No matter who you ask, LinkedIn is often a source of anxiety for professionals. It's a platform that has many gray areas - should you be professional or show your personality? Should you be using the hashtag feature or does that make your posts look less valuable? Should you only connect with people you know, or should you extend an invitation to everyone to join your circle of connections? But that's the beauty of LinkedIn - you can make it into the tool you need.
Below you'll find some helpful tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn efforts, followed by some tools for those of you looking to use the platform for prospecting - whether new employees or new customers.
LinkedIn Best Practices
1) KEEP THINGS PROFESSIONAL (Most of the Time)
The old rule for LinkedIn was always to keep things professional. After all, the whole reason the founders created the network was to foster business connections and relationships. LinkedIn will never be the network where it's appropriate to brag about how your 1.5 year old is potty trained. However, as the network and its users have evolved, personalities are starting to shine through on the network.
Did you just run a 5k in support of a charity you admire? Post about it and tell people why you're passionate about it! Did you learn something from your kids that had a powerful revelation for you to apply to your career? Share it! The people on LinkedIn who keep things professional, but add a little flair to it, seem to be the ones currently generating the attention.
2) USE KEYWORDS IN YOUR SUMMARY AND IN ARTICLES
One of the best things you can do when creating a LinkedIn account is to make sure your profile is completely filled out. In the process of doing so, try to use as manykeywords and phrasesthat you can that relate to what you want people to find you for. For example, if you are a lawyer that practices many areas of law, make sure to list out each area on your profile. That way if someone searches for “personal injury lawyer,” you will pop up on their search results ahead of another lawyer who doesn’t have that detail on their profile.
3) SHARE GREAT CONTENT that Includes eye-catching Visuals
After making sure your profile looks good, make sure topost great content consistently. Not only will this place your pretty face on your connections’ newsfeeds regularly, but it also shows your thought leadership. If people find value from your posts, they will not only think higher of you, but they will even start to seek out the things you are sharing. Yes, you heard me right - they will start looking for YOU.
Along with this point, be sure to include your takeaway when posting a link. If anyone is guilty of NOT doing this, it’s me. My go-to when posting a link on LinkedIn is to give a brief summary of what the article is about, and I’m not alone. The key thing we should all be doing is telling readers how we feel about the article or thing we are linking too. Even if you give a summary or line from the article, by simply adding an “I can’t agree more!” or “Yes!” you’re giving extra validation to your followers that it’s worth the read. Tell your followers why you enjoyed the article or agree/disagree with it, and I’m sure you’ll receive a click or two.What’s better than a click or two? Maybe a few will even comment back on your post and tell you what they thought of the article or thank you for sharing it!
4) CONNECT WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE – NOT COMPETITORS
There are many different strategies you can use when it comes to connecting with people on LinkedIn. You can connect with only those you actually know (the way LinkedIn intended) to ensure that your network is strong and personal. You can also connect with anyone and everyone in order to get your face in front of as many people as possible. It’s really your preference which route you want to take, but one thing you need to pay attention to is your competitors. Once you connect with a competitor, they can see all of your connections and now have the ability to steal them away from you. So, words to the wise - don't do it.
5) JOIN GROUPS
A great way to interact with others who you wouldn’t normally be connected to is to join a group. Groups are a great place to connect with others in your industry or those with shared interests. Not only will you receive great information from them, but you can also provide them with great content or discussion points and create meaningful and helpful relationships.
6) CREATE Articles
The "Write an Article" feature allows you to create a long-formed post that is basically a blog. Some benefits of posts are:
They are posted to your profile under your picture. This provides extra content that your competition likely isn’t giving to your viewers and also develops thought leadership.
If you post awesome content, those who find your post can “follow” you to get notifications whenever you create another post.
They live on the top of your profile - until you delete them, people will have easy access to the content you developed.
The three points above amount to two important things – great exposure of your thought leadership and added trust.
