You might have heard about a little website called LinkedIn. Many people (and by "many" I mean millions: 467 to be exact...) use it as a digital CV of sorts, crafting an online persona to put forward in a prospective job search. And that's it. They use LinkedIn only when applying for a new job, dusting off the digital cobwebs before they click "apply".
But what if you're not looking for a job? What if you're totally happy doing your thing, running your own business? What if you just want to network with like-minded people? Is LinkedIn pretty much defunct in your case? Not at all. And I'll tell you why.
As I mentioned above, there are now over 467 million people using LinkedIn. That's a stunning amount of people - it's more than the entire population of the United States, and then some. That amounts to over 467 million opportunities to connect with people who might be able to help you in some way: whether its mentor you through your business journey, become a customer one day, businesses that could become suppliers of yours, or even help you sell your goods to other people. If you're not on LinkedIn (or considering using it), that's a biiiig audience you're cutting out of your marketing strategy.
What is your networking goal? What do you want to get out of it? Exposure in magazines? Find a business coach? Recruit people to your team? Define your strategy and use that to focus your activities on this platform.
Your bio needs to be bang on: giving people an intro into who you are and what you do, in such a way that they can't help but get in touch with you. Your profile pic needs be a photograph of you: warm, inviting and professional. What do I mean by that? No pics from a drunken night out with the girls. No bikini-clad holidays to Fiji (unless you sell bikini-clad holidays to Fiji...). Just a pic of you, doing you. Have a link to your website and a stand out summary line that let's a reader know within seconds if you're what they've been looking for. Make it interesting and arresting: stop them in their tracks so they don't scroll away from you. Also include your education history: why? Even though it's less about education these days and more about experience and ability, some industries and users might still peg education at the top of their networking list. Who knows, the person looking at your profile might be more inclined to get in touch if you share the same alma mater.
Once you have your bio set up and a bit of housecleaning done on your profile, look at ways to expand your network. Start by looking at any 2nd and 3rd degree contacts (i.e. connections that your current network has, but you don't) to see who would be a good fit for you. Then work your way out of this circle. Look at demographics like age / location / gender etc: in some cases, demographics will be key to the success of your networking (e.g. if you sell baby products at markets, search for women living in or around your town). Spend a bit of time daily or weekly adding people to your network. Aim to do a bit of routine maintenance on your list of connections so it stays up to date and relevant.
You'll also need to decide on what you want to achieve out of your networking - what is your ultimate strategy? Do you want to get featured by a magazine or publication, for example? The LinkedIn platform is a great way to find out more about the people that work at a particular organisation, so do a bit of digging and find journalists or content creators there who you can connect with.
Aim to have over 150 connections: it works similar to Likes / Followers on Facebook and Instagram.
Publish articles and any of your blog posts that will help your audience (1) understand you and your values (2) position you as an expert in your field (3) create a bit of talkability so that they feel inclined to share your content with their network. I find using hashtags on LinkedIn posts beneficial, especially from a search perspective. Even if you aren't connected with someone on LinkedIn, they can still see the content you publish.
Get past clients or customers to recommend you on LinkedIn, much like you'd ask them to on Facebook. These are invaluable in building your reputation. Keep your endorsements and skills limited to between 3 and 5. You want to be seen as an expert, not a generalist.
Use this platform to amplify work that you've done previously, articles that have been written about you, publications that have featured you. The point is to sell you and your business, so get to it!
Engage with your connections on LinkedIn: comment, like and share their content - it works on a similar premise to your other social media platforms: engage, engage, engage.
Did you know that you can segment your connections? There is a functionality that allows you to put them into "folders", helping you segment the people you are linked with and allows you greater ease of connecting with them on particular subjects.
Add a link to your LinkedIn profile to your email signature and business cards: just another way to help your prospective clients or suppliers find out more about you.
Consider getting your LinkedIn profile looking swish and up to date so you can get out there and network: it'll be one of the best investments you can make in your business. Need help? Get in touch and let's get it done: firstname.lastname@example.org
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