Believe it or not, LinkedIn can actually be a powerful marketing tool for your small business
LinkedIn isn’t just for job seekers anymore. But where do you and your business fit into the mix? As an entrepreneur, how do you get found and what are the best practices for updating your profile and communicating with other users? Can LinkedIn really help entreneurs find clients and get business?
Welcome to this month’s Mind Your Business partnership post, co-authored by yours truly, Cody McBurnett, along with executive career coach and LinkedIn expert Bryn Johnson of the Bryn Johnson Group. Together we are sharing on the ins-and-outs of using LinkedIn as a business owner.
Since marketing is all about getting your message in front of your ideal customers where they already are, LinkedIn is probably worth your time.
If your ideal customer is a professional, business owner, or decision maker for a larger organization, chances are they’re on LinkedIn.
If you’re a photographer, art and creative directors for publications you want to shoot for are on LinkedIn. If you’re an executive coach, well, executives are on LinkedIn. If you’re a brand identity designer, business owners are on LinkedIn.
The challenge is: How to identify your ideal prospects and collaborators on LinkedIn while simultaneously attracting people who you never knew were searching for you!
Context is key. Remember why everyone else is on LinkedIn and how it works for them.
When approaching LinkedIn Marketing, it is logical for you to think about why YOU are there. What YOU hope to gain. However, the key to a truly effective profile is to consider why the OTHERS you hope to connect with are on the site and then build around this context.
There are three primary categories (and probably a million subcategories) as to why your ideal customers and collaborators are using LinkedIn:
Active Seeker: These users are searching for something. A new position. A connection. A contractor or consultant. A specific type of service. An introduction. They will find you.
Passive Seeker: These users have a profile but are probably not on LinkedIn very often. They are not currently searching through the site for a new opportunity or a connection of some kind, but would entertain a conversation with you. You will find them.
Validation User: These users are coming to your profile because someone they trust referred you or perhaps the LinkedIn system recommended that you might be a solid connection for them based on their profile and LinkedIn activity. They come to your profile to learn more about you or to determine if you have mutual connections or common experiences (great material for small talk). They want to know if you are who they think you are and if you can be helpful to them.
LinkedIn Marketing: Make your profile work for your business with these quick marketing tips
If you do nothing else, focus on the executive summary at the top of your profile. It’s the first thing any person sees when clicking in and reviewing your profile, or even determining if they have interest in viewing your profile further. It also drives the secret, behind the scenes algorithms for the search feature used by general users and recruiters.
- Have a good profile picture. No, on second thought, have a great profile picture! A profile shot that reflects your brand personality. This photo is only you (no group shots) and more of a headshot than full body shot. Do you smile in your business dealings with clients? Then smile in that photo. If you are a more serious type and so is your business? Perhaps a more formal shot. But keep in mind that this is a current photo, not a super flattering photo from 10 years ago. Why? First of all, this is a reflection of your brand. It might cause someone to think, “if he/she can’t be honest about their photo, what else are they not honest about?” Plus, this little photo is used by connections all the time to find you at a conference or before your meeting in a coffee shop. Make it easy for them to locate you in a crowd.
- Make sure your headline is descriptive and using strong keywords (Executive Career Coach is much more effective than Owner). It does not need to be the same as your title of your current position (your company). Think about this: Your business card may say “Owner” or “Interior Design Specialist,” but the headline can say “Interior Design Consultant | Partnering with Emerging Brands | Reinventing Commercial Spaces”
- Upload a banner image to enhance the visual brand of your company. Tie it all together for the person viewing your profile. Make them want to learn more.
- Get 500+ connections. Why? Because 501 connections is the LinkedIn “magic” number and after 501 connections they stop displaying the actual number on your profile. To the person who does not know you yet, seeing that 500+ listed might imply that you are a business owner who has a large network and strong ties to the industry or community. Of course, you will not want to add people willy-nilly. Be deliberate, but be focused on reaching 500+.
- Make certain that your summary section is vibrant, full of personality and descriptive. Help the reader understand what you do, what the transformation is for the people who hire you, what your ideal client struggles with. This section can have personality and feel much more marketing-oriented than the summary of the typical job seeker. Please remember, when the executive summary section of your overall LinkedIn profile is viewed, only the first 2 to 3 lines of this summary section are visible until someone clicks through to see more. Make them count!
The executive summary is the most important section; However, updating “all the rest” of your LinkedIn profile will help set you apart even further. It is a robust site with many options. Here are a few hints on where to start:
- Your business should be listed first in “experience” because it will feed the executive summary at the top near your photo. Have a full, meaty description of your business and role with keywords for which the active LinkedIn users who need to find you will search. (think a hybrid of your About and Services pages). Load in your logo and/or link to your company page (Do you have a company page? That is entirely new conversation!)
- Education section warning. Know that the last educational experience you list is the one LinkedIn will pull into your executive summary. Therefore, if you have recent courses and certifications that you want listed on your profile but do not want them popping to the top of your executive summary, try mentioning them in your summary, filling in the certification section or mentioning them under Organizations.
- Upload media. LinkedIn has provided this remarkable opportunity for you to highlight your business. Consider a small portfolio to upload and showcase you and your services. Images of your finished product, publication mentions, video clips, photos of you speaking on a stage, etc. The options are endless, but be certain you choose selectively to enhance your overall story. What sample of media would it be great for someone to see when they click on your profile? This is not your website or a portfolio site in which someone can view all your work.
