Earlier this month, Kathie Wilcox (who heads up our marketing and comms team) attended a much anticipated event hosted by UNW and led by a trainer billed as ‘Mr LinkedIn’. It was much anticipated as it promised to ‘inspire and educate’ and show ‘how online networking can make a real difference to your business’ – something Kathie (a LinkedIn sceptic) was intrigued to explore. Find out whether she was converted below…
Having set up a LinkedIn profile many years ago and amassed a healthy 500+ network I have to admit that I went along to the session viewing the platform as little more than a glorified online directory and digital CV. Surely its main purpose was for job seekers and recruitment agencies? It’s a handy way of tracking down elusive contact details. And occasionally a sneaky peak at a profile picture can help with first meetings – to avoid the need for a red carnation! But that’s it – right?
Wrong. Mr LinkedIn – aka Mark Williams, who is also completely independent from the business world’s top social network – soon put me right. He challenged my perceptions, provided some brilliant top tips and demonstrated that it’s simple to make more productive use of the platform to help support your business objectives.
Initial advice was aimed at total LinkedIn beginners: first impressions count so make sure your profile picture is a close-up and current picture of you at your professional-looking best. Blindingly obvious to me but seemingly not the approach everyone takes, with holiday snaps and badly cropped family portraits cited amongst common bad practice. Mark’s analogy: you wouldn’t go to a networking event in a hoody or a mask (he’s right!) so why get your online networking off to a bad start with an obscure photo. A common sense approach and a practical start to a hugely informative masterclass.
Here’s a handful of the many other hints and tips I scribbled down; the top five from someone who has long used – but evidently never truly made the most of – LinkedIn:
1. Say something. Having a profile and an impressive list of connections is pointless if you don’t regularly communicate, engage and interact. Join some productive groups (many aren’t so ‘shop around’), share interesting content and comment on relevant discussion threads. Think of LinkedIn as a huge online networking event – and therefore a significant business development opportunity. You wouldn’t sit motionless and silent at an actual networking event so why waste this free, easily accessible, continuous opportunity to connect with people that you could be doing business with?
2. Get yourself reviewed. We all browse (and often base important purchasing decisions on) online reviews. We trust these assessments from complete and utter strangers. On LinkedIn, not only can we acquire our very own personal reviews – in the form of recommendations – but they come with a credible, attributable, business profile attached, making an endorsement of our work so much more powerful. Seek a few key recommendations from those you’ve done work for or business with (not colleagues – after all they might be slightly biased!) as a valuable way to give your LinkedIn profile and presence some serious clout. On a related note – Mr LinkedIn says skills endorsements are a total waste of time!
3. Keep your contacts alive. LinkedIn allows you to tag, make notes and set reminders to get in touch with your contacts again in future. Use these functions properly and you’ll have a living, breathing, self-updating CRM system of your very own.
4. Seek and you shall find. We’ve all heard about six degrees of separation – well LinkedIn brings the whole corporate world a few degrees closer. If you need advice on a specific topic or want to do business with a particular sector or company, chances are you can find a connection via LinkedIn. Use the search function, identify a link or route in – and then pick up the phone or send an InMail to your first tier connection who can open the door. Mark’s observation is that very few people make full use of their connections to start new conversations and broker opportunities – it’s a terrible waste!
5. Build your business. What really hit home to me was the fact that people do business – and importantly refer business – to people that they know, like and trust. Long before LinkedIn – and indeed the world wide web – this has been a universal truth. But what has changed is the scale and scope of our potential to ‘meet’ business contacts via LinkedIn. It’s free. It’s simple to use. And the potential is MASSIVE. I can’t believe it’s taken so long for the penny to drop.