LinkedIn is a VERY powerful way for business professionals to make connections and grow their business. But if your profile is not working for you, it’s a wasted asset.
Jerry Allocca is the founder of CORE Interactive (www.CORE.bz), an award-winning team of Internet specialists. He’s given us 5 easy to do and concrete tips in how to make your LinkedIn profile work (and work hard) for your business.
Jerry is a frequent industry speaker and author of the much anticipated book “Connected Culture: The art of communicating with the digital generation.” Jerry teaches a popular hands-on workshop in a computer lab where he shows professionals how to
If you are like many business professionals, you have a LinkedIn account (your professional online profile), but you don’t really know how to use it beyond the basics like accepting invitations or doing research on someone and his or her company. But, LinkedIn is much more than that: LinkedIn is business networking.
The only difference is that you are not meeting people in person, face to face, but initially meeting them through the computer. LinkedIn provides an online networking meeting place, along with the tools you need to find and communicate with business
professionals you want to meet.
On LinkedIn, you have to actively participate in conversations to be noticed. If you were at an in-person networking event, would you stand in the corner and remain silent? Not likely. You would have conversations with the others around you, and LinkedIn works the same way. You must have valuable conversations with others in order to make connections.
Make an Appointment with LinkedIn
Business networking and having conversations takes time, so make an appointment with
LinkedIn. All you need to do is schedule time for an online networking appointment on a recurring basis. Do it during breakfast, lunch time, end of the day or at night. Do it whenever is convenient for you. But as with most things, if you don’t put it in your calendar, it usually won’t get done. Now that you have the time scheduled for LinkedIn, what will you do during your appointment?
Here are five exercises to maximize your LinkedIn appointments so you can get the most from this useful networking opportunity.
Exercise 1 – Get Ready for Online Networking Success
Make your profile look its best. If you were attending a networking event, you would be in your best attire to make the best first impression. Your LinkedIn profile should also give the best impression of you. People will not see your face or your outfit beyond a simple headshot. They will see your profile, and your profile is how you will be reflected and how others will make decisions about you. So make your profile look as good as you do in real life.
When editing your profile, focus on your headline and your summary. These two items should be your networking profile, describing whom you want to meet and what value you can provide.
You should update your status at least once a week. This gives you more visibility and can spark conversations. If you have a Twitter account, integrate it so that your tweets automatically feed into your LinkedIn status.
Next, work on getting recommendations. You will need at least three recommendations from trusted sources to get your profile completeness to 100%. Ask only those whom know you well for recommendations. If referrals are important to your business, fill your profile with as many legitimate recommendations as possible. This will add to your credibility. You should next develop the right questions and sales dialogue. Questions will be used in group discussions, in your status and in the “Questions and Answers” section of LinkedIn. (Group Discussions and the Questions and Answers section are explained in later exercises.) These questions will become your conversation starters.
Develop good questions to ask others that will raise curiosity. Good questions will engage others in conversations and get them interested in speaking with you.
Now, get ready to network.
Exercise 2 – Connect with People You Know
Look through your contact database for people you know well. Send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Later, ask them for referrals to others in their network. It sounds so simple, but how many of you who have LinkedIn accounts actually reach out and ask each of your contacts if there is anyone in their network they think you should meet? You should always get at least one solid referral — otherwise, this person shouldn’t be a connection. And you can remove a connection at any time.
You can also use the Advanced Search feature to search your connections networks. You can describe the key characteristics of the C-Level decision makers, strategic partners and key influencers you would like to meet. You will then get a list of people that meet these characteristics. If LinkedIn shows that you have a mutual friend, contact your friend and ask for an introduction. A warm introduction like this one initiates trust and serves as an excellent ice breaker.
Networking takes time and effort. When you have made some connections, you can also work on making new connections through discussion groups.
Exercise 3 – Choose the Best Groups to Join
Remember that these are DISCUSSION groups. When you are ready to join a group, be ready and prepared to participate and create a discussion or join in existing discussions. But before you join a group, consider what you want to talk about, what you hope to learn, and with whom you want to have conversations. Ask yourself, “Who is my target audience? What would they be talking about?” This will help you determine the groups that will be best suited for you. Once you have answered this question, search the Group Directory. Look for a group where your target audience will be involved.
Once you are accepted into the group, start talking! These groups are like a networking event. You have to make yourself known in your group through your conversations. Begin to engage in meaningful and interesting conversations. Being a part of a group means nothing unless you are an active participant.
Exercise 4 – Become an Active Participant in the Group
Joining a group but not being an active participant can be the greatest cause of failure in
networking. Your goal is to develop relationships. Once you join a group, be an active participant and make everything you say count.
Here’s how to become an active participant in a LinkedIn group:
This is where your questions will come in to play. Ask questions of your group that will
elicit responses. You want group members to be curious and want to communicate with
Join existing conversations. Find discussions that interest you. Find discussions where
you can provide valuable insight.
Write articles and post them to the news section of the group. Once your article is posted, start a conversation about it!
Meet the members of your group. View each member’s profile and send him or her a
message so you can chat via e-mail, phone or in person, if possible.
You can tell a lot about people by their conversations. Research people and be selective about those with whom you have conversations. And you can be choosy — there are tens of millions of people on LinkedIn. Reach out to them. Being in a group together means that you have mutual interests and passions. That’s always a great starting point for a conversation.
Being a member of a LinkedIn group gives you an instant connection with someone. Think about these situations. You could contact someone and say, “You don’t know me, but let’s talk.” That approach may not get the best results. Maybe you could say, “We are both members of this LinkedIn group and share this mutual interest in (theme of the group). We should have a conversation.” Here’s an even better approach: “Hi, our mutual friend Tom Smith suggested that we have a conversation.” The best approach of all? Ask your friend Tom Smith to personally introduce you to the person you want to meet. Look for mutual interests, or mutual friends to help you connect with the C-Level decision makers, strategic partners and key influencers you want to meet.
Exercise 5 – Position Yourself as an Expert by Participating in the Questions and Answers Section of LinkedIn
You can earn expertise and respect in your industry by answering questions posed by other LinkedIn professionals in the Questions and Answers section. If your answer is chosen as best by the person who posed the original question, you gain a point of expertise in the question’s category. Experts are featured on the Answers home page, and in each category of questions.
This section is NOT meant as an advertising venue or to be used as an opportunity to broadcast your marketing message. Instead, this area is supposed to generate thought-provoking discussions that are of great value to others. Whether you are posting or answering a question, the goal is to get people to share their knowledge and allow participants to learn from the collective intelligence of the discussion thread. And to meet and talk with people, of course.
To find the Questions and Answers section, go to “More” at the top of LinkedIn; then, in the drop-down box, click “Answers.”
Some Final Ideas
LinkedIn is social networking for business professionals, and is a part of what’s known as “social media.” (Social media consists of various communication tools that help people make connections, and includes Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, blogs, YouTube, Flickr and many others.)
Start setting up your LinkedIn appointments today, and make it a point to keep those
appointments and keep up with the five exercises. Just as in the body-building world, if
you don’t schedule time for exercise, you won’t see results.
Hone your profile until it represents you at your best.
Make time to develop connections. Those connections are invaluable in successful social
networking on LinkedIn.
Have your conversation-starting questions ready and be a part of the discussions. Ask
interesting, relevant questions of others in your group and stay an active participant.
Take time to participate in “Questions and Answers” to position yourself as an expert.
Exercise produces results. So do your exercises. It won’t happen overnight, but following these steps will make the time you invest in online networking pay off.