There are no shortage of “top tip” type posts extolling the virtues of marketing you or your business on social media platforms. Many offer useful practical advice and are indeed helpful whilst others appear to offer nothing other than the basic, obvious and on occasion not all together accurate nuggets.
In this latest post I’m sharing my advice for busy professionals who are already on LinkedIn but have yet to enjoy positive engagement or would like to improve on the current level of activity.
Before I begin there is the all-important question, why bother with LinkedIn? I’m not going to assume that you’re already a fan of the platform and just raring to go. You might be rather cynical and need to be convinced of LinkedIn’s worth or have adopted a more passive relationship with the site. Alternatively you might be super keen but as yet just not “cracked the code” and finding a lack of solid engagement frustrating.
In the current connected world we live in it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time and space to develop new business opportunities, make new contacts and re-introduce yourself to old acquaintances. We need to make use of tools that help organise our lives and for me there are few better than LinkedIn. It provides a five star Rolodex, virtual environment connecting you to a world of opportunity. The beauty of LinkedIn is that it is very likely those companies and decision makers you want to stay in touch with are already using the site.
OK, you get it, everyone’s gathered in this global networking thing and you should get more involved…but how? You’ve connected with people you work with, clients, university chums and a few professional contacts you picked out of your e-mail address book. You’ve liked a couple of posts and updated your profile, even changed the picture. What you’re struggling with is the “next step”. You see a number of regular contributors and they seem to spend a great deal of time pushing theirs and others content, but you don’t know if it’s generating anything for them other than the obvious recognition they get.
The truth is there is no set rule or winning formula to create a stream of new business opportunities. If anyone suggests this they’re over promising and very likely you’ll quickly become frustrated at the results…or lack of them.
For me the key is in identifying the business development methods that work for your organisation offline and adopting a similar approach online. For example if you work in professional services it’s unlikely that bombarding prospective clients with sales messages will do it for you. Delivering useful information via seminars and following up on enquiries generated as a result would be one example more suited to the sector. In this example you can use LinkedIn to post content reflecting your particular expertise and encourage engagement through comments to start a conversation.
I would also strongly encourage you to have a plan for your online activities and set a target for creating new business opportunities. This will help to retain a focus on why you would invest time online and avoid time stealing distractions that don’t move you toward your goals.
Before posting any content it’s worth reviewing your profile and making sure that it accurately reflects how you wish to be seen. Often we focus on job titles and our internal corporate terminology to describe a role but it might not be clear to others exactly what you do. Create your own elevator pitch that clearly explains who you are and what makes you somebody that others would want to connect with. There’s no harm in checking out other profiles and adapting elements you like into your own if it’s an aspect that you’ve previously struggled with.
When you started on LinkedIn you probably, like me, got terribly excited and started joining dozens of groups. The fact is we don’t always have the time to give to all the groups and over time you’ve realised they’re also not very active. Give your groups a refresh, be ruthless and stick to those where you feel you’ll have the best possibility of engaging with potential new clients/ customers or those who’ll refer you to others.
Groups offer an opportunity to join a conversation on topical issues that affect a sector or service you have an interest in. Try and avoid joining groups that you feel comfortable in because they’re populated by others who are in a very similar line to you. Ask the question “What will this group bring to my business?” If there isn’t a clear answer don’t join.
We all have connections in our network who are prolific bloggers, some offering very useful and reliable quality content, but it is hard to keep to this standard if you set out to post every day. You should consider posting your own content but keep it to topics that are relevant to your area of expertise and provide helpful insights for your network. It could be once a week, twice a month or once a quarter but if frequency is low, step up the conversations you participate in with your target groups.
Posting from LinkedIn, rather than placing a link to external content offers your best opportunity for engagement. It is easy to draft your copy in an external document, proof read it and then copy and paste into LinkedIn. To access this function you need to be in the “Home” section of LinkedIn and click on the “Publish a Post” option. There are also options here to “upload a picture” and “share an update” the latter typically involves content from other sources such as your own website or news channels.
The biggest obstacle that many busy professionals face is time or rather a lack of it. To make LinkedIn work for you it’s a good idea to set yourself a plan of checking in with the site twice a day and having e-mail notifications set to let you know of your group or post activity. Set yourself a target of post frequency and keep an eye out for inspiration from news items, articles and events. Overall it’s better if you can get into a routine of using social media sites to support rather than interfere with your working day. By being organised and structured in your approach you will be more discriminating in the content that you consume and create.
Key Points – Quick recap
Review your profile and view it as if you are a potential client/ customer. Take time to look at a variety of profiles and adopt ideas that would work for you.
Consider the précis “elevator pitch” for your profile.
How do you generate new business offline? Consider how you would adapt this approach on-line and set a plan and target in generating interactions and new business opportunities. Include in this plan the time that you will invest and frequency of posting your own original content.
Review your groups and concentrate on those that offer opportunities to engage with prospective customers.
Keep a journal of interesting news, articles and items that will provide the inspiration for your posts.
“Publish a Post” of your own original content on LinkedIn rather than uploading hyper-links from external websites. Remember this is distinct from the “share an update” option which will often involve posting external links and is a great way to bring your connections to your website or share the content of others in your network.
Remember to carefully proof read your post before publishing, a second pair of eyes can be invaluable.
The above is obviously not a definitive guide to using LinkedIn but provides guidance that should help improve your engagement and ideally grow your confidence in using the world’s largest professional networking site.