Gary Vaynerchuk, in his usual low-key, mellow way, said last month that 99.5% of social media experts are clowns.
This immediately prompted a schoolyard-style kicking of the whole idea of a social media expert, with one prominent writer saying that anyone who does it for a living should “go die in a fire.” And that was one of the nicer responses.
The name-calling and vitriol are a little hard to watch. Here’s the thing, though.
I’ll start by saying that I’m as big a fan of content marketing as any other Copyblogger reader.
And for good reason.
When it comes to selling online, there isn’t much that puts customers more at ease than quality content.
If you put in the time it takes to produce useful, authoritative articles that provide real value to potential customers, you’re halfway to the bank before clients even land on your site.
But should any company or blog use only one technique to get more clients?
Even Copyblogger is on Facebook now. Do you have your Facebook Page yet?
For a platform that’s used by hundreds of millions of people, Facebook can be kind of … complicated. Particularly if you use it for business. So let’s get you some specific how-to advice so you can get rolling without getting frustrated.
While many people still think of LinkedIn as merely a glorified job search board, this professional social networking site is actually an amazing business-to-business marketing tool.
If you know what you’re doing.
With a little bit of time and effort, the following guide can help you turn LinkedIn into a lead generation engine, and give you the inside track to generating more business.
But before we get into these sixteen tips, please share Copyblogger.com with your network on LinkedIn …
Start with your profile
Your profile on LinkedIn is the single most important element on the site. It’s your “enhanced” business card –- a quick and easy way for people to decide if you’re relevant or not to what they care about.
LinkedIn provides a rich feature set to make your profile stand out. Use these tips to create a profile that gets your message across without losing readers along the way.
1. Don’t get clever with your picture
No one will recognize you if they can’t see your face. The best pictures have solid color backgrounds with your face taking up as much of the frame as possible. The image upload tool in LinkedIn includes a cropping feature to make this easier.
2. Headlines matter (as always)
The Professional Headline that appears below your name is included on every reference about you on the site. Make sure it includes your title and your company. Again, don’t get so caught up in trying to be clever that you’re hard to understand.
3. You are more than your job
The biggest mistake people make with their profile is excluding their non-work related experiences. If you belong to a local networking group or other affiliations, add them.
The more experiences that you add, the easier it will be for LinkedIn to connect you with others within their network.
4. Create connections that matter
Schedule some time every few months to update your contacts within LinkedIn.
As general rule of thumb, ask yourself, would you feel comfortable picking up the phone and calling this person? If not, don’t add them to your contacts.
One of my favorite ways to add contacts is using the People You May Already Know tool. Of course, the “trick” is to make sure you have done a thorough job of adding all of your work and non-work experiences to your profile.
While you’re busy adding contacts, don’t forget to prune a few out as well. By using the “would you call” benchmark, you may find that are a few names to drop. Keep your contact list relevant.
5. Work your recommendations
An easy way to enhance your reputation is to obtain as many recommendations as possible. Lots of recommendations add up to social proof that you’re a professional others can depend on.
The best way to get recommendations is to ask for them. The Request Recommendations tool is simple to use, but take the time to edit the default message by tailoring it for your audience.
For people you know well, a simple subject line could be “I need your help.”
(I wouldn’t recommend “You are not alone” for this one … you might make your colleagues a bit nervous.)
For other connections that you may not know quite as well, include a point of reference to jog their memory.
As for the message itself, be short and to the point. A good way to start your message is to acknowledge how much you value their opinion. Vanity is often a great motivator.
And if your requests for recommendation fall flat? Start writing recommendations for others you know. You will be pleasantly surprised how many will reciprocate.
6. Don’t waste your summary
Don’t waste your summary area with a lot of empty verbiage about your “team-oriented, results-focused goal setting” qualifications.
Instead, use the summary as a place to answer a simple question — Why do you do what you do? Think of your summary as the human element of who you are, the backstory to everything you’ve done so far.
7. Flesh out the details
A new feature of LinkedIn is the Add Sections tool — a way to modify your profile with additional details about your qualifications from other online sources.
One of my favorite features is the ability to add content from SlideShare.net, Twitter, and WordPress.
Give your LinkedIn viewers a well-rounded sense of your digital presence.
8. Drag the conversation along
With one click and a mouse move, you can substantially control the narrative that people view when visiting your public profile page.