One of the most important parts of being involved with business is networking. In order to form those business relationships you need to connect, talk, compliment, ask questions, etc. You can (and should) do all of this on LinkedIn. This shouldn’t replace your face-to-face networking, but it is a great way to build upon it. Did you meet someone at a meeting? Add them on LinkedIn and continue to nurture the relationship by showing interest in what they are posting and sharing. If you like a pat on the back when you post, dish it out to others when they post too.
So now you know some of the best practices for the platform, here are some tips to take LinkedIn a step further and use it for prospecting.
How to Use LinkedIn Tools For Prospecting
Below you will find a few free LinkedIn tools that can make finding the right people to talk to much easier.
LinkedIn’s Advanced Search Tool
When it comes to finding a listing of business professionals with specific qualifications, LinkedIn is a gold mine. Millions of people willingly make public everything job related about them, from their educational background, to their current job duties. Everything they list on their profile can be used to pull them into search results when using the LinkedIn Advanced Search tool.
Once on the People search page, click on "All Filters."
Once on the All Filters search tool, you will see a wide variety of search functions you can use. Going back to your persona, you should at least have an idea of the job title, location, and industry of your target. Along with these fields, there are a number of others you can utilize. If you are looking to really dig in, you might want to consider signing up for one of LinkedIn's paid subscriptions such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator or LinkedIn Hiring to unlock additional filters such as Function and Years of Experience. If you have not used these paid subscriptions before, you can usually receive a free 30-day trial.
Once you have each section you want filled out, click “Apply” and be amazed when all the gold nuggets fall into your lap.
"People Also Viewed" Sidebar
Once you find a prospect that appears to be a good fit for your company, head to their profile if you're not already on it and take a look at the "People Also Viewed" sidebar. This sidebar shows other users similar to your prospect. Click through each of the profiles listed and continue to find ideal prospects for your company.
See Who's interacted with your company's posts
I think we can all agree, reaching out to a warm prospect is a thousand times easier than reaching out to someone who has never heard of your company or product before. One of the easiest places you can find warm prospects on LinkedIn is to head straight to your company's LinkedIn page and see who has interacted on your posts.
Go through the recent posts on your company's page and look through who has interacted with them. If you see a name of someone who is not listed as a current customer in your database, it's time to dig in a little deeper. Click through to their profile to see if they fit your persona. If yes, reach out to connect!
See Who's Interacted With Your Competitors' Posts
Warm prospects don't necessarily need to come from your company's page. Prospects can be just as warm if they currently work with your competitor. Because they work with your competitor, you know that they are currently in need of the product or service you provide. Just as you would look to your company's page to see who has interacted, head on over to your competitors' pages and see who is interacting with them. Dig into each person and see if they fit your persona. If they do, connect with them!
How to Follow Up
Now that you’ve gone through all of the work of finding the right prospects, knowing how to follow-up will be the key to your success.
Depending on your goal, how you follow up after connecting with someone could look completely different. The main thing to remember is to NEVER go for the sale the first time you contact them. Your main goal should be to build a relationship and develop thought leadership with prospects. These two aspects will be beneficial for years to come.
A few ways to build that relationship include:
Send them a message simply thanking them for the connection
Share blogs on your feed they would find useful
Interact on the content they share
After you get to know them, endorse them for certain skills you witness
All of these little actions can have a big impact on how your connections see you, and will likely establish you as the thought leader they are looking for when they need your product or service. If you are actively engaging with them, it won't take long before you build that trust and create the path for open communication to pitch your product or service. If they say they don't need your product at that time, accept that answer, but continue to build that relationship. Send them content you think would provide them value and interact with them often, and over time chances are they will come around.
By combining both the best practices and the prospecting tips listed above, you'll be able to find the people to take whatever you're trying to do to the next level, and once you've found them, will impress them with your thought leadership.
With a passion for helping, both consumers and businesses, I enjoy using my knowledge and skills to create engaging social posts and interactions that start a prospect on their inbound journey. As the Inbound Social Lead, I utilize my social media and interpersonal skills to develop and nurture one-on-one relationships between a business and their customers. When I'm not at the office, I enjoy spending time outdoors (fishing and floating on a tube are my favorite) or crafting on my kitchen table.