How to Leverage LinkedIn for Business & Career Enhancement


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By Hector Cisneros

LinkedIn for Good
LinkedIn for Good (Photo credit: Mexicanwave)
Is your company a B2B sales entity who is trying to use social media, but you’re not sure if what you’re doing is working? Is your social media strategy lost or nonexistent? Are you an executive who wants to climb the corporate ladder or an old school professional who wants to get up to speed using social networking but you can’t seem to find a good place to start.

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’re going to want to read this article on leveraging LinkedIn. This article will explore more than a dozen features of LinkedIn, the premier social networking platform for b2b networking. We will be covering strategies and techniques needed to maximize your positive exposure. We will discuss the most important tools to use to make sure your profile, (business or professional) achieve maximum search engine exposure. Last but not least, we will provide guidelines for you to build  a cohesive strategy so that you get the most bang for your efforts. Now, let's get started.

Never Break the Golden Rule of Social Media


Social media is not selling. At least not in the conventional sense. Social networking as it’s more appropriately called is all about connecting, sharing  and following. The closes thing to selling in social networking is word of mouth. The marketing part comes into play when a friend, family member, co-worker or customer sings your praises. These testimonials are priceless and here is where you can strike gold with LinkedIn.

So how does the golden rule (do unto others as you would have done to you), come into play? Make sure you are providing testimonials and referrals for others. LinkedIn has a build in mechanism that allows you to effectively provide testimonials and recommendations for others. It also automatically asks the recipient to reciprocate. Be generous but honest with your “thanks you’s”, compliments and testimonials. Being courteous and active will get you a long way.

Recommendations are listed under the “Profile” navigation link. In addition, this is where everyone should start. Speaking of profiles, make sure yours is complete as possible. I don’t mean putting everything in it. Leave out sensitive information like your social security number, children’s names, home address, or old jobs that are not relevant today,  etc., but be thorough enough so that anyone reading your profile will feel they are getting a good look at who you are.

Help is Just a Click Away


If you’re just starting out, know that LinkedIn has a very good built in help directory. The “Help Center” is located under the “More” navigation link. The “Help Center” provides just about everything you would ever need if you get stuck. On top of that, LinkedIn provides many wizards to help walk you through creating your personal or business profile and more.  If you're still stuck, you can always go to YouTube and do a search on LinkedIn and you will find hundreds of free training videos to learn from. Just make sure they are current.

Get Your Contacts Here



LinkedIn
LinkedIn (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)
Your contacts are the people you have connected within LinkedIn. The “Connect” function provides a way for you to invite people to connect with you and grow your network. You can invite by importing a contact list from Gmail or a CVS file you have created in Microsoft Excel. You can also invite people to follow you if you see them listed in a people search via the search bar. The last item I want to mention is that you can organize your connections with categories’ you create.  These are called Tags. You can also organize connections with the profile organizer. Tags allows you to create categories like friends, college buddies, BNI members, colleagues etc.  Profiles allow you to organize connections from saved searches of people you may not know and are not connected to. This is a great tool for salespeople. However its only useful if you have the pro version of LinkedIn. More on this later.

You've Got Mail!


The Inbox lists messages you have received and have sent. It also allows you to send invitations to people you may know. This list is provided by LinkedIn based on the 2nd and 3rd tier connection possibilities based on whom you are already connected to. Just remember that when you click on the “Connect” button, you need to know the person you're attempting to connect with. Inviting people you don’t know is considered spamming in LinkedIn. You do have more flexibility with the Pro version, but even there you have to use common sense. If you join “Groups” you are considered connect with the members of the group. It’s considered OK to invite these people. They can always choose to ignore you anyway. One last note on the Inbox and connecting. You don’t have to connect with everyone. Read the person’s profile and make a decision based on whether connecting with them is right for you.

Following the Followers


When you hear someone talking about the news stream in LinkedIn, they are probably referring to the continuous stream of posts that show up on your home page. You can get to the your home page anytime by clicking on the “Home” link on the navigation bar. There you will  see what people are saying and sharing live as it happens.  Your “Home” page lists post from all the people you follow and are connected to. When anyone you're connected to, (including you) types something in the “Share an update box”, it gets posted to  all your connections news streams, simultaneously and show up on their home page. A similar box is available for any group you are also a member.

