LinkedIn is one of a number of online networking platforms. There is a misnomer that it is somehow not “social media” but a “business platform”. Spend ten minutes using it; you will soon see it is very much ‘business-themed Facebook’. As with other social platforms, to get something out of it, you have to use it in the right way; there any many people who waste countless hours using it in totally the wrong way.
What exactly is LinkedIn?
Up until 2016, LinkedIn was an independent business networking website, and then Microsoft decided to buy it. The reason for this was that it is the world’s biggest and most up-to-date business database, so this was almost certainly a strategic decision in the data war with the likes of Google and Facebook.
The great thing about LinkedIn, much like Facebook, is that the users do all of the work in keeping it updated and creating its content. I want to go straight back to my original comment where I referred to it as “business Facebook” because there are some fundamental principles you need to think about. Layout-wise, the format of LinkedIn is very similar to Facebook; you add ‘friends’ (connections), and your user-experience is a continuous feed of everything that every one of your connections has to say. There is also a one-to-one messaging tool like Facebook Messenger. That is it, in a nutshell.
What is LinkedIn used for?
The point of LinkedIn is that, unlike Facebook, most people are there for the same reason: To build awareness of their business and to find new customers. There are several ways you can do this, but, for simplicity, you should use it in two ways:
- To build awareness of your business and an audience of followers that can add value to your business.
- To research the organisations you want to work with and find out who the people are that you need to be speaking with.
- To connect with those people and get them into your sales pipeline.
Build awareness about your business.
You want to get your business noticed and talked about. Though you can use LinkedIn on a peer-to-peer basis, it works better if you have your own business area too. The way you do this on LinkedIn is to create a business page which is just like creating a page on Facebook.
Your aim is then to build the followers of that page, specifically relevant followers who can add value to your business: Potential customers, partners and talent you might wish to attract. What you should aim to do is regularly publish articles on your LinkedIn page that you believe would be of interest to your audience. These should be related to knowledge you have to share or about things that may be happening in your industry. Always make sure they are interesting and useful – avoid general stories of waffle at all costs.
When posting these articles, take the time to make them look presentable and then finish the text you have written by using hashtags (#) that denote not only the subject matter but also the people you think it will be of interest to. For example, when we create a case study about a recent marketing campaign for an engineering company, we used the hashtags #engineering and #engineeringmarketing, not just #marketing as that is primarily going to be looked at by people in marketing. You can use as many hashtags as you wish but should aim for 5-10 that mean the most. The hashtags will help people searching for content on LinkedIn to find your article.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Google indexes LinkedIn articles, so there is a chance that what you have written about may lead someone to find you in a Google search. Keep that in mind – always make them about something you want to be known for and make them useful!
Find the organisations and people you want to work with.
LinkedIn’s search tools are really powerful. The problem is, beyond the basics, you have to pay for them. Without getting into the different packages, if you can afford the Premium or Sales Navigator packages then pay for them as they will pay for themselves many times over. Take some time to explore how the search and filter functions work because you can create very precise searches by industry, job title and location among various other criteria. For example, managing directors of software companies in Milton Keynes.
Initially, you may want to search for an organisation and then find out who your best contacts would be and reach out to them. Not many people realise, but you can also search the entirety of what people have posted, so you can search for people asking for recommendations about what you offer.
To do this, enter “recommend [your service]” then select More > Content from the menu bar.
As if by magic, up pops all of the posts from people asking for recommendations about what you offer and you can sort and filter them by date and location! Very powerful stuff. Of course, you then want to connect with those people and message them.
Now, it is not quite as simple as being able to connect with and message anyone you like. That would be far too easy! You cannot message someone until you have connected with them and you cannot connect with someone unless:
A) you have their email address
B) you share another connection with them to the third degree (you are connected to someone who is connected to someone who is connected to them).
With that in mind, you want to try and build as many connections as you possibly can because the more connections you have, the more connections you can make.
Under the Premium and Sales Navigator packages, you can still message people using InMail credits regardless of whether or not you are connected to them. These are, however, very limited (10-20 per month) so they have to be used very sparingly.
Connect with people and getting selling to them.
Once you have identified some people you want to get talking and have connected with them, you need to start selling to them. The two golden rules with messaging connections on LinkedIn is KEEP IT TO THE POINT and DO NOT RUSH THE SALE. I recommend the following process as it works very well for us at TFA:
- Message (InMail) them with a quick thank you for connecting and put a link to your website, underneath your name at the bottom, to provoke their curiosity.
- Follow this up after a week with an outline introduction about what you do and ask if they may have some interest. A paragraph is plenty.
- If they respond and express some interest, find out more about their business and then message them again after another week with a more tailored message about how you think you can help them and ask for a 5-minute call.
- Repeat 3 until you get somewhere no more than once per month but vary your angle every time.
There are some good tools on Sales Navigator, which is effectively a separate app/website to LinkedIn, that enable you to create lists of leads for better targeting. You can create target lists for sectors of common interest or even for which stage they are at in your sales process – a proper sales funnel.
As always, there is so much more to cover but there should be some real nuggets in here to get you started. Give it a go and you will find very quickly that, with the softly softly approach, you start to engage in some solid business conversations that can eventually outgrow LinkedIn and become real-world prospects for you.
If you need any advice or help with your marketing strategy, website or require creative support, please contact me at darren@firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on our contact page, click here.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine