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Ask the experts: How do I use LinkedIn to benefit my business?

Most business people are failing to realize LinkedIn’s full potential

Shane Gibson: Co-author of Sociable! and Guerrilla Social Media Marketing and chief social officer of Socialized! Ltd.

With 135 million members representing every Fortune 500 company across 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn is the world’s largest social network for professionals. It’s growing at a rate of two people per second globally.

Unfortunately, few people who join LinkedIn are realizing its full potential. Most still see it as a place to post your generic résumé online. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for building your network and gaining strategic business insights.

Here are four tips for maximizing your LinkedIn opportunities:

  • Have a complete profile. This means including a full work history indicating where you have worked, plus your specific contributions, successes and unique experiences.
  • Use LinkedIn Signal. This allows you to quickly search your entire network for key phrases or topics. More importantly, the search extends past your third level of connections, which exponentially increases your capacity to gather business intelligence and forge new connections that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.
  • Participate in and monitor the discussions of LinkedIn groups that your clients and prospects belong to. It will give real-time insight into their challenges and goals of their business, while providing an opportunity to build rapport and engage in a two-way discussion.
  • Prior to attending an event, meeting or presentation, review LinkedIn profiles of any key people. Quite often, you will discover common connections that can give you the right insights to close a deal, forge a new relationship or solidify an existing one.

Alexandra Samuel: Director, Social and Interactive Media Centre, Emily Carr University

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for growing your business, if you know how to use it. Many companies use LinkedIn to find potential hires, either by posting job opportunities or by asking their LinkedIn networks to suggest potential employees. But there are lots of other ways you can use LinkedIn to build your team and your market, if you know how to use it.

I like using LinkedIn questions to ask for recommended vendors or experts or, conversely, to answer questions that position me as an expert in my field.

But the most frequent way I use LinkedIn is to find new potential customers or partners. If you know who your typical buyer is, you can find potential customers in any industry or city.

Search LinkedIn for people with a current job title or department that reflects your usual buyer – for example, “finance”, “marketing” or “procurement.” Filter your search by seniority level so that you’re only looking at people who are (for example) director level or VP level or add the term “vice-president” to the keywords in your search. If you sell to a particular vertical, filter by industry or add relevant terms to your keywords like “retail” or “publishing.”

You can use this technique to find a potential buyer within a specific company if you add that company’s name to your search.

Look for people who are second-degree connections (i.e., who know someone you know) or third-degree connections (i.e., who know someone who knows someone you know).

Introduce yourself directly (Google to find an email address for third-degree connections you can’t reach via LinkedIn) or better yet, ask your common acquaintance to make the introduction.

Natasha Netschay Davies: Director of digital and social media at Peak Communicators

While LinkedIn is known as the online networking hub for professional job seekers and recruiters, it’s also a lead generator for new clients. A social business strategy should include professional and company profiles. This will enable you to use the network’s engagement tools.

Think of LinkedIn as the online version of an industry conference. In between keynotes and workshops, you network with peers, share feedback, trade business cards and Twitter handles and maybe confirm new business meetings. You can do the same on LinkedIn. It begins with researching companies, people and groups that are related to your business and then connecting with them. Your objective is to position yourself or business as an industry thought leader. Here’s how.

  • Update your profile (or company page) with insights on industry news (links to articles, events you’re attending) and new products.
  • Join industry groups with active business dialogues relevant to your business. Participate as much as you can and share only a unique perspective. Groups offer you new connections to potential clients or those that might introduce you to them.
  • Start and moderate a group on an industry issue that you’re passionate about. Search for dream clients, target decision-makers, and invite them to join the group.
  • Think keywords – always. Whether describing your company or posting in a group, use words that describe your products, services and expertise in all updates.
  • LinkedIn’s recommendations feature works like testimonials. Ask customers, friends and industry peers to recommend your products and services. When they do, their entire network sees the recommendation also.


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