Mention the phrase "social media" and most people automatically think of Facebook and Twitter. But to form lasting connections with clients, you’ll want to take a closer look at LinkedIn, a useful tool to make your business relationships more meaningful—and more profitable.
There are 90 million LinkedIn users worldwide, and one new user joins every second of every day. Unlike social media sites like Facebook, where many people use the site for entertainment, all LinkedIn users are business-minded. That means the connections you develop on LinkedIn are more likely to positively impact your business relationships.
An essential business resource
The key to making LinkedIn work for you is to use the site regularly. That means posting something, either an update or a question/answer, every seven days at a minimum. The more you use any social media site, the more Google’s algorithm will notice your regularity, and you’ll get a higher ranking with Google than you would otherwise. Additionally, the more you interact and post on LinkedIn, the more prominent you’ll become within your network—your name recognition will grow. Fortunately, staying active in LinkedIn and a regular user is simple when you understand how LinkedIn can benefit you professionally. Use the following ideas and suggestions to make the most of your LinkedIn account
• Show off your skills. It’s as easy to set up your profile in LinkedIn as it is in Facebook. Make sure your profile is well written and that it highlights what you currently do, what you have done, your strengths, your talents, your key attributes and your education. Be thorough and always make your profile public. Since your LinkedIn profile is essentially a dynamic mini-resume, keep it updated, tasteful and accurate at all times. Additionally, you have an opportunity to display recommendations. As a point of etiquette, when you ask someone to write a recommendation, you must reciprocate.
• Say something meaningful. By posting status updates that contain valuable content, you show your network that you are a team player and that you care about other people’s success. Share a best practice, announce a seminar/event you’ve been to or are going to, or give a quick tip. And always remember that what you post stays on the Internet forever. So if you wouldn’t want your comment on the front page of your local newspaper, don’t post it on LinkedIn.
• Uncover conversation starters. LinkedIn is a great place to get an inside glimpse of people. For example, you can look up potential clients on LinkedIn and see what kind of books they read, where they went to school and what their main interests are (based on the groups they belong to). This will provide you with more to talk about when you meet a potential client. Some estimates show that by using LinkedIn to research the people you plan to interact with, you can have a six-month head start on the relationship.
•Spot trends and hot topics. There’s an amazing amount of real-time information available on LinkedIn. By being a member of various groups that interest you, you can see what people are thinking on a certain topic by the questions they’re posting and the responses they’re getting. You use the information you discover in your business.
The missing link
Even though 82 percent of people use some kind of social media regularly, social media itself—including LinkedIn—is much like the Wild West. It’s not tame yet, and best practices are still being formed. With that said, if you’ve spent much of your time on other social media sites and feel they aren’t working for building professional relationships, then it’s time to give LinkedIn a try. The key to making LinkedIn work is to work it regularly. Commit to spending at least 30 minutes per day on it, posting your ideas in updates, asking and answering questions, participating in groups, and reaching out to potential connections. Yes, it’s one more thing to schedule in your calendar, but by building relationships and gaining new information on people and topics, it’s also something that can make your job easier and your company better positioned.
Jean Kelley is founder of Jean Kelley Leadership Alliance. Her faculty and trainers have helped more than 750,000 leaders and high potentials up their game at work in the U.S. and in Canada. For information on leadership programs and availability, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.jeankelley.com