Next to every section heading on your profile page is a directional arrow icon that allows you to re-order and emphasize the sections of your profile for viewers.
Front-load your page with the most exciting content. For example, if you have great recommendations, drag them to the top so viewers see your most positive details first.
9. Don’t forget SEO benefits
If you make your profile page public, search engines like Google and Bing will index it.
Take the time to optimize your summary, using your full proper name versus “I” or “me.” You might also want to enter links to websites you want to highlight.
Also, give your profile page some link juice by creating a link from your website biography page to your LinkedIn profile page.
Now you’re ready to start promoting your business on LinkedIn
Having a solid LinkedIn profile is a crucial ingredient — but it is only the starting point. LinkedIn gives you lots of tools to drive interest and traffic to your business — so use them.
10. Update your email signature line
You’ll want to start building awareness of your LinkedIn Profile. Since many professionals rely on email as their primary digital communication stream, your usual email signature is often a great starting point to connect with others.
The Email Signature tool provides a series of options to input and style your signature line. Make sure to select under Options the “Professional Profile” link and “See who we know in common” link.
11. Explore the rest of the tool kit
The LinkedIn Developer site has a rich number of easy-to-use tools to enhance your site.
For example, beef up your online Bio or About page with a quick link back to LinkedIn by using the Member Profile plugin.
If you have a business blog, the Share on LinkedIn plugin is the perfect complement to your Tweet Share button.
Don’t forget to also include the Recommend with LinkedIn button. This feature gives your business social proof through recommendations of LinkedIn Users that are visible on your site.
As a side note for those of you who are more SEO-savvy, it is very feasible that LinkedIn Recommendations will be a factor in search rankings — similar to Facebook Likes or Twitter sharing today.
12. Dominate the All Updates area
Start building authority and awareness through an ever-present stream of relevant information that appears directly on the LinkedIn home page of your connections.
13. Create your own LinkedIn group
LinkedIn contains a vast collection of online groups. For many, joining and participating in a LinkedIn group is an easy way to build authority through comments and discussion postings.
But for the savvy professional who is willing to commit the time, creating and nurturing your own online group can pay huge dividends — if you build it right.
The real secret of having your own group is the free email broadcast tool included with it.
Under the Manage options, you will see a feature to Send An Announcement. While restricted to once every seven days, LinkedIn provides you with a free and easy method to send email broadcasts to your group members.
14. And speaking of email …
Did you know you can send out email newsletters to your contacts?
The Compose Message feature in your inbox has a unique way to tailor your emails to your LinkedIn Contacts by geography and/or by industry, for up to 50 people at a time.
So if you want to share an interesting story or idea with your contacts in the accounting industry, a simple point and click is all it takes.
Obviously you’re not going to use this feature to spam or annoy your contacts (that will take you in the exact opposite direction of where you want to go). Keep these messages informative and highly relevant.
15. Work your company page
Recently, LinkedIn introduced company pages — an easy way to provide additional details about your business.
As you update your Products & Services page, consider including appealing special offers for people who visit and recommend your LinkedIn company page.
And of course, don’t forget to promote your company page by LinkedIn email, group discussions, group announcements, and updating your status.
16. Manage and mine your data stream
With so much activity conducted within LinkedIn, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is where RSS can become your friend.
On the Account Settings page, you will see a tab called Account. Within the Account features is an option to Get LinkedIn content in an RSS feed. Make sure this feature is enabled and add the link to your favorite RSS reader to receive daily updates from your connections.
Once you have everything where you can review it easily, mine the data stream by taking advantage of the built in search features of your newsreader. Alternatively, your reader may have additional options to flag certain items that contain terms you designate.
With a little bit of effort, your RSS reader can become a daily source of business opportunities.
The value of LinkedIn is you
LinkedIn gives you plenty of powerful toys to play with that can make your business-to-business marketing more effective. This short guide represents just a few of the many ways you can connect with the right people.
The tools are there, your customers are there … the only thing that’s missing is you. So, while the rest of the world sits in awe of LinkedIn’s stock price, start creating your own return on investment for your business.
And, if these tips have helped you out, please share Copyblogger.com with your network on LinkedIn by clicking the badge below …
About the Author: Sean Jackson is a partner in Copyblogger Media and the company CFO. Check out how he uses LinkedIn here.