If you’ve been convinced that LinkedIn is only useful to major corporations, jobseeking students or boring intellectuals, then I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Sorry!
Read on to find out how to use LinkedIn for your business – If you’ve been avoiding it so far then I can guarantee that you’ve been missing out.
Who is Using LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is, in my opinion, a thoroughly undervalued social media platform.
It boasts, 675 million users, including 90 million senior-level influencers and 63 million users who are responsible for important decisions within their company.
In contrast to the perspective of LinkedIn as being for highly experienced, insitutionalised or senior-level individuals; the platform is gaining an audience among younger generations, with 87 million millennial users, 11 million of whom are in decision-making positions.
LinkedIn may not seem fashionable, but it is a growing space for fresh conversation, fresh collaboration and fresh opportunity.
LinkedIn is designed for people to do business, which is to your advantage as it means that users are actively seeking business services or professional connections, rather than quickly scrolling through their feed on the lookout for cute cats or pretty sunsets.
So, how can you use LinkedIn for your business?
Keep on reading to discover new ways to build your authority in your industry, generate leads through inbound and outbound marketing, connect with potential stockists and suppliers, or seek the extra assistance your business needs to get on its feet.
Using LinkedIn to Build Your Authority
The first step to success on LinkedIn is to have a fully optimised personal profile.
With a professional looking headshot and cover photo, plus a snappy headline explaining what you provide to your customers, you’ll quickly catch the eyes of potential prospects.
By adding a beautifully written summary, which allows 2600 characters (far more than your Instagram bio!), your featured online presence (which allows you to link multiple websites, blog posts, documents etc.), your experience, your skills and some recommendations from others, you can highlight all your best selling points in one familiarly formatted profile.
LinkedIn allows you to provide far more information about your entrepreneurial journey than any other social media site, making it easier for people to gain interest in your work without having to leave the platform they’re using.
Any LinkedIn user with a completed personal profile has the option to create a company page.
A company page is set up much like a personal profile, but you’ll want your bio and summary to explain what your business does, rather than what you do.
A company page also allows you to add a logo and expand on the journey of your business. This is also an advantage on your personal profile, where you can add yourself as the owner of your business and your logo will appear next to the listing rather than a dubious blank square.
Building your profiles is a first step in building your brand and establishing your authority on LinkedIn. From there, you can develop a content strategy which will allow you to truly shine and start generating quality leads for your business.
Using LinkedIn for Inbound Marketing
Content marketing is a great way to generate inbound leads for your business.
Going into depth on content marketing strategy would require a whole other blog post, but your LinkedIn content strategy doesn’t have to be all that different from that on other platforms.
Its easy to misconceive LinkedIn as a soulless, corporate platform, but you need to remember that the individuals viewing your content are just people – as on any other platform.
The guiding principles for content strategy are the same, in that you have to provide value, display your authority, engage your audience and show them how you can solve their problems.
Content marketing on LinkedIn is beneficial for a number of reasons.
This means there is less competition for your content to be viewed than on other social media platforms where your post may disappear by the time you refresh the page.
LinkedIn is also somewhat unique in that, providing your profile is set to public, it displays your content to not just your network, but also to the people in your network’s networks (note: that’s a lot of networks!).
The LinkedIn algorithm is based on their motivation to keep people active on the platform itself. This means you need to introduce a few little tricks to your content marketing.
For example, if you’re planning to share a blog post then what you write on LinkedIn should be a brief introduction (ideally with a feature image) with a note to say you’ll leave a link to the full post in the comments.
Although this is a little extra work for your audience, it prevents your content from being suppressed by LinkedIn.
Similarly, if you plan to post a video (which are currently ranking highly on LinkedIn for their superior marketing potential), then rather than share a link to a clip on Youtube, you should upload your video organically to LinkedIn to receive its preferential ranking.
You can use hashtags on your LinkedIn content to increase your likelihood of coming up in searches. LinkedIn posts tend to be more restrained in hashtag use than those on other platforms, with best practice being to use just two to four highly relevant keywords.
LinkedIn’s algorithm also values engagement, much the same as other social media platforms. By providing valuable content, you increase your likelihood of getting shares and likes, but another tip is to ask questions or opinions of your audience to encourage comments.
Keep an eye on what types of content your connections are engaging most with, and adapt your strategy to keep up.
Through your company page, you have access to a special feature of LinkedIn which allows you to look up the type of content that is typically performing best in a current moment, and you can even filter this to your industry to avoid missing out on key trends.
By producing valuable content which reaches many sets of eyes and gets them started out in interacting with you, you’ll easily start to draw new leads to your business.
Using LinkedIn for Outbound Marketing
Another way to generate leads through LinkedIn is through outbound marketing.
The search function on LinkedIn and the large variety of filters you can apply will be your best friend.Your target audience is at your fingertips and you can be creative in how you find them.
You can search keywords related to the group you serve, and filter to people or companies in that arena. You can further filter by location, company size, position held and several other pieces of information that will help you reach your ultimate customer.
From here, you can begin to reach out, by following or connecting with potential prospects. You’ll be able to gain information from their profile that you can use to personalise the initial message you send to them.
For example, you could point to a recent problem you can see they’ve experienced, even by visiting their company’s website and noting where they could make improvements. You could get an idea of their likes and dislikes, their values and their protocols, and base your message on why you’re the perfect fit for them.
As with any other sales pitch, you’ll want to take it easy and be helpful, genuine, and to the point.
