Most business professionals have at least a peripheral understanding of how to market their products or services on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. (If not, Geek Chicago is here to help with those, too.)
LinkedIn, however, is often somewhat misused or misunderstood, by both businesses and active professionals alike.
On the one hand, LinkedIn is the preferred social media network for B2B marketers. For years, it’s able to call itself one of the leading job search sites in the world - to the point where, when Microsoft acquired the company a few years ago, it placed the value of LinkedIn at more than $26 billion.
On the other side of things, plenty of would-be LinkedIn users have been left scratching their head after creating a profile. Others have told us that they’ve long avoided the process altogether, because they find the platform intimidating or complex.
Whatever the case may be, LinkedIn remains one of the key social media networking and content marketing opportunities for businesses and individuals, and if you aren't an active part of this community yet, there’s no time like the present to get started. Looking for a helping hand in navigating the ever-changing capabilities of this professional social network?
Here's our 101-level crash course on learning the basics of LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn?
As of the end of 2018, LinkedIn was home to more than 590 million users, and continues to steadily increase this number; at one point, the network was adding as many as two users per second, according to data from Smart Business Trends.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – which have added professional and business-oriented functions over time – this fast-growing social media site has always been designed with professionals, job-seekers, and businesses in mind. It’s intended to bring the benefits of professional networking into the digital space - and it’s remarkably effective at creating connections and generating leads for businesses, entrepreneurs, and anyone seeking to bolster their professional brand.
Why Use LinkedIn?
The power of LinkedIn specifically lies in the power of professional networking, and it works the same way online as it does in real life.
With networking connections, leads, and tips are created organically, by and large. LinkedIn provides people and organizations with the opportunity to grow their business’ reach and, quite literally, "link" themselves to a vast community of professionals, across a wide variety of fields.
LinkedIn is a heightened and effective form of networking - one that you can do in your pajamas in your living room (although we wouldn't recommend sharing this level of detail with your LinkedIn community). You can use the platform to:
- join groups
- collect information
- find events in your area
- share articles and visual content
- add your own professional contributions to the conversation
- market directly to decision-makers and industry leaders
All members of this website who get what LinkedIn is trying to do are there for the same reason: creating a business network. You won't find this type of condensed business-focused environment on any other "big ticket" social media website.
As a result, LinkedIn has a proven track record of generating leads and creating opportunities for brands and individuals alike. According to data from SocialPilot, a whopping 80% of B2B marketers say that they regularly get leads from LinkedIn. On the user end, 70% of business professionals say that they find LinkedIn to be a trustworthy source for professional content, and half of all B2B buyers say that they use it when making a purchasing decision.
So, ready to get started with all that this powerful networking has to offer? Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating and refining your LinkedIn presence:
Step 1: Setting Up Your LinkedIn Account Properly
When you first join LinkedIn, you set up a profile as you, yourself, the person that you are - not as a company. This distinction is important, as you will be able to build out a company page later – but you should always begin by joining LinkedIn as yourself.
So, how should you think of your LinkedIn profile? As the Constant Contact blog once put it:
"Your LinkedIn Profile is like a supercharged resume that lets you showcase your experience and expertise.”
Think of this as a way to put your best, most professional foot forward. Once you’ve created a profile, you will then upload a photo, fill out your personal and professional information, and set out to build your network of friends, family, co-workers, professionals, and more.
LinkedIn will help guide you through the initial process, because setting up your account properly is one of the most important steps you’ll take over the course of your LinkedIn journey. In fact, according to some metrics, only about half (50.5%) of all LinkedIn users have actually completed their profiles.
Yes, ladies and gents, you read that right: one in two users aren't anywhere near getting the results that they would like, just because of less-than-average profiles.
Don't be those users. Here's what you should do to max out your LinkedIn profile:
- Upload a professional photo - We're in an age of visual stimulation - so a good, professional photo matters now more than ever. Do you have to look like a model? Absolutely not. But your photo should be of a high-quality image resolution (i.e. no pixelation or distortion), up-to-date (i.e. not from your high school yearbook), and professional (i.e. you're not holding a beer or wearing a swimsuit… or holding a beer while wearing a swimsuit.)
- Create a professional headline - Your headline is one of the first things people see when they come to your LinkedIn profile page. Use a headline that accurately reflects your professional experience, like "Owner at Name of Your Business." Clear and articulate is always best.
- Create a summary - This is where you tell prospective customers, clients, or other connections who you are, what skills or experience you have, and why you are a valuable connection. 2-3 paragraphs are best here. Feel free to have fun, and be clear about what you’re looking for, and what makes you stand out.
- Additional information - If you have other online profiles, like a website, blog, Facebook Page or professional Twitter handle (not a personal one), link to them in your “Contact and Personal Information” section. Build out your “Experience” section using multimedia links and a strong voice, and don’t hesitate to use LinkedIn’s publishing tools – including Articles and SlideShare – to create unique native content to highlight your voice and help your profile stand out from the crowd. Have any “Skills” or “Honors & Awards” to your name? Don’t hesitate to list them! Remember, this page is all about showcasing you.
Step 2: Building a Network
Now that you've established an identity on LinkedIn, it is time to build out your network.
Go slow. It may be tempting to send out mass invitations to any and everyone you know. Resist this impulse. It is important to connect carefully and mindfully on LinkedIn. You want to present value to those you are networking with, and conversely, you want them to provide you networking value right back.
