Mar 17, 2010 12:00 PM, By Don Kreski
How you can take advantage of the largest business networking site.
A recruiting tool
It should be no surprise that LinkedIn is widely used for career networking. Brockman says people are hungry to stay in touch. "I think it's because there's so little business in some areas and so many people unemployed," he says. "This is one way to stay alive, to keep your contacts going."
For that reason, Newman says the site has been extremely useful in recruiting engineers, installers, and sales people. "I recently updated my status, simply said 'seeking account executives and design engineers, send your resumes' and I got at least half-dozen inquiries from competitors, suppliers, people looking to do something different," he says. "And I can say that people introduced through LinkedIn end up being much more qualified than anything I've gotten from an ad on Monster."
Using LinkedIn as a promotional tool
If you want to use LinkedIn to promote your business, there are several options.
There is an email section, or "inmail," that you can use (if you buy a premium membership) to send email to any site member. You do run the risk of getting your message treated as spam, but unsolicited email is not really what the site is about.
You can post news in the groups you join and those news items can certainly promote your company or the products you sell. They can also link back to your website or blog. You are much more likely to be read if your news includes helpful information that group members need rather than obvious promotional material. Tim Grant of lunavista communications, whom I partner with for search engine marketing, posts articles from his newsletter offering tips on how to increase search engine rankings.
In the "More" menu, there is an "Answers" section, which lets people ask questions, post answers, or search for posted information on any subject. Shana Rieger, social media manager for InfoComm, says that posting answers in this section can be a way to help establish your expertise.
If you are not a member, begin with the "Join LinkedIn" box on the home page. If you have joined but want to do more with your membership, there is an extensive Learning Center under the "More" menu.
Typically you'll set up a profile for yourself with your current and past positions; upload a starting contacts list from Outlook, Act, or your online email software; and begin to reach out to people. The site walks you through the whole process.
Brockman suggests following all the steps the setup menus recommend. "It may seem silly to upload your picture, but it really is very useful," he says. "When I speak to someone I've never met, it can be hard to get an appreciation of who that person might be. With a photo, I at least feel like I know him a little more." Brockman also suggests gathering a few recommendations from your business contacts.
You'll want to start joining some groups. These are on the "Groups Directory" page under the Groups menu. Consider joining industry-related groups, alumni groups from your schools and previous employers, and professional groups.
Once you've been accepted into a group, you can start reading discussions, posting questions and comments, and posting news about yourself and your company. Groups give you a forum for asking technical questions, learning about potential suppliers, and connecting to people you may have lost touch with.
Grant says that starting a company page with links to your regular website may improve your search engine rankings. It also offers an easy way to post information about your company without updating your company website.
If you become a regular LinkedIn user, you may be surprised at the power of the site. "Right now I have 377 direct connections," Newman says, "126,000 secondary connections—that is, friends of friends—and I'm within three degrees of over 5.5 million people."
Don Kreski is the president of Kreski Marketing Consultants. Contact him at www.kreski.com/contact.html.
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