How to Use LinkedIn for Small Business Networking
Like every social media platform, LinkedIn has its own culture and purpose. Think of it like a business conference (to Facebook’s reunion-like atmosphere or Twitter’s house party). On LinkedIn, it is expected for you to talk about all things business whether it’s asking questions, sharing accomplishments or even a little bit of self-promotion.
And that’s what’s awesome about LinkedIn, people expect you to talk business. Just like at a networking event, they expect you to hand over your business card. So talking about your business is fine—it’s how you talk shop that matters. Because even though LinkedIn is poised for business, it’s still a social media platform. Emphasis on “social,” which always means emphasis on building relationships.
Here are a few tips to make sure you’re putting your best business face forward on LinkedIn.
Sell without sounding tacky.
LinkedIn is for business. People expect you to talk about business and aren’t offended when you talk about your business or product as long as you're tactful and offer value to whomever reads your posts and comments. Keep your customer at the center of your posts. Focus your conversations on how you solve problems rather than the products you’re selling. If you lead with value and benefit, then you’re always building a relationship and people will want to continue to talk with you. And that’s social gold.
Not sure how much you should be talking about your business? The 80/20 rule, where you post 80 percent about interesting topics, 20 percent actually related to your business and generating sales, has since become outdated. While this ratio has proven to work well for some businesses, always do what is best for your business in terms of posting.
Send a message when asking to connect with someone.
Building relationships starts with being human. Strangers are more apt to accept your connection request if you attach a note with your invite. This gives you a chance to build rapport when connecting with folks before selling or asking for a coffee. Just keep in mind not to come in with a hard sell - “Hi, are you interested in hearing how my business can help you?” The answer to that question will most always be, “No.”
Fill out your profile completely.
The more your profile is filled out, the more credible you appear online. You don’t have to fill out your profile like a resume, but the more relevant information you can share the more trustworthy you look. Talk about what you do as if you were describing your job to a friend one-on-one. Highlight your accomplishments. What do you want your connections to know about what you do?
Quick tip: add a link to your business website under Contact Info when editing your profile.
Use an up-to-date, professional profile photo.
Stop using your headshot from 10 years ago. You want connections to be able to recognize you at business and networking events. Plus, you’ll look more confident if you use a recent photo instead of using one that no longer looks like you. Need a new headshot? Ask a friend to assist or hire a professional photographer.
Keep your business at the top of your connections’ minds by creating and sharing content. You don’t have to be an award-winning author to create content on LinkedIn. Post updates about your company or share business events you attended. Bonus points if you write an article and share it on LinkedIn. Keep the stakes low and share what you know. Just make sure you spell check before publishing.
Quick tip: If you share articles or other user’s posts, add your own spin on the post, perhaps let folks know why you’re sharing it, what you like about the article or what you disagree with.
So here’s the deal about LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook’s algorithm, you don’t have to pay to make sure your connections see your posts. LinkedIn uses real humans to decide if posts should continue to be displayed in the newsfeed. You could post something and people will still be liking and commenting on it three days later. The more engaging or enticing your post is, the more people will comment or share, thus increasing your reach.
What is reach? It’s a measurement of how many people saw your post. You’ll notice at the bottom of your published post, there is a line that says “XX views of your post in the feed”. This is the number of people who actually saw your post. Want more people to see your posts? Tag your network (when relevant) or ask a question. The more open your post is for people to respond, the better.
Here’s the hierarchy of publishing content on LinkedIn on a scale of 1 being the least amount of effort and 5 being the most amount of effort (and potentially the biggest amount of engagement and reach).
1. Like your connections’ posts
2. Comment on someone’s post
3. Share a connection’s post with your own commentary
4. Publish a blog on LinkedIn
5. Upload your own video (LinkedIn is trying to compete against the other social giants in native video (that is, video posted directly to the website), so it’s giving BIG bonus points to uploaded videos.)
The main takeaway with being on LinkedIn is being authentic. Keep sharing and engaging with your connections on LinkedIn without sounding like a robot or that you only care about your business or yourself. People trust people. The more you are yourself on LinkedIn, the more people will tend to trust you and think of doing business with you in the future.
Need to take a refresher course on social media for your business?
Do you need to step up your marketing game? There are Resource Partners all across Missouri who are ready to help you. Head over to The Resource Navigator and select the area of assistance you need for a list of organizations near you.
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