Originally designed as a way for jobseekers and employers to find each other through networking, LinkedIn has rapidly evolved into a powerful hub for businesses and professionals of every stripe. How can a small business benefit? What are the best LinkedIn strategies?
If people go to Twitter for real-time updates, or to Facebook to socialise and play games with friends and family, LinkedIn is where we network with a firm handshake and an elevator pitch.
If you have a business website (and if not, why not?) research by LeadFormix1 demonstrates just how powerful LinkedIn can be in driving genuine leads — particularly business to business (B2B):
24 per cent of all visitors from LinkedIn to a B2B website are from enterprises.
Nearly 45 per cent of all leads from LinkedIn are first-time visitors. That level is 63.2 per cent for those arriving via LinkedIn Groups.
Visitors from LinkedIn Groups and ads are most likely to fill in a form on a B2B website, generating a potential lead, compared to other website traffic sources. In fact, one in three visitors from a LinkedIn group filled in an enquiry or lead acquisition form on a website.
Developing a strong network and participating in relevant groups can expose you, your company and your services to potential leads.
Beyond your personal profile, businesses can also set up a company page. Instead of being tied to a single personality, this allows any authorised members of your team to interact on LinkedIn under the company branding.
Company Pages allow you to give updates and share content on behalf of the brand with anyone who has chosen to connect with your business. Plus, LinkedIn recently announced Showcase Pages. These pages highlight separate aspects of your business, such as individual product lines or business units, so that interested people can follow what interests them instead of an entire organisation.
Company and Showcase Pages thrive on content and regular updates of interest. So plan in advance the types of information or themes your professional audience might find of most value, and put aside a little time each week to produce a steady flow of interesting content.
LinkedIn Groups are highly active discussion forums on any professional topic anyone cares to think of. By participating in relevant LinkedIn Groups, you can increase the quality of any leads you may acquire by sharing content and joining discussions that demonstrate your brand's authority.
A couple of keyword searches can reveal a number of Australian or global groups specifically devoted to your industry or relevant topic areas. Not every group, however, is highly active. When searching for groups, the results will also indicate the number of members and how active the group is. If you click the information button, you can also see detailed statistics. These stats can reveal how often new discussions are started and how regularly people comment or interact.
Remember, don't panic if you think all these groups and activities will become a drain on your time. While it's easy to spend a number of hours on Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn isn't intended for hours of daily attention. Just a few minutes a day may be enough to log in to your groups and update yourself with any fresh content or discussions. Perhaps leave a comment on an item of interest, add your brief thoughts to a discussion or share your own content to start a new discussion. It's possible to get quite a bit done during your coffee break.
Technology aside, all LinkedIn strategies depend on the same individual social skills as in the real world. Imagine LinkedIn as one big networking dinner. Be casual and engaging, helpful and informative. Although it's a professional environment, being overly formal or officious can stifle discussion. Personality counts.
Relax. We're all friends here. Let's connect!
1 Why should you use LinkedIn for B2B lead generation?, LeadFormix, 2012
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.