those of you who remember the programme, Whose Line Is It Anyway, the contestants were asked to adopt a certain persona and make up a song about a subject. Why don’t you try writing in a new *style* – however wacky it might seem – and see what you come up.
3. Make sure your profile is consistent with others in the firm/business
Professional services (or indeed any other service provision), at its core, is all about trust. Trust in:
a) the person doing the job (both how it relates to his/her character and competence);
b) the team supporting that person;
c) the firm’s brand (which will most likely have been built up over a long period of time); and
d) the firm’s market perception.
One thing, important in underpinning trust, is to make sure that every touch point within the firm (or business) looks and feels the same. That being so make sure that the LinkedIn profiles across a firm or business, in all their detail, look and feel the same.
If you are going to allow the connections to be open then make sure that everyone adopts the same template. Likewise, make sure that everyone’s photo looks and feels the same. There is nothing worse than seeing 3 or 4 profiles from the same firm all looking different – and the differences in my experience and rarely subtle.
4. Add some connections
LinkedIn is not Twitter. You cannot follow anyone you like. You have to have some relationship with them and even where you say “friend” you have to have an email address.
The easiest thing to do is to make a list of all the people that:
a) are current colleagues;
b) are current suppliers;
c) are previous colleagues;
d) are previous friends from University;
e) are current clients;
f) are clients that you previously dealt with;
g) are current referrers who you have a good working relationship with.
Now the list could go on but hopefully you should be able to assemble a list of at least 250 people. If you can’t don’t worry. You can export lists from Outlook but you may be better off targeting a few people at a time and in that way you can keep track of people who have/have not accepted your invitations and in respect of the latter can set up a reminder system to reinvite them.
Give yourself a time-line to connect with say 100 people in 10 weeks.
Please don’t cop out on this. LinkedIn won’t work if you: i) decide only to connect with your colleagues or ‘fans’; and ii) you only have 10 contacts.
It is important to bear in mind that once you have garnered your connections you are going to have to do something with them. You know, like engage.
I recently did some training and when I asked the audience what they would do if they were given a clean list of 250 people, there was a big fat pause. Further, when I asked how many times per month people were engaging on LinkedIn there was another embarrassing silence and one person who did have the bottle to speak up, said probably once a month.
LinkedIn is no different to any other social communication channel: you have to be prepared to have a conversation and frequently.
5. Join relevant discussion groups
Discussion groups are the most likely place where your clients, referrers and prospects will hang out. Spend some time surfing LinkedIn for relevant groups for your sector. Originally, the groups were very US focused by they have been growing in the UK for some time and you will be amazed now with the groups that are set up.
Once you have found a few you like – I like those where they have meaningful discussion going on at least once a day, there are lots of people making comment and there is little or no sign of overt selling – then join them.
Once you have joined a group, please don’t hosepipe the groups with your service offering.
How many times have I seen an elevator approach being used:
a) “Hi”, I have arrived;
b) a few comments on a few discussions;
c) Oh look at this great White Paper of ours;
d) join us on this free webinar; and
e) K-e-r-b-o-o-mmmmm we are now going to sell you and some more +++ on our great offering.
Now I don’t blame people for giving this a go but it is so transparent.
I live and breathe by the mantra of “earning attention”. My view is that, even in a crowded market, if you have something interesting to say then people will want to know more about you. There is nothing wrong with signposting where you hang out (where people can buy from you) but please don’t start with the premise that LinkedIn is just another part of the sales pipeline. Even if that is your focus, please try to build up a degree of trust before you immediately foist yourself on people. All that it will result in is people disconnecting you or worse still if you are too crass then you might yourself booted off the group.
Once you have got comfortable with discussion groups you may decide to start your own discussion group where you can have greater control and visibility over your target audience.
6. Share remarkable content
Nearly every website or blog nowadays has a share button. This enables content to be shared across the web, including LinkedIn. In fact it goes further than this in that you can share to your groups and individuals.
If you have not already set up your RSS feed or Google Reader then this should be high up your priority list. Both of these enable you to aggregate news and interesting posts and saves the hassle of scouring the web each day for the latest news and information.
If you are able to comment without detracting from the content then so much the better.
Do not go OTT with this. Just think how you would feel if you were bombarded with information day in day out, no matter how good it was.
7. Use it as a networking tool
Yes you heard correct …
LinkedIn, like Twitter, is a very good place to facilitate off line networking.
Where you are connected, you have exchanged ideas, made comments on discussion group then why not invite your contact to meet up.
Make sure though that you have something to say that is, genuinely, of interest; don’t just see it as another sales opportunity.
8. Give recommendations (and don’t be afraid to ask for one)
I read a very interesting article by Chris Brogan on this which in essence talked about the quality, depth of feeling and meaning behind a recommendation.
I have been concerned about this for some time, namely the number of recommendations that some people have attracted on LinkedIn. Frankly, when you get to the 15th or 20th recommendation not only do you stop reading but, in my case, I begin to experience a contra feeling – I wonder why a person who is supposed to be this good needs all these recommendations?
Think very carefully about the recommendations that you give. If you are unsure about giving one then speak to the person and see what they think.
At the moment LinkedIn allows the person receiving the recommendation to recommend you back. I am not sure if this will stay but don’t be offended if the person doesn’t recommend you back.
9. Update your Amazon reading list
What, I hear you shout? How daft is that one. Umm … possibly so, but, actually, it has proved a very important place for me.
I have now received two leads through my LinkedIn reading list either with people asking me about the book or in one case wanting to know where they could get hold of a copy in the UK (sadly the book was only available in the US).
10. Don’t update your LinkedIn profile from a Twitter platform
My advice is that you do not integrate the two on LinkedIn as otherwise every tweet you send will appear in your status update and if you are an inveterate tweeter then just imagine how many status updates you will be sending.
If you ignore this then people will turn you off and the only way that happens on LinkedIn, which is different to Facebook where you can hide a stream, is to unconnect with you i.e. you are history.
If you must use a platform to integrate Twitter with Linked then don’t send status updates more than 3 or 4 times a day.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool and used properly and with a certain amount of decorum (what a great sounding expression) will pay handsome dividends either as part of a MARCOMS programme, the sales pipeline or networking device.
My top tip though is to sit down and work out where it fits into the mix because like any tool it will eat time and if you don’t have a realistic plan and some key milestones then you may find that you end up with 200 people and nothing much else.