In my dealing with small business owners, and discussions about the marketing tools available to them, invariably LinkedIn comes up as a potentially powerful way of building connections and generating new business.
When asked if they have a LinkedIn account, most people proudly nod.
When asked if they use LinkedIn regularly, however, many start to look a little worried.
“I’m not really sure what to do with it?”
“Why would I connect with someone I don’t know?”
“I look at posts from others but am never really sure what I am supposed to post about”
“Isn’t it just Facebook for business?”
“I don’t want a job so what use is it to me?”
These are just some of the comments and views that I commonly come across.
LinkedIn is a complex tool and can be used for many different aspects of business including recruitment, research, reputation building and sales generation. For the purposes of this blog, I am focussing on one aspect of this, as a marketing tool for small businesses.
Why don’t people use it?
Not understanding how LinkedIn can be used to generate business for small businesses is one of the main barriers to engaging with it.
My tip … forget it being a social media platform and think of it as being business networking (just online)
So if you were going to a business networking event you would …
- Show up with a smile on your face and an open attitude to meeting new people
- Be prepared to let people know what you do, maybe what type of contacts or business you are looking for
- Ask questions of other people and find out about what they do
- Go in with a bag on your head so no one could see your face
- Refuse to shake their hand
- Sit in a corner and refuse to speak with anyone
- Turn up in your swimwear, wedding outfit, gym gear or arm in arm with your partner
You may laugh at these points, but if you have an incomplete profile with no picture, or an inappropriate picture, you are not doing yourself justice.
If you do not connect with people or post, comment and be active, you are invisible.
So what are the basics you should be doing?
Complete your profile
Make sure you have a good quality picture that is appropriate to your business. It doesn’t need to be a professional headshot but should be in focus and have you looking to camera and smiling. Avoid quirky, sultry or downright weird (save that for Facebook!)
Concentrate on your summary and your most recent and relevant roles. You don’t need detail about every job you have ever had, especially if you have quite a few years under your belt.
It’s not a CV, it is a piece of marketing copywriting. Don’t overstuff with jargon. It may be relevant to your industry but is it relevant to your potential customers? If it isn’t then make sure you use language that is appropriate to them.
Don’t be afraid to show your passion … after all that’s why you went into business and something you can demonstrate over your more corporate competitors.
Use the summary to tell people not only what you do but also why you do it. How you got to be what you are and your approach to your business. In a few sentences they need to feel that they have an understanding of the type of person you are and that makes you tick.
Do the basics
Make sure you have all the basics completed, including:
- Contact details
- Bespoke URL
- Relevant qualifications
Start to make connections
Without connections no one will see what you are posting. This is something people are often anxious about, once they get past the people they already know.
As a new business tool you should be thinking about connecting with people who fit your target audience profile. These could be decision makers or influencers. You should also consider connecting with your industry peers (to establish credibility) or other inlfuencers in your sector or region.
Don’t forget, like business networking, it isn’t just about making connections with the people you meet, it is also about gaining access to their network of connections. If your connection who has a lareg network shares or comments on your post it will spread to their network.
You will start to get invitations from people you don’t know and only you can decide if you want to connect with them. Have a strategy and a mental tick list you apply to the invitation. Go and check out their profile and if they don’t fit your list then ignore.
Start the conversation
The point of connection is the best time to start the conversation, and all meaningful relationships start with a conversation. Do not sell. Do not even promote your products or services.
Find some mutual ground.
Ask them questions.
Again, like networking, no-one likes the sharks who are just selling to the room.
People agonise about posting the perfectly crafted post, and although you need to ensure it is spelling error free and appropriate, you can get paralysed with indecision.
Start by liking and commenting on people’s posts. It could be something simple and supportive, or something of interest that is relevant to their post. Remember it is their post so don’t hijack it.
Don’t just post banal content for the sake of it. Make sure it is relevant.
If you have a blog on your website, you can also post as a LinkedIn article, which then appears on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform. If you post first on your blog and then in a few days you can copy as an article on Pulse. It is good practice to add to the bottom of the article something like ‘This post originally appeared on…” and a link to the blog article.
Two way conversation
Don’t just push messages out, but also get involved in posts and discussions, especially on groups you belong to.
Discussions are good but don’t get involved in a spat. It is tempting to be a keyboard warrior and thrust your opinion on a topic but this can often get taken the wrong way, especially if it is with someone you don’t actually know.
Play nice and if you are on receiving end of this then acknowledge the comment but take the conversation offline and reply by PM so your ‘ibely excahnge of views’ cannot be there for the world to see!
I hope this has given you some food for thought and confidence to start using this amazing marketing tool.
If you are looking for more in-depth LinkedIn training, we provide both 1-2-1, small group and workshop training, contact Alison Clynes on 01472 269 016