LinkedIn isn’t just a powerful professional networking tool—when used correctly, it can help you exponentially increase your ability to generate business leads. After all, with nearly 150 million users (over 50 percent of which are business owners, managers, senior management and C-level executives), LinkedIn delivers a ready-made professional audience that you can tap into to further your business development.
A quick note? Before we dive in to how you can generate leads from LinkedIn, keep in mind that, as with other social networking platforms, one of the keys to LinkedIn success is to use the site often. I’ll talk about this more later, especially when it comes to your profile, but you’ll want to get yourself in the mindset to check in on and engage with LinkedIn on a daily basis, if not more often. Sure, it may be tough to find the time, but in my experience, diligent use of the site can pay off in a big way, an incentive that likely makes up for the investment of your time and resources.
Without further ado, let’s dive in to the 12 most effective ways to generate leads on LinkedIn.
1. Your profile
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Yet the profile is the core of your LinkedIn presence, and if it’s not up to par, you need to make time ASAP to refine and complete your profile. A common mistake is to treat it like a resume—don’t do it! Don’t be afraid to give an in-depth look at your current experience and career history. After all, you want to give other LinkedIn users a complete look at all you have to offer when it comes to a certain industry or skill-set. Think of your LinkedIn profile as a valuable piece of real estate—maximize the space you’ve got to get the best results. A couple of other tips? Use a professional-looking head shot as your profile image, crop it closely so someone looking at your profile can almost look you in the eyes and don’t speak about yourself in the third person.
Aside from your profile, your LinkedIn connections are one of the most important tools you can use. After all, the more connections you have, the wider your reach, and the more likely you are to be exposed to potential leads and business opportunities. Enter your email address if you want to let LinkedIn find users with whom you’ve already connected. Or look in categories such as current and previous employers, the college you attended or your geographic location to find connections. When you find someone with whom you want to connect, don’t just click send on LinkedIn’s default invitation – that’s the epitome of impersonal (not to mention lazy). Take a few minutes to write a brief message. Maybe you met this person at a conference or event, or know him or her through a past project. Remind this person of your connection and express your enthusiasm at the opportunity to stay in touch. Those little details can translate into a big first impression, and set the stage for future communication.
3. Share content
I mentioned earlier that one of the keys to LinkedIn is remaining visible and active. Think of LinkedIn as a fast-moving information stream. Every time you make a connection, edit your profile, post content or participate in a group, you (and your profile) show up in LinkedIn’s stream. This is a mini-marketing message to your connections and the fact that you’re visible and active on the platform lets them know you’re serious about LinkedIn and it’s power. An easy way to maximize visibility is to share content on a daily basis (or even more frequently, if you can.) You probably consume a lot of content throughout the day, so why not share what you’re reading with your connections? If you want to highlight your expertise or skills, stick to sharing information that aligns with a particular industry or subject matter, and take time to write a couple of sentences that detail your thoughts on the piece when you post.
One of the more overlooked features of LinkedIn is Answers. Just as you can post content to your profile to highlight your expertise, you can answer questions posed by other LinkedIn users. This is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge. You’ll also be communicating with people who are outside your immediate circle of connections, giving you the chance to expand your reach. How to do it? That’s simple. Just browse the current questions, whether you look at those posed by your network or narrow them down from one of LinkedIn’s recommended categories. When you find one that you can answer, go for it! You’ll help yourself emerge as a knowledgeable source in that field, which opens the door for others to contact you regarding prospective opportunities. Aim to allocate time to do this a few times a week and you’ll be amazed at the benefits you can reap.
If you haven’t already joined LinkedIn Groups, consider this your wake-up call. You can find groups for certain industries, schools, cities, interests and other criteria. Join the groups that look interesting to you and start participating – just like in real life. Imagine that. Weigh in on existing discussions or start your own. When you post content to your LinkedIn profile, you can also specify that the link be shared to certain groups, which is a great way to cross-post to several different areas at once. Think of groups as a smaller, more niche networking opportunity, but equally valuable in helping you maintain your LinkedIn visibility and demonstrate your expertise.
