How to Grow Your Business and Network with LinkedIn
Dig your well before you’re thirsty.
- Harvey Mackay
I’m at somewhat of a cross-roads with LinkedIn. Of course, I understand the power of connecting with people and keeping in touch via LinkedIn Connections. On the other hand, I’ve never really felt like I’ve gotten much from LinkedIn, or perhaps I haven’t leveraged LinkedIn the way I could. After being asked by a colleague for some insights on LinkedIn Groups, I decided to do a deep dive into all things LinkedIn.
Below are the results of my LinkedIn deep dive: 10 steps you can take to grow your business and your network, plus a series of resources you can use on particular topics about LinkedIn. Throughout this process, I’ve discovered some fantastic blogs, excellent news groups, and genuinely helpful people.
I’m also testing out some of these ideas with a series of experiments over the next few months. If you’d like to be a part of this, join the Dot Connector group on LinkedIn. We’ll be using LinkedIn Answers to extend the discussion beyond my posts on Dot Connector!
10 Steps to Grow Your Business and Your Network with LinkedIn
1. Develop an Interesting Profile
First things first, you have to invest time in your LinkedIn profile before you do any of the steps that follow. Why? You have to show others that you are a participating member of the LinkedIn community. Be sure to follow the LinkedIn Extreme Profile Makeover recommendations from two senior LinkedIn staffers.
2. Connect with Everyone You Know, and Everyone You Meet
Use LinkedIn as your professional address book. The site makes it easy to import contacts from Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., and will tell you if your contact is already on LinkedIn. It’s important to also change the “boilerplate” text when sending invitations. No one wants to see you skip the opportunity to send them a personal message! Another tip: be sure to connect with people on LinkedIn that you meet in meetings, at conferences, etc.
3. Write Recommendations of People You Respect (Goal: 5-10 per week)
Unless you have recently completed a project for someone and are asking for a recommendation of your work, stop using the “Can you endorse me?” feature of LinkedIn. Time is too short and too valuable to respond to every “Can you endorse me?” request. So, instead of asking for recommendations, dig your well before you’re thirsty! Write them for others. People who you write recommendations for will generally return the favor.
4. Participate in LinkedIn Answers
LinkedIn Answers is a question and answer forum for all members of the LinkedIn community. Asking questions is the easiest form of participation, but answering them is arguably more valuable. Since answering questions usually takes more effort, investing the time to answer questions related to your field can pay off in ways you might not expect. Journalists use LinkedIn to find quotable experts, and bloggers use LinkedIn Answers to facilitate discussions about topics they write about.
5. Share Answers with Others via Your Blog, Website, etc.
One way to build a network on LinkedIn, and traffic to your blog/website at the same time is to use the content created in LinkedIn Answers. For example, some bloggers take the answers they get to their questions and post a summary of them on their blog. This is exactly what I’ll be doing with the questions I ask in the Dot Connector group on LinkedIn. This gives people who answer your question some additional promotion on your blog/website (assuming they included a link in their answer!).
6. Create a LinkedIn Group
Groups on LinkedIn primarily exist for people to network together around a particular topic. The LinkedIn Groups Directory shows all premium and partner groups, as well as basic groups that pay a fee to be included. Groups are easy to setup, but take an investment of time to maintain. As members join, be sure to greet them, encourage participation, and share news that they will benefit from. No time to do this? Don’t setup a group, or better yet: hire a virtual assistant to manage the group for you!
7. Participate in Other LinkedIn Groups
If you’ve joined LinkedIn Groups related to your interests, industry, etc., be sure to participate in a few discussions over the course of a couple of weeks. Also, add news that you feel the group would benefit from. Then, scan the group for people you would like to know and invite to connect with them. Be sure to send a personal invitation (see #2 above), and you’ll quickly expand your personal network.
8. Get Creative with LinkedIn’s Advanced Search
Are you selling a product or service and looking for prospects at a particular company? Use advanced LinkedIn search techniques to find people at the company that you are 2 or 3 degrees separated from, and connect with them through your mutual contact. You’ve just turned a “cold call” into a “warm call”! Idea (from Alex Iskold): use a Google Alert to monitor interviews, articles, etc. that feature your new contact for conversation starters.
9. Use LinkedIn Contacts Management (PC application)
Thanks to Mashable, I found LinkedIn Contacts Management, a freeware application for the PC that allows you to send emails to all of your LinkedIn contacts at once. It’s a mailing list manager for your LinkedIn contacts, complete with filters and exports. Since we are all overrun with far too much email, I would recommend that you be very careful at how (and how much) you use such a powerful marketing tool.
10. Test and try new ideas
LinkedIn, and the community that uses it, is constantly launching new tools, discussion groups off-site, etc. For example, LinkedIn Polls now lets you poll your network and display the results, and the LinkedIn Applications directory is growing all the time. You can monitor developments at Linked Intelligence or try an Icerocket Big Buzz search: LinkedIn.
Ultimate LinkedIn Resource Guide
Below is a list of valuable articles I have collected about various LinkedIn topics.
LinkedIn Tips and Tricks
- 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn and LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover from Guy Kawasaki
- 20 Ways to Use LinkedIn Productively by Leo Babatua
- Top 10 LinkedIn Tools and How to Get the Most out of LinkedIn from Mashable
- Elements of a Good LinkedIn Recommendation by Chris Brogan
- How to Use LinkedIn to Create Authoritative Content by Copyblogger
- 5 Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups Successfully by Zale Tabakman (Google Group article – must be a member, anyone can join)
- Expand Your Network with LinkedIn Groups from Linked Intelligence
- Secret of LinkedIn Groups by Dave Taylor
LinkedIn and Business Development
- Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn to Build Your Business by Liz Ryan (via The Virtual Handshake blog)
- Market Your Company on LinkedIn by Gordon Choi
- Secrets LinkedIn Can Tell You About Your Customers by Matt Asay
- Using LinkedIn to Make the Sale by Al Chase (excerpt from The Virtual Handshake)
- Warm Calling via LinkedIn by Alex Iskold
For updates as I find new LinkedIn resources online, follow my recent LinkedIn-related bookmarks.