Back in the beginning of my personal social media evolution, about 3 years ago, a friend sent me a LinkedIn connection request…and I had no idea what LinkedIn was, or why I should bother using it.
So being a brilliant technology user, I rang him to find out why he had sent this stupid email.
In just a couple of years it has gone from being something that I was begrudgingly accepting in order to do my friend a favour, to something which is one of my key marketing platforms. It has changed how professional services marketing is done.
Like most I began by doing little more than establishing a basic profile and connecting with a few colleagues. In time, I put up a profile picture. When I was thinking about moving on from the job I’d taken after selling my business I began to fill in the employment history and wrote a bit of a blurb about my background. I put in a hotmail address. This from someone who was supposed to be pretty good at sales and marketing. Unbelievable, right?
But it has been an evolution, rather than a revolution.
As far as I could tell at the time most people I knew who actually had a profile on LinkedIn had maybe 50 connections – 30 of whom work at the same company as them. Gee…I had over 1,000 contacts stored in my phone, so LinkedIn was cheap beer you know?
Then I learned a little bit about how search works, and being a sales & marketing guy I was getting very interested in digital marketing and the use of the internet and social media in light of rising consumerism. Suddenly the light bulb went on, and I got it. As far as I can see in financial services though, many still really don’t get it. There is quite a bit of LinkedIn-denial to this day.
However I got serious about it and started actively trying to turn my heap of industry contacts and the people on my phone into an organised network that was part of my business marketing. If nothing else I would suggest advisers consider using it as a VERY effective network database. One of the things that makes it very effectiveis that the people in your network do the database updating for you…THEY will keep their phone numbers, email addresses, employment details current. Cool, I now have some 1,300 PA’s out there updating my contacts files!
So here’s a tip: in your contacts (wherever you keep them in your phone or PDA) include the contacts LinkedIn profile URL. You’ve got an immediate quick link in your contacts file to what is most likely to be their most current information.
Now I would have probably 5 people each week asking if I can help them use LinkedIn…which is sort of amusing as I don’t consider myself an expert at it by any means. I am however an avid user, and have worked out a process that has been very effective and is now a core part of my business. LinkedIn have a little diagram on my profile page that suggests I am nearly an “All Star” – though I have no idea what that really means or how one gets it….but then I don’t care either.
What I do care about is that once I understood how LinkedIn fitted in with search, and understood the power of organised networking, I did some work and it has paid off. It has paid off in several ways:
1. Google now finds me first, as opposed to the other much more famous Tony Vidler who is a renowned academic. Which I am clearly not. It has had the added benefit of demoting another Tony Vidler who is, or was, an enthusiastic cross-dresser in the UK who liked sharing photo’s of saturday night outings. THAT one is now relegated much further down the Google search functions, which is excellent for the famous Tony Vidler and myself.
2. Much more importantly though is that I am known, looked for, and contacted via LinkedInby my target market.
I could go on with many more benefits….but these two points alone are enough I would suggest to make it totally worthwhile. It gets me found, and it gets me business. And it can for anyone else who uses it wisely. Below are the most important action points I’ve found for anyone wanting to get found by their target market, and then be asked to do business.
Profile: apart all the obvious points that everyone suggests, think about including some video. You’d be surprised at how many clickthroughs to my website, blog and youtube channel come via LinkedIN. Video engages folk.
I am a fan of recommendations and endorsements. Give them out (where warranted), and ask for them in the areas that you want to be known as an expert. It is amazing…if you ask people for endorsements or recommendations in areas of genuine strength, they will almost inevitably provide you with online testimonials that are better than you would have provided to yourself. But don’t forget to be generous with others too – but genuine!
Connect people with each other. One of the greatest favours you can do for your business colleagues is help them network with each other. Be the trusted gatekeeper, only introducing folk to each other where there is a genuine synergy and probable mutual benefit. You want to be thought well of by both of them don’t you? You know what happens next…that law of reciprocity kicks in and people begin feeling that they owe you favours. Personal networking has always been the way of business…and this is an incredibly efficient way to do it.
Work really hard on getting your headline description as right as you can. It is searchable content area, so you key branding position, or value proposition needs to be captured there. Dare to be different. But be pertinent. Don’t be like everyone else…just because you are a chartered accountant it doesn’t make you stand out from 30,000 other chartered accountants in NZ. That sort of detail is important in your summary, but not in the headline.
