LinkedIn is more than just Facebook for grown-ups! It’s a social networking tool that has come into its own as one of the Fab Five networks (along with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat or Pinterest, depending on how old you are). It’s the one network geared especially for business professionals, whether you want to find a job, create professional relationships, or find new clients.
To that end, here are five things you need to know about LinkedIn for your own use.
1. There is absolutely money to be made on LinkedIn
There are roughly 467 million users around the world on LinkedIn. And people = money. There are sales opportunities, job openings, potential clients, and referrals to be made. It’s an excellent tool for B2B professionals, because you can reach people that you can’t get any other way.
LinkedIn lets you get to company decision makers, which makes it an ideal tool for salespeople and marketers. It lets you get past the gatekeepers, because most people who use it do it themselves. Even executives who have an administrative assistant do their own LinkedIn work.
Of course, you can’t guarantee they’ll buy, but you do have a much higher chance of making that contact than a cold call or email. Best of all, you can hit them with a LinkedIn InMail message. The InMail response is three times higher than a regular email — and have a better chance of it being seen by your chosen decision maker.
2. It’s a great tool to do research on a potential client
Let’s say you’re going to a first meeting with a potential client or business referral. Rather than Googling the person and trying to learn more about them, check out their LinkedIn profile and see their professional story.
Find out where they went to college, their past jobs and companies, associations they belong to, and even people you know in common. I always like a good head start in getting to know a potential client, because it gives us some common ground to share when we finally get together.
Imagine being able to say, “Oh, you know Steve? I worked with Steve a few years ago” or “I didn’t realize you worked at XYZ Corporation. I got there two years after you left.” That gives the relationship a jump, because you’e not going through that initial discovery small talk; you already know quite a bit about the other person.
3. You can put images, presentations, video links, and other media in your profile
LinkedIn is an excellent platform to showcase your work if you’re a designer, writer, or speaker. Many creative professionals treat it as a professional portfolio, uploading their best work for potential recruiters, partners, and clients to see.
Plus, profiles with some kind of visual content generally get more traffic. According to LinkedIn’s own numbers, LinkedIn profiles with professional head-shots get 14 times more profile views. And LinkedIn profiles with photos get 21 times more profile views and 36 times more messages.
4. If you’re in sales, ALWAYS have your direct phone number in your profile.
Don’t make them dig for it. Don’t make them go through the company switchboard. Just put it on your contact info, and make it public.
(On the other hand, don’t put your phone number in your profile name either. That just screams “desperate and needy.”)
If you want to impress someone when you connect with them, pick up the phone and call them. Tell them you found their LinkedIn, realized you had a lot in common professionally, and invite them out for coffee or lunch. Even if you only want to meet with them as a way to grow your professional network, it’s still an ideal tool.
Note: I shouldn’t have to, but let me point out that LinkedIn is NOT a dating service. Do not use this as a way to hook up or try to date people. (I’ve seen it done, and it’s not only unprofessional, it’s very creepy.)
5. The objective of LinkedIn is not to sell, it’s to grow your network.
There’s an average minimum of seven touches on LinkedIn. That means if you’re going to catch a person’s attention and get them to meet with you, it may take seven touches — emails, comments on a status update, answer to a question, etc. — before you ever get to meet them, let alone close a sale.
I can’t count the number of people who connect with me on LinkedIn and their first communication is a sales pitch about their web programming, SEO skills, or social media agency. I haven’t ever accepted a follow-up conversation with them either.
As social media speaker Gary Vaynerchuk says, “don’t try to close the deal on the first date.” Yet this is what many of these LinkedIn spammers are doing. Don’t fall into that trap. Make a solid connection with someone you know, or want to know, and make additional contacts with them. Invite them for coffee or lunch, if possible, and build a relationship.
Eventually, this person can become part of your professional network, and may become a client, employer, or even a referral source. But it starts with making that initial connection and then not trying to close the deal on the first date. Treat people like people, not quotas.
Remember, you may not have the same job in five years, you may even be in a completely different industry. LinkedIn a great place to keep a record of your accomplishments and connections, so while you may not need it right now, you may need it in five, or even two, years.
Think of this as your career network, not a marketplace. You’re not just fishing on LinkedIn hoping to close sales. You’re there to build a professional network of people who like and trust you. Building that network starts today, not when you desperately need it.