Search, Find and Connect



LinkedIn People Search:
LinkedIn People Search: "It's People Alerts (via email), Stupid" (Photo credit: davemc500hats)
LinkedIn has over 200 million subscribers of which over 500,000 are executives. If you in sales in any way, shape or form, you will love the capabilities of this tool.  You can search by a person’s name, company, industry, location, title, Groups, relationships, Seniority Level, Interest, function, language, company size and where they rank in the Fortune 1000. Here is where having the Pro (meaning paid version) of LinkedIn pays off. The Pro version allows you to contact anyone directly even if you don’t know them. The pro version will let you message anywhere between 10 and 50 new people a month depending on which level of the pro version you have purchased. It allows you to create premium filters, save profiles you have created and much more. Regardless of what level you use (free or pro) the search feature is very powerful. It can save you a lot of time and money when you’re trying to connect with a business owner or decision maker. If you don’t have the Pro version you will have to use an intermediary to connect with someone. LinkedIn always shows you if you are connected to someone by someone else you know. Once you determine that connection, ask your friend, co-worker or associate to make the introduction for you. Once they introduce you, get connected and invite to meet or offer to help them in some way.  Don’t always go for the throat and try and sell them immediately.  Remember the Golden Rule of social networking.  Social networking is more about building trust and credibility through word of mouth and sharing, not direct selling.

Joining a Group Can be Good for Business


linkedin logo
linkedin logo (Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo)
To join a group, click on the “Groups” navigation link. Groups are a little like clubs that are virtual where everyone connects through posts and messages. They all have their own rules and each one usually has a somewhat narrow focus.  Joining a group gives you access to the members of the group. You will be able to participate in the online conversations and topics that take place. Being active in a group is a great way to connect with like-minded people. It can also be a great way to connect with potential clients. As mentioned earlier, by joining a group gives you access to its members and you are allowed to invite them to connect with you and join your network.


Don’t see a group with a focus you like? Create your own group where you are the moderator and you set up the focus and rules. Click on the “Create a group” link when in the “Groups” section and answer the questions.  Once you set up your group, invite people you are connected to with to join it. You can also invite people from other groups you are already a member of. LinkedIn will even help from time to time once it determines what your group’s focus is. It will invite people who show an interest in your focus by sending them an invitation to join.

Your Company Pages – a Search Engine's Friend


Any business owner should create a business profile on LinkedIn. I could write several articles about the Business Pages in LinkedIn alone. It suffices to say that, just like an individual profile, it must be complete.  It provides lots of room to list mission statements, unique selling propositions, product profiles, service listings, brochures, videos and testimonials. It can act like  a virtual business online! It’s very important that you use the proper “keywords” in your profile and that it be as complete as possible. These profiles rank in the top search engines. Leaving out important information will get you left out of the search engines also. To create a company profile, look for the  “add company link”,  just below the Search Box when you click on the “Companies” navigation link. The “Companies” link also allows you to search for companies by name, keyword or industry. It also allows you to follow specific companies post to see what they are saying and doing.

Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs



Job search
Job search (Photo credit: sofiagk)
If you’re looking for a job or you’re looking for employee candidates, this is the LinkedIn tool for you. By clicking on the “Jobs” navigation link you can choose to: “Find Jobs,” join “Job Seeker Premium," “Post a Job," “Manage Your Jobs,”  or use the "Talent Solutions" feature. This is another one of LinkedIn tools that I could write a whole article on. Needless to say, if you’re looking for a job, you can find lots of jobs here. Generally these will be top notch career jobs not entry level positions. These jobs will be from around the world and cover every aspect of job life. If you’re looking for a good paying career position, you may want to look into using their paid Job Seeker Premium service. It allows you to contact executives and decision makers directly (up to 10 a month). This $40 per month investment could help you land that position you’ve always wanted.

