Five ways to use LinkedIn better

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 22/04/2013
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Gary Venn
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LinkedIn is everything from a virtual meeting space to a digital CV, but are you getting the most out of it? Here are five tips for using it better.

1. First impressions count

If you’re using LinkedIn as it was meant to be used — to extend your network — then there is a good chance you’ll be introducing yourself to people you have met briefly or not at all.

Even if they’ve left a lasting impression on you, people may not remember exactly who you are, so give them some clues, says social media lead generation expert Tom Skotidas.

“I would always seek context [for an introduction], for example finding people in common, or maybe find that I’ve worked with the same company in a different place. I’m not asking for a lead or a sale, I’m not asking you to buy anything, I’m actually asking you to network with me in the context of environmental clues that give you safety.”

Your first connection request may not get an equally enthusiastic response, but it will increase your chances of getting the connection. Breaking the ice is the hardest part.

2. It’s a popularity contest

The founder of internet company Orcon, Seeby Woodhouse, uses the CardMunch iPhone app. He snaps a smartphone photo of each business card he receives and LinkedIn transfers the contact to his address book and connects him with the contact on LinkedIn.

Woodhouse says he respectfully gives the card back, so it not only saves him time and Rolodex space, but also saves trees.

The big plus with using LinkedIn to keep in touch with colleagues and clients is people are actively updating their contact information as they change roles, so you’ll never get left behind.

Woodhouse puts his database to good use by sending mass InMails (LinkedIn’s internal messaging) to most of his contacts about once a year.

He doesn’t think it comes off as spam. “When I launched my new business, Voyager, I probably picked up between 50 and 100 customers, which is probably 3% of my LinkedIn database ... it was a good start to get a customer base up and running.”

3. Personal branding

Don’t be afraid to pimp your profile — LinkedIn is all about you, not your company or your boss. Think of it as an opportunity to detail the intricacies and highlights of your career that you’re a little shy to bang on about in person.

Providing that detail upfront will show your connections how you differ from their existing supplier, account manager or promotion prospect.

Starting from this personal basis means LinkedIn is much more suited to the growth of personal brands rather than any rigid, company-wide marketing policy, says Skotidas.

“The platform is not actually built for companies that much — companies can participate and build company pages and use advertising and there’s value there, but the majority of the platform is person-to-person based.

“It forces you as a company to push your salespeople and other executives onto this network and allows you to connect person to person and influence the market in your favour.”

Open and genuine content sharing is key to using any social network — if you’re incessantly regurgitating the company dogma or posting about things you have no passion for, it will become obvious.

The content you’re linking to should reflect your individual interests and expertise because then you’ll be able to contribute knowledgeably to discussions that spring from them.

4. Personal pulpit?

Sharing is what it’s all about, but Twitter and Facebook are better forums for pictures of your kids and cats, or venting political views.

Don’t alienate LinkedIn contacts by expressing personal opinions, unless that’s your profession.

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Ashley Church is trying to find the delicate balance between his “centre-right” ex-local body politician persona and his cross-spectrum, business friendly role with the association.

Church says he has changed his approach recently, but at the time of writing was still vocal in support of state asset sales and tax breaks for foreign film companies.
 
“Before my own opinion came through quite strongly - and it still does - but now I’m a bit more circumspect about what I say about particular things,” says Church.

The Newmarket Business Association LinkedIn page doesn’t carry personal opinions, but he still has to be aware that some people equate his personal opinions with those the organisation might hold.

If you’re not going to contribute and converse, there’s little to be gained from social networking, no matter what you’re trying to achieve.

5. Sell, but don’t “sell”

You should recognise people, share advice, comment and engage with others in your network, says digital marketing strategist Justin Flitter.

“Recommend your colleagues and be sure to add projects and people you have worked with — the more value you add, the more you include your network and the more you will get back out of it further down the line.”

LinkedIn is becoming more useful for sales people who are able to engage with potential customers online using all of the techniques above, but there’s one golden rule, says Skotidas.

“Just never sell,” he says, referring to the annoyance of overt selling in comparison to Flitter’s suggestion of genuine engagement and interest.

It’s a delicate balance, just like in any medium, but one that good salespeople will strike and eventually succeed with.

Spamming your contacts with job or product offers is never attractive and will result in social media marginalisation.

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