What’s the Least You Can Do?
WHAT IS LINKEDIN?
We all know of LinkedIn and most of us probably use it in some way, but it’s helpful to have an overview of what LinkedIn actually is.
LinkedIn is a social networking website for people in professional occupations. Founded in 2002, it now has 184 millionunique visitors globally and is available in 20 languages. Clearly then, you would be foolish to ignore it! But what exactly are the benefits to you and to your company of using it and, assuming that, like many business leaders, you are looking for shortcuts wherever possible, then what is the very least you can get away with in terms of your interaction with it?
BE CLEAR ON YOUR OBJECTIVES
- The most important question to ask yourself is what you are hoping to achieve by using LinkedIn. Do you want to actively develop new relationships and pro-actively maintain existing ones through LinkedIn? Do you want to increase sales? Or do you simply want to have a profile on LinkedIn to demonstrate your business credentials?
- No matter what your reasons for using LinkedIn, it is important to ensure your profile is professional, accurate and up-to-date. Make sure that your picture, summary and professional headline all contributes towards your professional credibility. It might be (depending on your answer to the first point above) that you wish to do no more than maintain a basic profile. It probably won’t bring you any new business but it will ensure that anyone who wishes to view your profile will come away with the impression that you and your company are professional and credible.
- Connecting with people is the primary motivation for using LinkedIn and indeed one main purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship (called ‘Connections’). This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways. A contact network is built up, consisting of their direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (second degree connections) and also the connections of second degree connections (third degree connections). This ‘web’ of connections can then be used to gain an introduction to someone a LinkedIn user wishes to know through a mutual contact. In this way, you can connect easily with existing clients, previous clients and potential clients in a very efficient way.
- LinkedIn also enables you and your company to have regular communication with your clients (existing, old and potential) through status updates, periodic messaging, commenting on their updates, etc. There is no point having these ‘connections’ if you don’t maintain some degree of communication. That said, not every one of your connections will be worth your time and effort, so be selective.
- LinkedIn can be used to find jobs, people, even business opportunities recommended by someone in your contact network. Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers (perhaps that’s you) and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them. The possibilities, in many senses, are endless and that is why we come back to the first point about being clear on your objectives when using LinkedIn.
USING LINKEDIN GROUPS
Another way of growing your contact base is to join a LinkedIn group. As LinkedIn puts it, “LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts and establish themselves as industry experts”.
Essentially, this means there are two main types of LinkedIn Group…Groups with your target clients, where you will want to grow your contact base and ultimately bring in more business and Groups containing your professional peers, with whom you may wish to exchange information and opinions and increase your professional standing. If you enjoy using LinkedIn, you may also find yourself joining Groups containing people you know and have an interest in keeping up with (perhaps exchanging the odd piece of gossip here and there!).
But remember that taking part in these Groups will take up your precious time, so be clear about what you want to achieve from joining a LinkedIn Group and use wisely the opportunities that present themselves from these Groups.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can really grow your contact base and ultimately, your business. But, you have to be prepared to put in some work if you want to truly reap the rewards. However, if you are still unsure why you would want to use LinkedIn, then go back to the beginning and look at your objectives. If, ultimately, your motivation in using LinkedIn is no more than to keep up an industry profile, then that is the very least you should do.