This connection starts with a personalized invitation. When you invite someone to connect with you, LinkedIn will automatically draft you a default invitation. Whenever possible, replace this with a personalized message. Taking the extra time to really explain why you want to join their network shows you that you are actually a valuable professional connection rather than someone who is strictly looking to build out their profile. Some LinkedIn users gets dozens of requests a week - if they don't know why you're connecting, they'll likely reject you.
First, connect with the people you know, trust, and value on some professional level. Co-workers, business partners, and other professional connections are a good place to start.
Second, connect with family and friends that are trusted connections. This can be a good way to expand your network outside of your own industry, but again, make sure these connections provide you with specific value.
Step 3: Become Socially Active
Many professionals fall into the trap of creating a profile and stopping their LinkedIn journey there. To really take advantage of LinkedIn as a networking tool, it is essential that you take advantage of the social aspect of this social network.
As we mentioned earlier, LinkedIn comes complete with the ability to post content to your personal profile for your network to see (and also share content directly with groups, which we'll talk about later). You can share valuable articles and news stories written by others, though it is even better if you share your own valuable content - like a blog post, or a video you’ve created.
Key Note: Notice which word we keep emphasizing? Value is important in these posts. When you create native LinkedIn posts, they’re housed forever on your profile. When you share outside links, these updates end up in the feeds of your professional connections. When you post, always have an intention in mind, and think about your audience. Funny jokes, sports rants, pictures of your kids and other highly personal updates simply don't belong on LinkedIn. Keep that stuff to your personal Facebook page. LinkedIn posts should be strictly professional and in some way communicate the value you present as an industry professional, or the value that the company you work for presents to its audience.
Step 4: Create a Company Page
Are you a business owner, or do you plan to use LinkedIn to represent a professional brand? A Company Page is, effectively, an extension of your LinkedIn personal page. As you've probably already noticed, LinkedIn is primarily structured for individual-to-individual connections, as your profile creates a picture of you, the individual, rather than a specific company.
However, building out a Company Page allows you paint a picture of your company. If your company doesn't already have a page, and you're authorized to create one, make sure that you do so.
Through your Company Page, you can:
- post job openings
- create visual marketing content that highlights your products and services
- engage with followers
- share key updates
… and all under your company’s name and branding.
Set up your Company Page by going to the “Work” icon, and then selecting “Create Company Page.” From there, you'll be able to follow LinkedIn’s prompts to set up your page, employing a similar strategy that you did in setting up your personal profile. Make sure that all of your written and visual content align with your corporate branding, and be sure that you’re using a high-quality company logo for the profile picture.
Step 5: Join Groups
Groups are discussion forums on LinkedIn that share some common understanding - like an Alumni network for Roosevelt University, perhaps, or an Executive Assistants forum.
This is a great place to continue the social networking process that we described in Step 3, sharing valuable content with targeted groups and engaging in opportunities for conversations and social listening.
You can search for groups to join based on keywords pertaining to your industry (Chicago Real Estate, for example) or even start your own group. LinkedIn also gives you suggestions for groups that may be applicable to you. Get exploring!
Step 6: Explore News Updates and Events
LinkedIn is a great way to stay up-to-date with industry happenings in your area and around the world.
In the “Feed” and “Trending News” categories of the site, you can take stock of the top news stories in your industry, and stay up to date on the latest from your professional connections (including prospective leads).
This can be a great resource to you in building your own content, or for redistribution on LinkedIn (and other social networks). Don't hesitate to like, comment, and interact with particularly noteworthy or relevant content - this can be a great way to establish your voice and increase your visibility on the platform.
Step 7: Want to Connect With a New Audience? Look Into LinkedIn Advertising
Like Facebook and Google, LinkedIn has powerful native advertising tools - which may be effective enough to generate up to 6x the ROI of Google AdWords, with a 75% lower cost per lead (CPL), according to reports.
There are three primary types of advertising available to LinkedIn users running campaigns: Sponsored Content refers to posts that are essentially updates, promoted directly into the feeds of the pros and businesses you want to reach. These may include video ads and carousel ads. Sponsored Messages allow you to reach your ideal audience through LinkedIn’s messaging features, letting you deliver personalized, actionable content straight into users’ inboxes. Finally, there are Display and Text Ads, PPC “banner” ads that appear on the sides of your users’ main LinkedIn feed, encouraging clickthrough and increasing reach.
When you’re operating a LinkedIn advertising campaign, remember that there are plenty of tools available to you. LinkedIn boasts sophisticated targeting capabilities, including the ability to retarget site visitors, or target your existing list of contacts via an email list or CRM integration. It’s also fairly straightforward to dive into your analytics and results on LinkedIn, and even set up seamless contact forms, making it easier for prospects to become leads without even having to leave the platform.
And if your goal is recruiting, or comparing how you stack up to competitors in your area? There are also LinkedIn features that can help there, too, including sophisticated tools for talent recruiting strategy and insights.
Take a Deep Breath, and Dive In
If building a social profile seems overwhelming, don't worry. It's only natural to be a little bit intimidated. Understanding the inner workings of a new website always takes a little time and exploration.
Use this basic framework as a guide for getting your profile up-and-running, but remember – the real fun part is actually building up those personal connections and learning the potential of the network for yourself.
Should you come across any problems building your LinkedIn profile or have any questions for us at all, we'd love to help! Don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. And when you’re ready to really get started with social media marketing for LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, Geek Chicago is here and ready to set you down the right path to increasing engagement and generating leads.