Imagine standing at a local networking event and every second that passes, two more new people walked in the door. It would soon get packed!
This is exactly what is happening 24 hours a day on LinkedIn as 7,200 new members join ever hour. As the world’s largest professional network, with over 450 million members, LinkedIn offers a huge global business opportunity.
But can it be useful on a local level and can it help you build new relationships and grow your business or career? Yes!
LinkedIn is business focused unlike Facebook or Twitter where the lines are blurred. On LinkedIn it is understood that you are connecting for business purposes. Around 40% of LinkedIn’s 12 million Canadian members live in Ontario. A simple postcode ‘Advanced Search’ can connect you with people as close as a 15 km radius to your location or target area.
You can also search by industry, company, job title and specific keywords to accurately pinpoint the connections your business needs. It is important for you to be very clear about who you want to connect with and why.
With that in mind, here are my TOP TEN ways to use LinkedIn effectively;
Watching Me Watching You
The most visited area of a LinkedIn account is “Who’s viewed your profile”. This presents a perfect first opportunity to interact with a simple “I see you took a look at my profile, was there something specific that you were seeking” message.
It may sound a touch stalkerish but don’t let that stop you – It’s an expected part of online networking and as Steve Loates, Digital & Social Media Marketing Consultant for Accountants in Burlington commented,
A LinkedIn profile is rapidly becoming a credibility statement about you, professionally. When someone wants to know about you personally more often than not they are going to view your LinkedIn profile. So, even if you have no intention of actively making use of LinkedIn as a marketing tool it is still vitally important that your LinkedIn profile is representative of how you want to be seen online from a professional standpoint. As with your website, quite often, how they view your LinkedIn profile determines whether they will contact you directly.
You can even go further and extend a request to connect. Be sure to take the time to customize the request by commenting on something you have in common. 7 out of 10 people who have looked at your profile, will accept your connection request and 50% of those will convert to a follow up phone call.
That reciprocal activity underlines a very key point. You must ensure that your profile is as complete as possible and is an honest and desired reflection of your personal brand – what you want to be known for and how you want to be perceived.
Remember that your personal profile should be that, a capture of your personal brand. Look at the Company Page tip to see how you can communicate your company brand.
Compliment Your In-Person Activity.
Whilst you may have a solid local network and are good at attending in person events, maintaining relationships in person can be time consuming. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to keep up to date with things important to your connections by looking at what they like and share on the network. It can also be used for you to share relevant and useful information with them.
Make time to read your feed and connect with content (like/comment/share) that you genuinely feel is valuable. Not only will you be getting great information and resources, you will also be networking with your connections in an authentic way.
Most sales trainers will tell you that it takes 7 or more touches to convert a prospect to a client. Digital touching leverages your time and influence.
Meet Locals Who Don’t Get Out
Many business owners and professionals are too busy to attend networking and professional events, or they may just not be aware of them. This could be information you share with them to start building a relationship. Yvonne Nasri, Director of Human Resources at CAA Niagara shared
Personally, I have learned of a few networking events via LinkedIn that I had not otherwise heard about.
The University Alumni networks are also a great source of potential connections who you may have lost touch with. Also be sure to check the Volunteer section of others profiles and be sure to complete your own, this information can be a huge advantage when it comes to connecting.
Gain More Exposure
Technology and online networks have forever dispelled the notion of ‘6 degrees of separation’. Now it may be two or three degrees. Once someone becomes a 1st Connection to you on LinkedIn, you immediately (unless they have changed their privacy settings) can see all of his or her connections. This can give you a whole field of new people to add to your network who will potentially see any of your activity with that mutual connection.
When I find someone who is looking for someone else (or work I can’t do but I might know someone who can) I can use LinkedIn to go through my contacts to try to connect the person I met with one of my contacts. I’m sort of using it as my own virtual business card holder.
Much like the ability on Facebook to track down old high school friends, LinkedIn allows you to maintain contact with an increasingly mobile workforce. Be mindful that the average LinkedIn user is not checking in daily so response times can be significantly slower.
However knowing they are there is important as David Hills, Social Media Trainer and Freelance Manager from Ancaster observed
The positions and companies of my LinkedIn connections are changing at a pace that is difficult to keep track of them all. When a connection changes companies, their LinkedIn profile/membership enables us to stay in touch and the ability to continue building the relationship. Phone/Cell numbers and emails always change. A connection with a contact on LinkedIn offers an outside communication channel through LinkedIn messages.
Company Pages, Showcases & Employees
LinkedIn’s company page feature is an opportunity that is underutilized by smaller enterprises.
Your personal profile and those of your employees are just that – personal. There may be people interested in your company that do not want to connect personally with you, but they would be happy to follow your company page and be kept up to date with that is happening.
Employees can help to direct their network connections to follow the company page and this also gives you the benefit of them staying connected to your company even if an employee leaves.
