Linked In is often grouped with Facebook and Twitter as a social media website, but it is quite different from most sites within that category. While you can connect with past, current and future customers through Facebook and conduct valuable market research, you can use Linked In for your business in many other ways:
- Perform competitor research by connecting with professionals from competing businesses.
- Learn more about job applicants before you interview them.
- Connect with talented people from around the world who might become investors, employees, partners or simply inspirations for your business.
- Listen to viewpoints from professionals around the world concerning critical aspects of your industry.
- Expand brand awareness through effective online marketing.
- Get your company name in the minds of influential people within your industry.
In order to get these benefits from Linked In for your business, you need to actively participate on the site. This takes time, but if you dedicate even 30 minutes several days a week, it will help your business over time. It all starts when you setup your profile. Complete it thoroughly, including a professional, recent picture of yourself or someone who represents your business well. Your profile should share recent or upcoming events that are newsworthy. All information should remain up-to-date and accurate. Pay attention to the description of your business because the beginning of that section will show up in search engines when your Linked In page is displayed in search results. Make every word say something substantial about your company. Add links to your business website and blog along with compelling descriptions for those sites. Use the space for descriptions and resumes to present samples of your work and highlight the strengths your business has to offer. If you’re going to mention your weaknesses, turn them into strengths. Imagine this profile will become your first impression to millions of people around the world. What do you want them to know about your business? That is what should be the central focus of your profile. Time to Integrate Into the Community Once you have a powerful profile ready to present your business to the world, it is time to become an active member of the community. Start with the following actions:
- Search for professionals you already know and invite them into your network. Do not include friends and family members unless they work within your industry or are somehow connected to your business.
- Seek out other professionals you may want to get to know and invite them into your network.
- Explore Linked In groups and join those that catch your interest. Look for discussion and networking groups dedicated to your industry, professional organizations and regional networking groups. Actively engage in these groups so you become known.
- Start updating your status with exciting or interesting news related to your business or industry.
- As people join your network, look at their connections and invite some of them to join your network.
Once you become active on Linked In, you will start to receive invites to connect with other networks. Don’t get desperate and connect with everyone. Select those that will help you benefit from Linked In for your business. As you speak out in forums and engage other professionals, you will receive higher quality invitations. You never know when one invite could become a positive turning point for your business.