In your summary section give readers a feel for you as a person. Everyone gets fed up with reading bog standard CV’s. For example, the first 5 words of my summary are carefully chosen, and each stands alone. Each word is its own sentence. People tell me that the impression they get immediately is “precise…direct…confident….you know what you stand for and can do….” Fabulous…they get a sense of what I want them to have a sense of.
Final point for now on the profile section: work on it regularly. Tweak it, find slightly better wording that conveys exactly what you want to be known for, and known as. Update pictures, add extra material, complete more of your bio and history….You don’t have to master it in a day….spend 5 minutes once a week tweaking…
….and if you make a mistake or are not entirely happy with how you’ve got it…go back and tweak again in a few days. You are not building the Pyramids here…it doesn’t have to last 5,000 years…keep working on it.
Updates: Share content that is pertinent to your network. Think about it like you might want to borrow money one day…you have to make deposits for a while before anyone will let you borrow anything right? It is the same here…contribute first.
Like other people’s stuff. If you like content that other people are sharing, then tell them. LinkedIn make it really easy, you just click a button. That is a form of engagement with other professionals, which is one of the ways that relationships are developed.
Finding the balance of how much to share can be difficult, and it is an area that I don’t think I have right myself. You just have to be mindful of who your audience is, take your best guess at how much is enough to get attention and be helpful, without moving into the realms of harassment. Then be prepared to adjust as you go. If people give you a bit of stick and say “too much”…then listen to it, and respond accordingly. Criticism is useful feedback.
Groups: Start a group for your target market. My own preference is to run a group that focusses on providing engaging and useful information for the audience. The focus (for me) is not on creating conversations, but staying in touch with low to no-pressure content delivery.
However, for many others there is a desire to have a very high level of engagement with group members and generate a lot of conversation and discussion. It doesn’t matter which style you prefer, but it does matter that you are clear about what you are trying to achieve and then run the group accordingly. Be consistent in your approach, but no matter what your own objective, encourage group members to interact and contribute. If they want to post articles or comments that are in keeping with your groups stated objective, then let them contribute.
Groups are another excellent method for establishing expertise, or being seen as a source of valuable ideas. Who doesn’t want that as part of their own business reputation?
Connecting: about once a week scroll through the list of “who you might know” as new people are joining LinkedIn all the time. Invariably someone arrives on LinkedIn each week that I have done business with, or know, and ti has been a great way of reconnecting with a heap of people that I may not have spoken to for some years.
If you go with a Pro version (paid account) you have the ability to send emails via LinkedIn to people who are not part of your network (those who are not 1st degree connections). Use sparingly – I have never used all of my inmail allowance. When there is someone you want to approach that you are not connected to, you have the ability to do so with a Pro account. But all the etiquette rules that might apply to cold calling (for example) apply here too: be nice; have something genuine to talk about; don’t be pushy or assumptive….and so on.
Check your connections new connections. It takes only a few seconds on your mobile app on the phone…do it while waiting at the traffic lights. The people you are connected to will often know folk you want to know…or sometimes who they are connecting with will give you some good ideas for new business opportunities…if you see an accountant you know has just connected with a lawyer you know, then there may well be an opportunity for your professional skillset…it might be time to arrange a lunch!
Reach out to those you do know in business and invite them to connect with you. Try and avoid using the template connection request that LinkedIn generate…which is pretty bland. It is hard to avoid using it if you hit the “connect” button from a mobile app, but from the full online version you can personalise the invitation request. Personalised invitations are always better – there is no debate on that.
Send a thank you to those you connect with. In the thank you give them a couple of other ways of staying in touch, or getting some value from the relationship. It is a small thing, but it goes down extremely well. Good old fashioned courtesy works a treat.
LinkedIn has for me become second in importance only to my own company website for very simple reasons. It is effective and organised professional networking. It enables me to broaden my network well beyond just those I can keep in touch with face to face or via the telephone….and it opens up all sorts of new opportunities that I had not previously considered or foreseen.
It gets you found. You get known for what you want to be known for (if you’ve done your profile right!). For many professionals it provides daily profiling with their target market.
So I have to thank my mate who harassed me 3 years ago with the “stupid” LinkedIn connection request.
He changed how I market my professional services. LinkedIn has changed how we all market professional services. Tony on Google+
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