In my travels around LinkedIn I have noticed that many people are not clear on how to best utilize what, in my opinion, is the best social media platform available to businesses today. So I created this tutorial for you explaining how I am leveraging LinkedIn and what is working particularly well for me. There’s a lot here but if you blockout an hour or two and work through the steps, I think you’ll find it time well spent.
More than just a social media platform, LinkedIn is the largest professional network with millions of users around the world. Whether you are marketing to other businesses or straight to consumers, a solid LinkedIn strategy can help you meet your goals. Every time someone visits your LinkedIn profile is an opportunity for you to engage – for branding purposes, for lead generation, or to get an introduction.
That is, if you do it right.
Step 1 – Set clear goals
The first step is to have a clear understanding of what your your LinkedIn goals are:
- Do you want to cultivate relationships with your “2nd Customer” (people in complementary but not competitive services)? For example, if you are a behavioral therapist, consider connecting with speech therapists so that you can refer business to each other.
- Do you want to market your products or services? Have you developed a program to help IEP Teams, Service Providers and Parents coordinate calendars and share information? LinkedIn is a great way to connect with educators, advocates, and other agencies who would like to know what you have to offer.
- Boost credibility – As service providers, your prospective clients may Google you for information. Having a professional profile, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, in addition to your website will definitely help.
- Create an online presence – if you are just starting out and aren’t sure what you want your online presence to look like, then LinkedIn is a great place to start. For example, if I was just starting out as a Virtual Assistant today, I would begin with my LinkedIn profile. I’d use it to network, gain visibility in the search engines, build credibility and learn how other top VAs are marketing their services. Then I’d create my website.
- Do you want to increase search engine visibility? Google, in particular, loves LinkedIn profiles – so much so that they are often ranked higher than the general information sites, like whitepages.com that typically come up when you Google someone’s name.
Step 2 – Optimize your profile
The key here is to demonstrate who you are, who you help, and how you help them – in a reader friendly way that also uses your top keyword phrases
- Secure A Vanity URL
Your LinkedIn personal profile will have numbers after your name if you do not go in and reset this feature. A vanity URL not only looks cleaner and more professional, when people review your profile, but it’s crucial to locking in that 1st page listing on Google. Here is my URL as an example: linkedin.com/in/sandrapearson
To optimize your URL on LinkedIn, go into your profile and select “Edit Profile.” Then under “Find your URL” in the top area, hit the “Edit” link. If someone else has your name already, try using your name plus your business or occupation, i.e. susansmitthspeechtherapist
- Optimize these primary sections with your top keywords
- Title/Headline – don’t just keyword stuff this, make it readable by humans and search engine friendly.
- Experience – don’t go all the way back to your first babysitting job. A good rule of thumb is your current position and any past positions that relate to your current objectives (but no more than 3).
- Summary – Don’t be too formal but do be careful to use good grammar, spelling and punctuation. Make it “professionally conversational” (think business casual dress), like you are having a first meeting with a prospective client.
- Specialties – not only a great place to let people know more about what you offer but this section also helps people find you when they are using LinkedIn’s search function.
- Have a Call to Action – Invite them to your website or if you offer a free report, let them know about it.
- Website links
When you add your website(s), get more marketing mileage by using descriptive phrases. Select “Other,” from the dropdown menu to add your own description. You can describe the web links with search-rich phrases that you want to be searched and found on. You can also use more than one link to the same site. For example, I use my home page and my blog page. You can have up to three links and I suggest you use them all.
- Add your Twitter Account
When you update your status on LinkedIn, you can also update Twitter. To link your Twitter account, go to your profile, select edit profile and follow the steps to add your Twitter account(s).
- Add your blog
Your blog posts can also automatically post to your profile. This is a great way for your contacts to read your thought leadership posts and connect to your content. Click on “More” in the menu bar and go to Applications.
- Arrange the sections of your profile to showcase the items you want to highlight.
Go to the “X” box of a section. When you mouse over the X, it gives you the option to drag and drop areas.
- Add Video to Your Profile to introduce yourself and your services
There are two applications for adding video to your LinkedIn profile – the Google Presentations app and the SlideShare app. You can also use Box.net. This is the method I prefer; it just seems to be more reliable.
Note: You can find out more information on implementing these features in the LinkedIn help section.
Step 3 – Connections
The general consensus among LinkedIn experts seems to be to add everyone who asks. I don’t completely agree with this. Add everyone within reason. Take a look at their profile. Not everyone has put a lot of work into theirs and that’s OK, but is it at least professional? Are there misspellings and bad grammar? You are judged by the company you keep.
