Virtually all contemporary marketers understand the need and value of promoting businesses on social media. Oftentimes the challenge is how to get started. Getting started includes selecting which social network or networks are the best fit, specifically, which social networks are most relevant to your target niche.
If your marketing focus is on marketing to other businesses (B2B – business-to-business), then LinkedIn may very well be the way to go. Here are 5 Steps to Promoting Your Business on LinkedIn. Note that Facebook maybe more appropriate for B2C focused businesses.
While LinkedIn does not have even 20% of the audience size as Facebook, LinkedIn recently reach a significant milestone of 100 million LinkedIn Users registered users email notice of this fact to the first 1 million members. And while 100M is far less than the 600+ million registered users that Facebook boasts, as is often the case in marketing and advertising, less is more. In other words, many of the people on Facebook are teenagers, retirees and others not in market for your business services. Many Facebook users will not likely fit the target demographic for your business, message or offer, thus providing merit to promoting your business on LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook.
Mindset of the user is also important. When people are on Facebook, they are less likely to be thinking about business services to procure and more likely to be engaged with friends and family on a personal level. All of my interactions on LinkedIn are of a professional nature and most on Facebook, of a personal nature.
My first experience with LinkedIn began back in 2004 when a former project lead had sent me an invitation to join LinkedIn in what was positioned at that the time is an exclusive professional network. At the time, LinkedIn had less than 1 million users. Since then, LinkedIn has volved beyond a classic business networking tool or online resume/address book, to include features that enable companies to represent not only their own personal business experience, but also features and functions enabling them to promote their business on LinkedIn.
Here are a few tools and tips on how to get started promoting your business on LinkedIn:
Build a Business Profile on LinkedIn
Setting up a business profile is the first step in promoting your business on LinkedIn. In order to set up a business profile on LinkedIn, you must be a member of LinkedIn. This is a free and painless process much like signing up for a Facebook account. Once your professional profile is set up, then it’s possible to create a company page associated with that profile.
Though company pages were originally position by LinkedIn as a tool initialed designed to support HR hiring functions within a company promoting businesses to potential candidates, new features have grown the use of company pages well beyond that. These new features include providing key statistics about a company such as experience level, educational achievements and client recommendations and other key attributes that inform potential prospects buying process. Both prospects and candidates have the ability to follow a company during the recruitment or procurement process much like they would follow a company or user on Twitter.
Having a company page on LinkedIn can also have benefits from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective. This is a result of the LinkedIn.com domain having very strong authority with the search engines. Having a company page company page on LinkedIn enables you to provide a link or links back to your website or websites, thus providing the potential increased ranking of your website in relevant search results.
Stay Connect with new and past Key Contacts on LinkedIn
As the old business adage goes, it’s not what you know but who you know, and it seems that the further I journey into my career, the more those words ring true. With the advent of social networks, it has never been easier to stay connected with our professional contacts. Prior to the social networks, there were some contact management company such as Plaxo, Spoke and others that would enable you to manage your contacts online. The beauty of LinkedIn, by its very nature, incentivizes users to keep their LinkedIn profile, including contact information, up-to-date.
Why is this important? Because when you leave a company, it’s entirely possible that you would have all the up-to-date contacts of the people in that company the day you left. Over time, your Key contacts from that company will also move on to other opportunities requiring anybody who stays connected the individual to update their contact information. However, in LinkedIn, when that person moves on and they update their LinkedIn profile, you have now have the latest information without having to do anything.
Beyond direct connections, the value of LinkedIn as a networking tool is based on its users’ ability to leverage the contacts of your Key contacts based on how you’re connected in LinkedIn. So for instance, if you happen to be connected to a person from a previous job that understands your skills and work ethic, and their connected to the CEO of a company that you’re trying to establish contact with, not only can you see that within LinkedIn, you can use LinkedIn as a networking tool to begin establishing communication. In addition, by having that direct network connections, LinkedIn will give you visibility in terms of additional details of that individual and their company based on how you’re connected through your professional network. The more connected you are in an industry, the more visibility and access LinkedIn will grant you.
Join LinkedIn Groups that mirror your target market
One of the powerful features of LinkedIn is the ability to define and join LinkedIn Groups. Participation in a LinkedIn Groups is generally requires approval by the Group Owner or Group Administrator in the case that it’s not an open group. Whether or not a LinkedIn Group is open is based on the discretion of the Group Administrator. Groups tend to be comprised of individuals who are related based on some theme be it membership in an alumni organization, having worked the same company, based in same geography or just a special industry or business focus that’s common to all group members.
The key for successful business development through LinkedIn is to look for groups comprise of members that are like your target market. Unless you’re looking for partnership or recruitment opportunities, from a purse prospecting and business development standpoint, a common mistake is for new LinkedIn users to network to heavily within your own industry. Oftentimes people will join groups that are related to their industry based on a comfort level and an ability to demonstrate strong knowledge to their peers. However, unless you’re looking for potential partners or subcontractors or you are subcontractor yourself, then prospect opportunities may be limited.
A good way to find out which groups would be optimal to join our to look at your top five or ten prospects and see which groups members of that organization belong to. In this way, you can be sure that you’re in the right LinkedIn Groups (i.e. marketing venues) to come into direct contact with your target market.
Become part of the conversation in LinkedIn Groups you have joined
While joining groups on LinkedIn is a great way to promote your business, the act of being a member of a particular group alone is necessary yet not sufficient. It is also necessary to get involved in the conversations that take place within that group. This includes starting discussions or asking thought-provoking questions that can be used to engage your prospective clients.
Even more powerful than starting conversations or asking questions is actually answering questions. This gives you the opportunity to answer questions in a way that highlights your expertise and unique value. Since you joined groups populated by your target market, answering questions that are relevant to your target market in a short, concise and expert manner will position you and your business in a positive light to the very people that matter most to your business while delivering value ahead of a sale, which is key in today’s economic climate.
Participating in group conversations is a great way to meet and establish new contacts and network with potential clients. These discussions are e-mailed to the group distribution lists and can provide a great way for you to gain reach in demonstrating your expertise.
Solicit Recommendations from clients who use LinkedIn
LinkedIn got its start in 2004 based on a recommendation system. In fact, the original system was an exclusive invitation-only based system. To give context, take a look at my e-mail invitation from a former boss who was a real mover and shaker which created my original interest in LinkedIn (last name of my boss changed for privacy). As you can see from the invitation, at the time of during its formative years, access to LinkedIn was invitation only and based on professional recommendations.
While LinkedIn has a evolved greatly since 2004 and recommendations may have been superseded by Facebook-like status updates in LinkedIn with real-time Twitter integration (sounds sexy in a geeky kind of way), never under estimate the power of a professional recommendation, especially when given by somebody whose connected to high-value prospect. When looking to seal a deal, anyone in sales knows that a solid recommendation from someone your prospect knows is worth its weight in gold. If you have experienced this yet professionally, maybe after your first internship!
Since its sill very much a buyers in market, business in search of business service providers will often look to people they trust for recommendations based on their past successes. Assuming that you are able to garner positive recommendations based on clients who are also LinkedIn users, why not request that they provide you a recommendation on LinkedIn. By requesting recommendations from clients, it makes it easy for others in their network who are looking for similar business services to find out which vendors their contacts have had success with. Recommendations can also be used to get your business listed in the LinkedIn Service Provider directory relevant to your geography and discipline.