For those who want to develop relationships with business and professional communities, LinkedIn should be an essential element in their marketing strategy. With over 175 million members, LinkedIn is the largest online business network in the world. Using it effectively will pay dividends for your business, and if your business is not on LinkedIn, you will lose credibility as more people come to rely on LinkedIn when searching for information on businesses.
The first step in using LinkedIn effectively is to complete your profile. The components of a complete profile are a picture with a professional image, a headline with relevant keywords, a summary, work experience, education, connections and recommendations.
Connect with your existing network
Next you want to connect on LinkedIn with friends, past colleagues, classmates and other professional contacts from the real world. It is easy to import email contact lists and see who is on LinkedIn. Everyone that you know has a network which includes people you do not know, and some of these people may be valuable business contacts for you at some point.
Research prospects for your business
Business is done person-to-person and LinkedIn enables you to efficiently connect with potential prospects, employers, employees, suppliers, partners and investors. You can do searches for people and organizations along many parameters including name, location, industry, title, company name, school and keywords.
When you search for individuals based on specific criteria (for example, by industry, location or title), LinkedIn allows you to save these searches. You can receive alerts when people join LinkedIn with these parameters on their profile or when they add them to their profiles. Basically, it can automatically deliver quality leads to you every week.
Using LinkedIn you have the ability to gather valuable business intelligence on your prospects and competitors. At an individual level, you can learn a great deal about a person just from their public profile even before you connect with them – title, work history, education, LinkedIn Groups they belong to, recommendations and personal interests if they list these on their Profile.
If they have a Company Page for their organization, in addition to the usual information you can find on their website, you can also view their employees who are on LinkedIn, how you are connected to these employees through LinkedIn, and who has recently joined or left the company.
LinkedIn also provides a Questions & Answers section where you can ask questions of your industry peers on everything from basic questions to how to handle difficult issues you may be facing.
These are a few of the ways that LinkedIn helps you do business more efficiently. If you have ideas to share about using LinkedIn, please comment so others can benefit.