The Showcase page is an extension of your company page and is designed to put a spotlight on a particular brand, business unit or company initiative or event. This can also help you segment your audience to certain areas of focus and like company pages can help build relationships. Yvonne Nasri from when she was on the HRPA Niagara Board created a page for this professional association chapter
I used it to promote networking events, seminars and conferences. It certainly stimulated some engagement, especially with people who had not previously attended an event with us.
LinkedIn still generates the majority of its revenue from recruitment focused activities and if you do a lot of hiring the job board can help you target very specifically to attract local talent or specific skills. As Kevin Gray, Owner of KG Hospitality in Dundas found
Recently I used the network in the process of hiring some recruiters, locally and nationally. Being specific regionally meant I did not get somebody overseas applying for something local.
You can also use the general updates and sharing to generate more exposure for open positions. Linda Cvetanovic suggested to
Utilize LinkedIn to post employment opportunities, I know it sounds obvious but we regularly share open positions from our partners which not only helps position us as a resource for our partners but also extends our network to others that might not normally consider connecting with us.
Find & Join Local Groups
The Groups function in LinkedIn was changed earlier this year and now has less group engagement and is therefore less valuable to the user. However it is not an area you want to totally ignore although it may take a little longer to find worthwhile groups to be involved in.
If you really cannot find a group that caters to the area you want to focus on and if you have the time to invest in being a ‘community manager’, you can start your own Group. There are some advantages to this, apart from being seen as the catalyst for your area of focus, there is an option to send a weekly note via the LinkedIn system to all of the group members. But be prepared to invest a lot of time in making this work, its not for the time crunched professional.
Coming Soon to a City Near You
LinkedIn ProFinder is a relatively new extension of the network that has just been rolled out across the United States. Currently covering 14 main service areas from Accounting to Software, ProFinder is a focused search to find suitably qualified service professionals based locally. Prospective clients can complete a request for up to 5 pre-interested people and make a selection from there.
This leverages one of the key benefits of LinkedIn’s database of extensive information on each professional in its network. You can certainly expect this to be launched in Canada at some point. .
Following the recent acquisition by Microsoft of LinkedIn you can likely expect to see integration of products and services between the two. They are not going to be spending $26 billion on this acquisition and not be looking to leverage the networks value.
In the meantime if you need help in the Hamilton area, check out an app that connects through LinkedIn that was developed by David Carter, Executive Director of the Innovation Factory . It is called called HamOntConnect and allows local people, mostly in start up or newer companies, to seek help or assistance.
As with physical networking the goal with LinkedIn is for you to be viewed as a valuable connection and resource to know, add value and be helpful. You do have to out the work in, there is an investment in time to do that but the pay off longer term can be extremely worthwhile and provide an almost endless supply of potential new local clients or customers.
3 Personal Brand LinkedIn Profile Actions
- Headshot – this needs to be a professionally taken image that reflects your business presence. No selfies! Ensure that it is an up to date shot that captures your personality, is easy to see in smaller resolution (as 60% of LinkedIn users use mobile) and has a plain lighter colour background.
- Headline – your job title already appears elsewhere in your profile, and even in the basic search results, so do not waste this valuable space by repeating it. Instead make your headline more focused on what you do for whom and the impact you have. You have up to 120 characters, including spaces, to get this across and it can be the difference between making that connection or not.
- Location – if your focus is more local be sure to spell that out. . This will not only help you appear higher in specific searches but also ensure that you are not wasting time with distant exchanges.
3 Benefits to Highlighting Your Volunteer Experience
- You can see who in your industry, vocation or network has similar interests to you. Particularly if you are looking to connect with that person, it is another area of commonality in which to make that first approach.
- You can search by areas of interest or volunteer experience that are the same or similar to yours to see what others are doing career wise. It might offer new areas and avenues to explore for your own career or business.
- If you are targeting a particular company or person, volunteering at the same organization as they support will give you potential exposure to them and chance to show your skills in a different, less intimidating setting. No stalking though!
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P.S. There are 22 key areas on your LinkedIn profile that you can edit and brand to stand out more. In fact a full personally branded LinkedIn profile can increase opportunities by up to 40 times according to LinkedIn. In our free report “5 Steps to Boosting Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn” you can get a head start – click here to access the free report.
Here is what one recipient had to say: “I think it is fantastic and extremely relevant. As you pointed out, my role has changed – but unfortunately, my linked in profile has not. I will be trying to put in place some of the ideas that you have offered.”
P.P.S. People love our LinkedIn consulting/training sessions, using screen sharing and accessing their LinkedIn profiles so they can see the changes, understand better how to use the platform and have great, personally branded profiles too. Would you like some similar help? We can work on any aspect of LinkedIn that you need and the consulting can be broken up in to 3 one hour sessions over a period of time – click here for the details