Here’s a novel idea—take some of your online interactions offline! Scan upcoming events in your area that are posted on LinkedIn to find potentially valuable networking opportunities. After all, as tempting as it is to conduct all of your interaction online, there’s an intrinsic value in meeting up with people face-to-face. Once you’ve established that initial bond, you can continue to build the relationship on sites like LinkedIn and will be top-of-mind if a new job, prospective client or other growth opportunity becomes available.
If you’re heading to a sales or other business meeting, it’s not a bad idea to spend a little bit of time doing some preliminary research. Look up the meeting attendees on LinkedIn to familiarize yourself with their backgrounds and work experience. You’ll also be able to see if you have any connections in common and, if so, can mention a mutual friend’s name as a conversation starter. Any time you can demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and have taken the time to get to know the people and the businesses with which you’re working, you make a far more effective impression.
8. Company page
Do you have a LinkedIn Company Page for your business? If not, set one up! This allows interested parties to get a snapshot of your business as well as your employees. And just as you post content links on your personal profile, you can post them on your business page, too — yet another way to establish yourself and your company as an expert in a particular industry. LinkedIn recently rolled out the ability for a company to post status updates and in our experience, this is a drastically under-used tool. Set up your page, make regular status updates – you’ll be amazed at how your brand presence on the platform might grow.
Applications are what I like to consider the “pimp my profile” part of LinkedIn. You can choose from a number of different apps to add features and personality to your profile. One of my favorites? SlideShare, which displays your presentations in your LinkedIn profile. I’ve landed several business leads from presentations alone, so the ability to publish your presentations so that they’re visible to your LinkedIn audience is a key tool when it comes to lead generation. We’re also big fans of feeding your corporate blog into your LinkedIn profile, which is another app and very easy to do. As you add apps, choose them with a discerning eye. You don’t want your profile to become too cluttered and hard to read. You may also want to consider installing the apps toward the bottom of your page so that your work experience, skills, recommendations and other pertinent information have a more premium placement on the page.
Speaking of recommendations, these are nifty tools that add a richer level of engagement to your LinkedIn profile. Don’t be afraid to approach current and previous colleagues and superiors and ask them to write a brief LinkedIn recommendation. You’ll want to be sure to return the favor, and you can also volunteer to write a recommendation for someone else, which will likely result in a reciprocal write-up. Recommendations are built-in testimonials, so the more you have, the more information someone can get about you, your work habits and your strengths, increasing the chance that a business prospect will approach you for an upcoming project or similar work. And you can’t get a recommendation unless you ask for one – so get going.
If your schedule is anything like mine, you’re constantly on the go—and you probably always have your phone in hand, right? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t maximize the LinkedIn mobile app to stay up-to-date with your profile and connections. LinkedIn has done quite a bit of work on the app over the last year, and I think this latest version is downright snazzy. What’s more? It’s convenient. You don’t necessarily have to be at your computer to update your profile, do a bit of research or find out what’s happening with your other connections. It all goes back to maintaining your visibility on the site, and the mobile app is a key tool when it comes to facilitating a steady stream of LinkedIn activity.
Now that you’ve put all of this hard work into creating your LinkedIn profile, building your connections and establishing a more robust presence on the site, it’s time to promote your efforts! Make it easy for people to find you on LinkedIn. Publish a link on your other social networking profiles, your website, your blog, your business cards, your email signature—wherever applicable. And if you write a blog that contains business-related content, make sure you’ve installed a LinkedIn sharing button so that others can more easily publish your information on their own profiles.
When it comes to generating business leads, it’s all about staying visible and increasing your reach, two fundamental components that can be achieved with LinkedIn. The site undoubtedly requires a time commitment – but so do any networking or new business development efforts. There’s no easy button when it comes to building credibility and a network. And, for us, LinkedIn is one of our number one sources of new business leads. I can assure you that your investment in the site is one of the better things you can do for your company or personal brand.
How else do you use LinkedIn to generate leads? Do you have trouble making it a part of your daily online routine, or as the site become a regular part of your digital marketing strategy? And if we’re not yet connected on LinkedIn, feel free to stalk me.
Featured image by Nan Palmero licensed via Creative Commons
Republished with permission, courtesy of 12 Most