By Sean Blanks
If you’re yet to sign up, it’s vital that when you do, you build a professional and accurate profile. Search engines such as Google will pick up your LinkedIn page, and rank it quite highly; it may appear on page 1, so populate your page with relevant information. Make sure you utilise keywords to your advantage, so the right people find you.
Once you’ve got a profile that you’re proud of, look up your existing contacts and lean on them to provide you with endorsements, a relatively new feature, only introduced in September 2012. Receiving an endorsement is a quick and easy way for people to highlight and recommend your skill set, without having to write a lengthy personal recommendation.
Finally, ensure that your profile uses a custom URL; it’s a clear indicator that you’re a serious businessperson, greatly increases the chances of prospective clients finding you and is so simple to do. In LinkedIn’s settings, there’s an option to edit your public profile, which, in turn, allows you to customise your public URL. For such an easy to use feature, it’s surprising that not everyone uses this.
LinkedIn as a Networking Resource
I find that most of the opportunities that have come my way have happened as a result of networking. LinkedIn, with all of its 200 million, like-minded members, is a brilliant platform on which to assemble your network.
Take advantage of is LinkedIn’s advanced search tool, which in some senses is similar to Google. By playing with keywords or entering certain positions and companies, you’ll be able to expand your network of contacts in a short amount of time. It’s quick and easy to find me, for instance, by typing in Marketing Director into the name sections and Cartridge Save into company field. By doing this, you’ll soon be able to build a broad network of key people within your sector that you’ve done business with previously.
What’s more, once you’re connected, you can see others’ contacts, which is useful to find new companies and specifically, who you need to be talking to within those companies.
There’s two schools of thought when it comes to connecting with people that you don’t know on LinkedIn. Some think that LinkedIn is the perfect way to meet these people, whereas others feel as though it’s just another form of spam.
I personally think that you shouldn’t attempt to contact people you don’t know. People can select “I don’t know this person” in order to reject a request to add you to their network, which could lead to you being flagged up if it is selected by many people. Beware also, that people can see that you’ve viewed their profiles, so don’t expect this to go unnoticed. If this puts you off, consider logging out before viewing them. Even better, use LinkedIn’s built in features and either request an introduction from one of your existing contacts, or changing your profile to being completely anonymous. Given these options, I’d recommend the former, as it automatically gives you credibility in the eyes of the new contact, and by switching to an anonymous profile, you’ll miss out on the option of viewing your profile stats.
LinkedIn as a Research Tool
Researching a contact through the use of LinkedIn is an excellent way to get background knowledge about someone. If you’re meeting a potential new supplier, take a minute to look them up on LinkedIn, as you might have a mutual contact, who might be able to advise you on how you should approach the meeting.
There’s also a brilliant opportunity to position yourself as an authoritative voice within your industry through the use of LinkedIn’s groups. Identify groups that post regularly, and decide how you can contribute and add value.
Be careful, though, they aren’t a place to try and market your business, and members of certain groups will be savvier to being marketed to. Keep your musings relevant and informative. Post only when you’re able to contribute something to stimulate the conversation. Essentially, you’re marketing yourself, not your business.
Posting your own insights into the market, and helping others with interesting content, is a simple way to place yourself as the lynchpin of a network and the go-to person within your industry.
LinkedIn limits the number of groups you can join to 50, so make sure that you’re only a member of groups which you can contribute to, that will help raise your profile.
About the author
Sean Blanks is the Marketing Director of www.cartridgesave.co.uk, the UK’s largest dedicated printer cartridge company. By taking a systematic trial and improvement approach, Sean and the company’s Managing Director, Ian Cowley, have created a double-award-winning Sunday Times Fast Track 100 e-retailer which manages 30,000 orders a month; ranks above all its competitors on independent shopper surveys on sites including Google, Pricegrabber and Shopzilla; and is the UK’s fastest growing printer supplies retailer in terms of sales.