The following is an adaptation from an article I wrote recently for the Sage Channel Marketing Newsletter. With over 100 million registered members, LinkedIn is the largest professional social network. Sure, it is true that Facebook is approaching 800 million registered users (wow!) but they are not specifically focused on the business professional. This gives LinkedIn a distinct advantage, particularly when it comes to sourcing higher quality leads.
Follow these steps to build out a strong presence on LinkedIn and start connecting with the right people for your lead generation efforts.
1. Manage Your Profile – Keeping your profile complete and up to date is the first thing you should do before any other activities on LinkedIn. Potential leads (and even minor connections) will check out your profile. An accurate and current profile on LinkedIn will give everyone who looks at it a very good sense for what you do and how you can help. For extra points, consider including a professional head shot as your profile picture (or at least a picture that looks professional).
2. Grow Your Network – Once your profile is up to date you can begin to grow your LinkedIn network by connecting with current and past business associates. LinkedIn provides a basic message when you send an invitation to connect with someone. It typically says, “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” This is largely a missed opportunity as most people accept the default message and hit send. Make it personal! It will only take a few moments to write a more personal note. Don’t miss this opportunity to make a truly warm introduction. Another way to grow your network on LinkedIn is by using the “people you may know” feature. LinkedIn provides a list of people you may know based on your current connections. Scroll through the list and start sending invitations to those you have done business with in the past.
3. Use Company Pages to Your Advantage – Using the company profile pages on LinkedIn you can collect information on target companies. Do you have connections that work at a target company? Who have they hired recently and into what type of role? The LinkedIn company pages will tell you the answers to these questions.
4. Your Profile Views – Monitoring who has viewed your profile on a regular basis will help you to measure interest in your business and products. An updated profile attracts interested people and, based on the data LinkedIn provides, allows you to source leads directly from that list. There is one caveat in this case. LinkedIn provides full access to this data as a paid service. The free version is not nearly as useful.
5. LinkedIn Groups – The groups product from LinkedIn remains one of the most active areas of the site. Join the groups where potential customers gather (you can see this on their profile pages) and begin posting relevant content. Over time you can build credibility with the group and begin to influence the buying decision. If you are already posting to other blogs and writing industry articles then be sure to repurpose this information for the LinkedIn groups you join.
6. BONUS ITEM: LinkedIn Answers: Not for the technically faint of heart, LinkedIn Answers is easy enough to figure out on the surface. Ask a question, get an answer. If you're the expert, then start answering questions. Over time, you will be effectively voted up and viewed as an expert resource. Answers can be a difficult product to monitor based on the lack of detailed search features (for example, there is no way to monitor all questions about social media). Using the Answers search product, get as specific as you can. Grab the resulting RSS feed, bring it into Yahoo! Pipes, set a search term on top of it, and bring the resulting RSS feed into your Reader of choice. Kludgy? Probably, but there is not an easier way right now to sift through the noise. Here is the Pipe I built to monitor questions about social media on LinkedIn Answers.
There are a few experiential lessons to consider when investing your time in a more active LinkedIn presence for lead generation purposes.
- If you are looking for groups to join the most important factor to consider is not how many members the group has. It is more important to consider the activity level of the current members. Are they engaged and actively participating? Pick groups with active members as opposed to groups with large member counts and little participation.
- Use your existing sales and marketing collateral (white papers, webinars and articles) as a part of the conversation. Do not sell directly as this has a tendency to elicit a negative response. However, it is perfectly appropriate to ask for feedback on an article you have written recently or a webinar that was conducted. The difference between selling directly and asking for feedback is subtle but important.
- Quality can be an issue on LinkedIn. There are many job seekers and independent consultants looking for work involved in the conversation. This is an important part of the LinkedIn community but is not necessarily important for your lead generation activities.
For continued reading, please reference these articles: http://mlcwideangle.exbdblogs.com/?p=4175 http://b2bleadblog.com/2009/04/5-steps-for-using-linkedin-as-lead-generation-tool.html http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=31315#