Also, beware of people who have 0 connections. OK, everyone has to start somewhere but often these are spam profiles. You can always check back and accept them later if they add some connections.
And jump in and invite connections yourself too. Don’t just sit in the corner and wait to be asked to dance. Under “Search” select people and enter the keyword phrases most likely to show the people you want to connect with. Take a look at their profiles and start connecting.
Tip: Don’t send the generic LinkedIn invitation. Personalize. If you saw their profile in your search results, say so. Say something like, “I saw your profile and I think we may be able to help each other. Let’s connect! Or if you see someone in a group who has shared some good tips, let them know that. Say, “The information you share in the Wonderful World of Widgets group has helped me to improve my sales efforts. I’d like to connect with you.”
Keep in mind that, like other social media platforms there is something to be said for quality over quantity. Then again, it’s not an either/or kinda thing. You can have both with just a little effort.
Step 4 – LinkedIn Groups
There are two ways to use Groups to expand your reach.
1. Leverage other people’s groups
You can be in 50 groups at a time. While this may seem like a lot, you can quickly find that you have reached your quota. So be selective and find groups where your audience hangs out (or people who connect to your audience).
Before you start to participate, carefully review the groups profile (under More) and the rules (in the upper left corner). Be sure to play by the rules and play nicely. For example, some groups are very tightly focused on their topic and don’t allow off topic discussions and promotions.
Once you are comfortable and you understand the personality of the group, start by participating in Discussions. Then as you become even more familiar with the group, start your own.
As you get to know people in the group, connect with them to grow your network.
2.Create your own group
You can own up to 10 but don’t just create them to have them. Be prepared to actively manage the group.
Being the owner of a group gives you authority and credibility as the Leader of the Tribe. It’s also a great way to build a community of like minded people that you can help and who can help each other.
I started my group, Online Marketing for Special Needs Services, because I wanted to merge my knowledge of Internet Marketing with my commitment to helping People with Special Needs and their Families. I had found through my site, Our Special Families Village, that many service providers wanted to offer information and services online but did not know how to go about doing it. This group offered the perfect opportunity to help them with information, find service providers with information I could share on my site and expose my services as a Virtual Assistant.
- Name your group using keywords that people are searching for, not your company name. For example, my group is Online Marketing for Special Needs Services, not ePro Virtual Assistance.
- Create your group (under groups in the menu bar) and fill out the form as completely as possible. Be sure to have a complete profile and rules ready.
- Create templates for your messages and enable auto-send.
- You might also consider having a special landing page on your site that welcomes your group members to your site. Consider offering a special report or ecourse just for them. Include the link in your welcome messages.
- You can email your group once per week. This is a good way to let members know of group happenings they may have missed. You can also promote your own services if they are of special interest to the group.
Step 5 – Advanced stuff
Check out the other applications available under the “More” button. Some popular ones include Events and Polls but my favorite is the Amazon Reading List. I am interested in sharing business related information with my contacts and group as well as demonstrating to prospective clients that I’m staying on top of the latest trends. Sharing the books I’m reading is a great way to do this.
Answers is another great way to demonstrate your knowledge and build credibility. You’ll find the link under the “More” button
- When you respond to an answer, share it publicly. This is not the place to sell but rather to inform and to build credibility.
- Follow up privately and add value to original answer. Again, don’t sell but if you have an article on your website or some other resource to share,then this is an appropriate place to share it.
A few words about the other pieces of the Social Media/Networking Puzzle
I have completely abandoned my ePro Virtual Assistance Facebook page. I have left it up, just to demonstrate my understanding of Facebook pages and there is a message there explaining my reasoning but that’s it. I do use Facebook for Our Special Families Village because my audience on that site is Special Needs Families and Facebook is where they hang out.
I do have Twitter accounts that my Facebook and LinkedIn updates, as well as my blog posts, are automatically posted to but I don’t “work” Twitter like I do LinkedIn for ePro and Facebook for the Village. And I’m not into Pinterest at all. I don’t think it’s necessary to everywhere all the time. I suppose it’s my quality vs quantity philosophy again!
How Do You Link In?
There are other things you can do on LinkedIn, like have a Company Page, but these are the ones I have found to be most effective. Have you found any other ways to work LinkedIn? Please share them in the comments.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please be sure to share them in the comments.
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