- Drop old jobs, groups, interests, skills and volunteer experiences. You’re not applying for a job. Consider who you are now and how your business is evolving. Retain only those prior roles, interests or experiences that further your brand story, validate you as a subject matter expert and will serve as a touchpoint for people who are connecting with you.
How To Get LinkedIn recommendations
When you run your own business, LinkedIn recommendations are less like the kind of recommendations you need to ask for when you’re applying a job and more like testimonials for your business, the kind you would share on your website.
While the LinkedIn interface gives you an automated option to select certain people and ask them to leave you a recommendation, please don’t do this; it puts people on the spot and is pretty damn annoying. If you do this and they do it for you anyway, chances are it won’t be as thoughtful as you’d like it to be.
Your best bet when getting any testimonial for your business is to make it as easy as possible on the person you’re asking; if you give them some suggestions, guidance, or questions to answer, they know what you’re looking for and you get the testimonial you want.
Assuming you have some testimonials already, for LinkedIn recommendations, start with the people who have already written a testimonial for you. Email them directly and make it as easy as possible for them to share their already-written testimonial for you on LinkedIn. To make that as easy as possible for you, here’s a template you can use to craft that ask:
Hi Client X,
I hope this finds you well. Thank you again for the thoughtful testimonial you wrote for me and my business. I so enjoyed our time working together and I’m so glad you feel the same way.
I’m working on updating my LinkedIn profile this week; if you have a moment today and wouldn’t mind, would you be willing to share your testimonial as a recommendation for me on LinkedIn?
I know your time is valuable, so to make it as easy as possible, I’ve included your original testimonial below, so all you have to do is follow this link (https://www.linkedin.com/recs/give) and paste it in and we’re all set.
If you have any trouble with this or questions for me, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and continued support.
YOUR RECOMMENDATION: “It is a rare thing nowadays to encounter a professional firm with the creativity and skill base that So-and-so possesses. Beyond that, from proposal to final product, she was extraordinarily detailed and professional. She listened well, understood what I was after both visually and functionally, and delivered it all on time! Terrific experience.”
The long game: Be active, give back, and interact
Once your profile is in ship-shape, stay on top of your business, LinkedIn style:
- Stay active: Aim to connect with someone, share an article or insight, “like” or comment on others’ posts or congratulate people in your network for a new position once a day. Add it to your calendar. Just five minutes a day consistently will make a huge impact in your visibility. Interact with (like, comment on, share) other people’s statuses
- Add LinkedIn to your social media sharing game: When you publish a new blog post or have an event coming up, share it on LinkedIn. Hint: Use photos in your posts and shares. Statistics show that they get more traction than those without photos.
- Recommend: Get in the habit of leaving un-prompted recommendations for people you have worked with or for. This is also a great way to reach out to a contact you haven’t seen in awhile and are hoping to reconnect with.
- Pay attention to your, like, “likes”: Like business pages of influencers, admired companies and brands, collaborators and clients. In addition, take a step back and review all your “likes” (listed under Interests) to be certain that in their entirety, they tell the story you want them to tell.
Follow these LinkedIn best practices around connections and privacy
Here are a few things to consider to really personalize your experience on LinkedIn:
- Personalize: When adding contacts, do this one at a time with a personal note. Period. Any other method, such a sending a LinkedIn-generated generic “please connect with me” note, will not be the least bit memorable. Why connect if you are not planning to be memorable?
- Be specific: The best personalized connection requests remind the person how you know them, where you met them, who recommended that you reach out to them, and why you are hoping to connect. This connection request (or the follow up once you are connected) should never sell them something or offer them something. These connections are about building a relationship so you can take this communication off-line for more meaningful connection.
- Have a plan: Create a strategy for your business around accepting connection requests. Some people only accept requests from people they know or people in their industry. Others say yes to everyone in their geographic region or people who seem like a logical possible customer, client or collaborator. Use your instincts. And remember that if you let someone in your network and they do not “behave,” you can always disconnect from them.
- Let it all hang out: Privacy (found in the Settings & Privacy section in your account): The fears of the job seekers do not apply here. You are a business owner. You are a public person running a business. No need to shield yourself or only allow connections to see you, your profile and your posts. It’s okay if someone sees that you were viewing their profile. Perhaps that will prompt them to view yours. Open your profile up to the world and watch the magic that happens when people you never knew find you.
- Make your big updates on the DL: The only time I would recommend that you might change your privacy is when you are implementing large-scale changes to your profile. Change “Sharing Profile Edits” to “No-Do not notify my network about changes to my profile.” Then change it back when your changes are completed.
- Be patient: Don’t be frustrated. Not everyone uses this site every day or even every week. Not everyone has notifications sent to their phone or email. Therefore, it might take them a while to respond to you if you send them a note or request through the Message or InMail function.
Go forth and get LINKED
As with all social media interaction, LinkedIn is a long-term commitment. Your connections on LinkedIn aren’t sheep-like “followers,” but (for the most part) real, professional connections you will maintain and nurture over time. Your profile is a representation of who you are not as a person, but as a professional. Following our guidance above will get you to a great point, but the rest, dear Linker, is up to you. Remember that the tool changes frequently, but your need for visibility and connection does not. So keep it up, roll LinkedIn into your social media strategy, and report back!