As a well known and (for basic users) free social networking service designed for professionals and businesses to convene on, LinkedIn, with over 53 million members is a versatile tool in your arsenal of techniques which you should be using to remain ahead of your competition.
Having more advantages in the B2B rather than the B2C sector, correct and proactive use of LinkedIn can in the first instance, build your professional network, reputation and credibility as an authoritative figure and industry thought leader, and second of all can help you locate, generate and leverage your professional contacts to source good potential leads online – that is if they don’t find you first!
Enabling you to display all the aspects of yourself and business in one concise, easily navigable place, LinkedIn is not just an online resume, professional networking tool or trusted job board. Providing the perfect space to encourage and grow thought leadership, by regularly using and sharing status posts and discussions forums, this surprisingly underused social network can help you and your business gain credibility and responses around your particular niche market, which in turn can lead to an increase in your business.
From this it’s clear that making your LinkedIn presence known by correctly utilizing its qualities can intensely advance your professional progression beyond that of your competitors. And judging by a common lack of efficient LinkedIn use by professional organisations, there’s a whole catalog of things you can do to get ahead:
- Ensure you have a complete, visible and fully informative profile
- Include dedicated ‘LinkedIn time’ in your daily routine
- Build and leverage your network: Target and connect with industry professionals to source clients
Ensure you have a complete, visible and fully informative profile
First of all, you should ensure that you have a totally complete and up to date profile; whether business page or personal. Making sure that information is clear, appealing and easily navigable; especially contact information and links to your professional website, blog or other sites, is crucial as prospective contacts, recruiters, employers or customers will form an instant first impression of your business and services based upon the clarity and relevance of this information.
So many people don’t make the most of LinkedIn’s profile features and have an incomplete (or even worse invisible) profile. Ensuring company products, services, about section and contact information are present and easy to find can be instrumental in displaying authority and professionalism, and are a very quick and simple way of advancing profiles over that of competitors. Basic features such as simply putting up a profile picture to humanize a profile, or listing and introducing skills and contact recommendations can boost credibility within your industry and make potential leads and other industry authorities more likely to connect and respond to you.
Making your profile appear client-friendly too, rather than just displaying a big CV format can work wonders on your interactive potential. LinkedIn does encourage you to show your information in more of a resume format, however you should consider your professional offering and instead use your profile to show your unique qualities and a backstory (your ‘summary’ or ‘about’ section depending on whether this is a personal profile or company page). Placing relevant keywords into this section will also help clients find you by improving your SEO.
Think of your profile as a business introduction. You wouldn't walk into a client meeting and start talking about the previous companies you've worked for, would you?
Include dedicated ‘LinkedIn time’ in your daily routine
Developing a daily system of actions to strengthen your presence in your industry of focus will regularly reinforce and build your credible reputation (and as a side-line your business/company) as a source of authority, professionalism and thought leadership. These actions may include:
- Regularly updating your LinkedIn status
- Sharing a blog
- Taking the time to answer questions, proactively follow up and display good opinions on LinkedIn groups, discussions, other peoples’ statuses, blogs etc.
- Sharing good content – from LinkedIn and otherwise – which you come across
- Creating your own valid discussions, groups and company pages
Spending 5 or so minutes a day on such tasks is all it takes to gradually encourage other members and potential clients to start interacting with you as an industry leader, and this small amount of time will soon add up to to hours of dedicated time you’ll be spending securing your reputation above that of your competitors.
Build and leverage your network: Target and connect with industry professionals to source clients
It’s no use having a perfect profile if you don’t have any connections. To get ahead of the game and reach potential clients ahead of your competitors, it helps to enhance your business connection network and its value – using your connections’ influences to source and find other contacts and relevant leads. Whether you choose to increase your network value by either connecting with as many people as possible, or through a strategy of connecting and deepening relationships with key and trusted individuals (say by helping them out; with a blog, or recruitment sourcing for another organisation, or by providing your services if that person is a possible client).
Because of this, focusing on your LinkedIn presence can help you to build up a strong networking signal – and really consider the word network there – by encouraging potential leads and reliable business relationships. If you’re stuck wondering just who to connect with, begin by adding the people you know, then start adding people focused on your area of business or client focus. Target these people by searching out relevant organisation employees (under the ‘Companies’ tab) and then once you've established your presence and credibility a little more, identify and target key influential industry figures at specific organisations. Linking to other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to increase your social activity can help, though be aware that using the same content on all networks may not be the best strategy to follow.
Regularly doing all the above and conducting frequent searches for industry professionals, leaders and other influences should ensure you always stay that one step ahead of your industry’s competition, and bring you into closer contact with potential leads and clients that little bit quicker and easier.
Cathy Wellings is a staff writer for a business communications consultancy which provides business writing courses to business professionals.
(Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
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