7 Ways to use the Tools within the LinkedIn Toolbox

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I’m doing different workshops on Online Marketing and using Online Social Networks to grow your business and one of the consistent questions I get is “What can I do with an Online Social Network for my business?”

It’s a great question, and generally my response is another question – “What are you trying to do with your business…what is it that you need?  Customers? Partners? Employees?”

The deal with Online Social Networking sites, at least for business purposes, is that they are simply a tool.  If you use them in the right way, they can be a great asset to your marketing, sales or even customer service efforts (depending on your business).

But like that weed whip that hangs in my garage untouched because I don’t have a long enough cord for it, a online social network by itself doesn’t really do anything for you.  You have to have something you’re trying to achieve and then a way to use that tool to help deliver on that goal…if you’ve got that stuff in place, then you’ve got a tool that can really help you grow your business.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the types of things you could do with a tool like LinkedIn.

Connect

Connecting and building a network is kind of a precursor to most of the other activities (it’s kind of like adding gas to your lawnmower).  Having said that, connecting to your network – the people that you Know, Like and Trust has the inherent value of making that connection stronger.

It’s kind of a formal acknowledgement to the world that this is a person in your network that you would go to bat for and that you respect.  (On a side note, if you’re connected with people that don’t fit this definition, you might want to consider un-connecting).

Worst case, this becomes an online version of a rolodex that stays up to date as people move, change jobs, etc.

Be Introduced

This is an extremely powerful tool.  Imagine the feeling you get when you make a cold call to a prospective customer – even if you’re doing well, the chance for you to move that relationship forward is fairly small (that’s why cold calling is tough)!

However compare that situation to a friend introducing you to one of their friends – having someone that vouches for you and lets people know that you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it.

The odds of moving that opportunity forward to the next step in the process is very high, especially if you were smart about identifying your target market and you’re a great solution for what they need.  I’ll take a warm introduction over a cold call any day.

Find Information – Do Research

Sometimes you need to find specific companies or people that match your target market – i.e. all Chiropractors that also offer acupuncture that are within 10 miles of Overland Park.

Or what if you’re going to be meeting with a new contact, maybe it’s a prospect, maybe it’s a potential networking partner – wouldn’t you like to learn more background on that person, where they worked (and when), who you know that might know them, where they went to school, who recommended them and what they said, etc.

Finally, you might want to do a reference search on someone you’re hiring.  In LinkedIn you can enter in the company name and the years that they worked there to find people in your network that might have known the person you’re checking up on.

Be Found

LinkedIn has a really high Google Page Rank (8 out of 10 for the home page) which makes it a great link out to your website or blog (or other social networking site).

In addition, a decently written profile that’s been around for a while will almost always show up on the 1st page of Google when you search for your name.  But the really cool part is that you have complete control over how you write your summary and your profile and if you’re clever about it, you can also score well with specific search terms based on the keywords you put into your profile.  As an example – here’s the LinkedIn Profile for Webster Jorgensen who comes up on the first page in Google for a search on ‘Kansas City SEO’ which I assume is a fairly well contested keyword. 

Not only can you find his website (also on the first page), but also his LinkedIn profile. 

Be Credible

Credibility is one of those behind the scenes types of things that can really make or break you – even before you meet someone.  A tool like LinkedIn can really add to your credibility in a couple of key ways.

First you can add to your credibility by going out and Answering questions that are in your field.  If the person asking the question feels like you gave the best answer, you get a best answer designation and a virtual gold star.  Get a few of those gold stars and you start looking like a real expert…with a lot of credibility.

Secondly, the recommendations tool within LinkedIn is really powerful.  It’s not possible to edit a recommendation.  You can choose to show it or not show it, but they can’t be edited.  Which means that when you’re reading someone’s recommendations, that’s guaranteed to be something that someone else said – and in fact you can go check out the person that said it and see what kind of credibility they have!

Brand Yourself

Finally – LinkedIn is a great tool for allowing you to paint the picture of what you want to be – what you’re trying to achieve.  Because you have total control over your profile, you can let your personality and sense of humor shine through.  You can show what you’re interested in through groups, hobbies and associations that you list and through your interactions (questions you ask and answer).

Although LinkedIn can be an online resume, with some creativity and some focus you can make it into more of a sales and marketing tool for your business or your career – it doesn’t have to be just a listing of your experience.

Other?

What other ways can you think of to use LinkedIn?  I’m sure there are several other ways to advance your business that I didn’t mention – help me out by filling in what I missed.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

Shawn Kinkade     Kansas City Business Coach

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