If you’re looking for talented people, LinkedIn’s free “Jobs Posting Ffunction” and their paid “Talent Solutions” applications are very powerful. The free post a job function allows you to list positions and to get connected with job seekers. The “Talent Solution” is a separate, full featured, paid, recruitment system.

This Isn't Your Daddy’s Advertising


Like most other social media venues, LinkedIn is monetized. One of the ways they make money is by selling advertising space on their site. This includes the side panels of all pages, and at the tops of the pages via a text ad. LinkedIn can be a very cost effective advertising medium, primarily because you can highly target your audience. It is also a great place for A/B testing of ads. The Ad wizard will walk you through creating your ad or A/B test and it will provide what the minimal cost per click will run. You can also run ads based on impressions verses just  pay per click. Your Ad’s can contain a picture, can point to somewhere in LinkedIn, to most websites, or even a blog. If you're selling a tangle product or service, it's one of the low cost leaders in pay per click, especially if you sell B2B.  The LinkedIn PPC system works well and is worth looking into.

Flaunt Your Skills


“LinkedIn endorsements + SML Thank You!” $LNKD...
“LinkedIn endorsements + SML Thank You!” $LNKD #ux #opinions / SML.20130126.SC.NET.LinkedIn.seeminglee.endorsement.UX.opinions (Photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML)
Have a question you need an answer to? Want to know what skills you need to do a specific job or line of work. Then the “Skills & Expertise” function is what you’re looking for. This function is listed under the “More” navigation link and allows you to “Discover the skills you need to succeed." The search box here provides you an indirect access to professionals who list themselves as experts in their chosen fields. It also allows you to add listed skills to your profile so that others can endorse you as having those skills. In this section you will also see featured professionals and be able to click on their profiles to learn more about them. You will also be listed in searches when someone is looking to add or learn about a specific skill or expertise that they intend to add to their profile.

All the News That’s Fit to Print


LinkedIn has its own news service called LinkedIn Today. It is a news service listed under their “News” navigation link. This new service provides what LinkedIn considers “The day’s top news, tailored for you” every day. Here you can customize your news feed so that it provides news items you are interested in. This is a great resource for any business person. LinkedIn scours the web for breaking news along with the best and most informative articles that business people are looking for. As mention earlier, you can choose what subjects you're interested in, follow specific “Though Leaders” and comment on the best business content the web has to offer. I love reading the articles from LinkedIn and I suggest you read them, too.  It has provided me with lots of useful and informative content to share with my many followers. And as I have stated in other writings, Social Networking is not about selling. It's about connecting, and sharing useful, educational, informative or entertaining content with others in a way that build trust and credibility. These articles will help you do just that. If you also use other social networks like Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, these quality articles can be used as content for your post to these networks. Sharing quality articles will build your credibility and help you build trust among your network connections.

Pro for Sales Pros


I  already talked about several of the features you get in the Pro version of LinkedIn. In my opinion the Pro version is worth every penny. I have been a member of LinkedIn since late 1994. The Pro version has evolved over the years and its current version is very powerful. If you’re in sales, spend the $39.95 a month to get the pro version. If you want to engage a larger number of people, their “InMail” and other advanced search features can be upgraded depending on your needs.

LinkedIn, like any social network, requires dedication to learning its features.  Actively using it and proactively engaging others will bring you closer to building strong relationships. Any social network is useless if you're not using it on a regular basis. Social networking requires regular proactive work be engaged in! It’s not called networking for nothing. Consistency and dedication need to be your watch word. For many business people, LinkedIn has become part of the fabric of their business life. For others it’s a scary complicated tool that just seems like too much work. Take it from me, anything worthwhile takes effort and time. Learning LinkedIn and then implementing a social media strategy is worth it if you put forth honest effort and commit to its daily use. Used correctly, the payoff  can be substantial.

In this article I discussed a baker’s dozen of features available to LinkedIn subscribers. I guess I could have called the article the definitive introduction to LinkedIn but I liked Leveraging LinkedIn better. If you have any thought or comments on this article, share them with our readers. If you want to connect with me you can find me on LinkedIn and any of the top five social networks.

That's my opinion, I look forward to reading yours'.  


If you like this article, you can find more by typing “LinkedIn” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

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Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”


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