LinkedIn has become the de facto online business networking tool. It’s pretty unbelievable when you think that there is this (free!) resource that lets you connect to pretty much any other business in the world (or close enough with 200M members worldwide, and 11M in the UK alone).
LinkedIn has recently been rolling out various new updates to its look and the way that people can use it. Some are bad (in my opinion) such as getting rid of the Q&A section, which was a great resource for asking for help and advice from the business community.
Others are pretty good, such as being able to add videos and slideshows to your profile.
We touched on these, and more, at a recent LinkedIn workshop that I held. As a result, I was asked to do a Top Ten Tips for small businesses using LinkedIn. So here we go!
1. Use company pages: many small business owners have more than one ‘hat’ on at any time, with multiple businesses or business positions (such as non-exec roles) that they hold. Being able to cover the range of activity in a short descriptor on your profile or even in your summary section can be difficult. Instead, you can create a (free) company page for each of your companies and link to those, both in your summary and in your Work Experience sections. This lets you talk about the specifics of each business. You can then direct people towards the relevant Company page on your business cards rather than just to your personal profile
2. Be personal with your profile: too many people use their personal profile as a way to push their business. That’s not what it’s for. This is YOUR profile! The descriptor and Summary sections are the most important as these are what people see first. Write them from your own perspective. How do you approach business? What are your values? Why are you interesting? People buy from people. Your personal profile should refer to what you do, but it’s mostly about you and how you do it.
3. Smile. With tip number 2 in mind, make sure that your LinkedIn photo represents you in business. Again reflecting your approach. If you want to be seen as approachable, professional and capable, then a confident smiling photo with you in your business attire will convey that. If you have a picture of you from holiday chilling out with a cocktail by the pool, then it’s quite clear that that is what you’d rather be doing. I see a lot of people (unfortunately mostly females in marketing for some reason!) who put ‘sexy’ looking photos up there. Seriously. LinkedIn isn’t about your dating life, it’s about your business life. And frankly it doesn’t help the cause of female emancipation in the workplace.
4. Be specific about what you do: Focusing back on the company page now, there is a great tab called ‘Products & Services’. This is where you can add in (you’ve got it!) all services and/or products that you offer. Remember that people like to buy a distinct package rather than a vague service, as it’s easier for them to understand what they are getting. So ‘package’ up what you do, and add in a separate section for each product/service. You get to add in a photo for each, a pretty decent description, category words, a direct link to a contact at the company to speak to about that service, a website link AND a video! It’s more than most websites have about their offering, and it’s free. You can also add in beautiful graphic slideshows for your key offerings to visually show what you do/offer, which link directly to your URL of choice.
5. Target your offering: What most people don’t realise is that you can ensure that your products and services on show are displayed differently to different audiences. So, say you had a particular product that was very suited to the US market, but not any other region, or to a particular business sector. Via the Products & Services tab you can decide which products/services are seen, filtered by where the person is viewing the page. It’s a little difficult to cover on one little Tip, but it’s easy to play with as it’s right at the top of the Products & Services section when you go to edit the page.
6. Get your business recommended: Each product/service can be recommended separately. So once you have created your distinct offerings, go back to your current and previous customers, send them the specific link and ask them to recommend you. The more recommendations you have, the more clear it is how good you are at delivering a certain type of work.
7. Get graphic: LinkedIn used to be a very ‘wordy’ resource (and still is to a major extent) but they are adding in all sorts of ways to use images, video and other documents to liven it up. For instance they are rolling out the ability to add in videos and slideshows to your summary section (on your personal profile), as well as to each work experience section. So the Tip here? Get creative and start making short videos on what you do. The summary section in particular is a great place to do a 30-60 second intro to you and your approach to business. It gives people looking to connect with you an immediate first impression that YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF. Great if you are nervous about meeting people for the first time. Video itself can be scary, we understand that, but it’s the future, so get in now, get comfortable with it now and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
8. Show results: A tool that is not yet available on the company page, but is on your personal profile, is the ability to add in latest Projects. This is where you can talk about a recent job or customer, what you did and what the result was. You can also say how long it took and who worked with you on the project (a great way to show the strength of your team). The project title can link to any URL you like. In other words you can use it as a real time case study and PROOF on what you say you can do in your profile.
9. Show an interest: On your personal profile you can add in a range of interests. This is increasingly becoming a way that people ‘filter’ those that they want to connect with. A shared interest (fishing, reading, snowboarding, cars….) is a great ice breaker and it also gives a feel for the sort of person that you are. With that in mind, don’t try and be someone you’re not! Be honest about who you are and what your approach to life (and business) is and you’ll start to see more rewarding relationships forming.
10. Talk: This is the final tip (as it’s a top ten list!) but there are many more ways and ideas for using LinkedIn, from how you connect with new people to arranging meetings, and generally get business. The Tips in this blog have focused on how to best present and ‘broadcast’ yourself on LinkedIn. My final tip therefore turns this on its head. Once you are in the best possible ‘presentation level’ it’s time to get out there! Start connecting with relevant groups, choose 2 that you will actively contribute to. Start discussions, post updates (on both your company page and your personal profile). Comment on other people’s discussions. Start connecting with people who are in these groups, who have commented on your discussions who you find interesting. In other words get introduced and get talking. What’s the next step after that? It’s time to go retro. Yes, you have to take things offline and meet them in real life. This is when the real business starts. LinkedIn is great at getting you connected but don’t expect it to result in business deals immediately. Think of it as an introducer, where you’ve put yourself and your business across in the best possible way, creating an excellent ‘first’ impression before you even meet someone for a real life first impression. From there it’s down to you and your own business skills.
I hope these tips were useful! If you want to talk more about LinkedIn, or generally about how best to market yourself, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.chicho.co.uk. We also offer a full review of your current LinkedIn profile (and company page) for just £25+VAT.