With this approach, combined with the optimised searching available on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to foster new relationships with potential leads and start gaining clients or customers for your business.
Hubspot, a leading marketing software company, have conducted research which found LinkedIn to be an incredible 277% more effective in generating leads than either Facebook or Twitter. Is that a difference your business can afford to make?
Using LinkedIn to Find Stockists or Suppliers
The information and search features on LinkedIn are unlike those on any other major social media platforms when it comes to wrangling your products into sizable markets.
If there’s a store you long to see your products in or maybe a restaurant chain you dream of delighting with your ingredients, then LinkedIn might just be your way in.
With its search features, you can easily find the company page of your dream stockist.
Once on their page, visit the menu on the left hand side, click to ‘people’ where you can search by keyword and discover the person, or people, who are going to help you realise your vision.
You could search by position, using terms like ‘buyer’, for example, or perhaps look for those in your area or who studied at the same school as you.
If the company is particularly established and notoriously difficult to enter, it is worth seeking connection with a buyer specialised in your product category (this will usually be displayed in their title), or perhaps beginning by reaching out to those on a more junior level.
This increases your chances of getting a response, as a mid-level buyer is likely to be excited by your proposal, keen to make their own name in the company by bringing in fresh new products. Meanwhile, someone in a top-tier role is likely to be overwhelmed by the many ideas they receive, leaving you at risk of having your efforts ignored alongside a mound of others.
Learn more about them by visiting their profile, then, depending on your confidence and the individual’s authority, you could either drop them a friendly message to get the conversation started, or you could begin what I (perhaps insensitively) refer to as the LinkedIn ‘grooming’ process.
Start with a follow, occasionally like their posts, add a couple of comments. Then test the waters by sending a connection request, always being sure to add a friendly, personalised note complete with those magic words: “would love to connect”.
If they accept you then its time to send that initial message. You don’t want to go in too strong too soon, you want to keep it light, friendly and relevant to them.
Mention something you’ve seen on their profile, or something you might have in common. Give a little introduction before signing off with a small call to action which explains what you hope to get from them next – perhaps a call, a chat over coffee or even a simple ‘I hope to hear from you soon’.
If you’ve not got a particular stockist in mind, you can still use this approach with a few changes to your searching method.
You could simply type the word ‘buyer’ into LinkedIn’s main search box, create an initial filter to ‘people’ then customise as works for you by industry, location and more.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a supplier you could type ‘whatever you’re looking for supplier’, with an initial filter to the ‘companies’ section before customising your search and browsing for options which meet your needs.
Using LinkedIn to Seek Assistance
Whether you’re just starting out in business or are further down the line, there are plenty of services that might be useful to you. For example, you might be seeking a mentor, a coach, a web developer, an accountant, legal assistance etc.
You can find all of these things, and more, on LinkedIn simply by using the search function. You can use filters to discover options in your area, or tailor by other needs you may have. You can then start browsing companies or individuals who may be able to solve your problems.
The benefits of doing this on LinkedIn rather than through a search engine are numerous.
For one thing, you can view a wealth of information, including experience, qualifications and testimonials, on one simple profile.
For another, you can easily compare a multitude of options without leaving the LinkedIn platform, which will keep your external browsing free from the overwhelming number of ads for similar providers that would show if you’d been on a Google spree.
Finally, given that LinkedIn is a purpose-built networking platform, you can start engaging with those who can assist you before you reach out to them which allows you to a) learn more about them, their approach and their values and b) build strong relationships which may encourage them to serve you better when you do start working together.
Another way to seek help through LinkedIn is to find employees or interns.
I’ve tacked this last bit on as my own personal perspective on a struggle a friend of mine was facing.
This friend is a small business owner who has been absolutely smashing it recently, and is now at the stage where she could use some help in keeping on top of all her amazing progress but doesn’t yet have the budget to take on any employees.
On suggestion that she advertise an internship on LinkedIn, she found herself in an ethical dilemma over unpaid internships. These are my thoughts on the matter.
For the many, many entry-level jobseekers out there on LinkedIn, internship opportunities are valuable for reasons other than a stable income.
Getting a first job in your dream career can be extremely difficult, particularly in recent circumstances.
The opportunity to gain work experience, master new skills, and claim credibility is of huge importance to those who are struggling to climb the first rung of their chosen career ladder.
If you need help in your business but squirm at the thought of recruiting on a voluntary basis, then LinkedIn really is the place to find people who are actively looking for, and appreciative of, the opportunity.
LinkedIn allows you to write a lengthy description, in which you can make it entirely clear that the position is unpaid. In doing this, you aren’t forcing anyone into unpaid work, it is ultimately their decision as to whether they apply.
If they see enough value in your offer to apply, knowing that they will not be paid, then that is their prerogative and you should feel proud, rather than guilty, for providing them with that value.
I will note that when taking on an intern in this way, you should consider what you can offer them, and you should stay true to your word. Give them the experience they want, the reference they’re seeking and you can get yourself a win-win situation.
Someone coming across your LinkedIn job offer is likely to be a regular user of the platform and consider it crucial to their network and future employment.
There are several easy ways for you to show your gratitude and provide them value, from a simple connection to endorsing their listed skills. Provided you’ve set up your company’s profile, they’ll be able to list their experience with you in a credible way that avoids having to reassure future interviewers that you exist.
In this way, LinkedIn allows you to find the assistance your business needs while remaining transparent, ethical and ultimately beneficial to those otherwise struggling in the harsh battle for employment.