To me, LinkedIn has always seemed like more of a place to hunt for a new gig than anything else. And since I haven’t been in the job market for a while, I’ve paid it little mind. Plus, I’ve always thought LinkedIn was kind of… well, boring. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
LinkedIn is where business gets done. Execs from all Fortune 500 companies are there, and 59% of those active on social networking sites say LinkedIn is their platform of choice over Facebook or Twitter, up from 41% who called LinkedIn their most important social account a year earlier, according to a June 2011 report by Performics and ROI Research.
100 million strong
LinkedIn, it turns out, is a happening place. It has more than 100 million members in more than 200 countries, on all seven continents. Basically, it’s the dark horse in social media, the ‘unsung hero’ of the social platforms.
It turns out there’s an awful lot of job searching going on at LinkedIn. But there’s much more going on over there, too. US-based market-research firm Lab42 finds that top-level executives and entry-level workers use LinkedIn differently: Younger members use the site mostly to post résumés and network for jobs, while more experienced professionals use it to demonstrate thought leadership and expertise, promote their businesses, conduct market research and – perhaps most important – win new business.
Win new business
So how might companies use it to win new business, specifically?
- Target searches. Keywords you’ve identified as central to your business.
- Track. Who is looking at your profile and your staff’s profiles? Then research those companies in more depth, identify their marketing directors and send out a corporate introduction to land on their desks the next day (and follow up with a phone call or email).
- Research. Watching (via Google Analytics) which domain names visit your site gives you a clue about which companies might be in the market for the products or services you offer. Back at LinkedIn, you can research the top decision-makers to proactively approach.
- Set up a company page. Setting up your business as a ‘company’ on LinkedIn isn’t going to generate a bunch of leads, but it does give you an opportunity to have a presence on LinkedIn beyond a personal profile to ratchet up your company’s charisma. I like the way you can embed banner images and videos in your company page, as well as feed your blog posts and tweets. You can also feature your products on your page and seek recommendations for them. That’s a kind of social proof that only enhances your credibility.
- Discern patterns. Notice who’s connected in your industry. In the marketing agency world, for example, there are several key consultants often tapped to help companies with an agency search. Noting that one of those consultants is suddenly connected to several execs at a single company may indicate that the company is poised to begin an agency search.
- Participate in groups. Cater to your target market to engage in conversations with the right people. Seek out groups with lots of activity rather than lots of members. Join them to get a sense of the activity. Monitor each group’s discussion posts and respond with content rather than a pitch. The goal is to engage rather than sell outright.
Does all of this work? Yes, although it takes some focused effort. Some companies spend anywhere from one and a half to two hours per day on the platform, but for those who are using it well, it’s worth the effort.
Be aware that your competitors are also able to apply these same tips and tricks; they are privy to the same social insights that could be giving them inside information about you. Your competition can also see who you are connecting to, which could tip them off about new business in the offing. That’s one of a few downsides of social media transparency.