By Andrew Ballenthin
With over 55 million people on LinkedIn are you sure your company is getting the most out of it? Following are a number of powerful ways to market your company and actively make yourself known to potential customers, suppliers, strategic alliances, media and other LinkedIn users. LinkedIn doesn't keep track of how many dollars flow through its site in jobs, new business, media exposure or strategic alliances. Yet the 2% who have mastered LinkedIn know there's hundreds of thousands of dollars that are moving back and forth between members weekly if not daily.
Goals are everything- Like any marketing and sales initiative, start by setting clear goals and defining how much time per week will go into this LinkedIn marketing initiative. LinkedIn is a big web site with tremendous features and opportunities to network. Beware, it is easily possible to become distracted and get zero results as a result of too much experimenting and not enough focusing. Start with a few areas that offer the most value (and you can afford to be consistently active in) and develop expertise so your efforts produce results versus "busy" time that ends in little or no results.
Warmth opens doors -What most people miss with LinkedIn is that while you have access to literally millions of people, including all the Fortune 500 companies, you are not working with software, a web site or working a numbers game. What you are working with is real people like you who want the same warmth, professional approach and quality relationship that you would want from a new networking contact. Those who are master networkers offline understand the need for charm, authenticity and reputation management. One of social media marketing's biggest secrets is being able to develop this persona online.
3 First Essential Steps To Boost Your Marketing On LinkedIn
Note: each one of the topics could be an entire how-to page (or several) of itself. The goal with this article is to give you top line insight into areas that you can explore deeper.
1. Personal Profile -"Dress to impress," a prospect's first impression of you online is everything. Don't take any part of your personal profile for granted. Each element of your description tells a would-be prospect something about you and whether you're a good fit with their needs or not.
Key areas to pay attention to:
- Picture, have something professional, warm and consistent with who they'll meet in real life. DO NOT have family pictures, sports shots, outdoor poses, etc. LinkedIn is a professional network and people want to see professionals on it. Keep the casual shots for Facebook and Flickr.
- Jobs,use professional language and ensure you have a full online resume. An incomplete profile can make you appear disinterested and lacking detail orientation.
- Use the "More" features, there are a host of options to make your profile vibrant including adding company presentations, blogs, your personal reading list and more.
- Pay attention to "key word density". Your "Specialties", job titles and descriptions, and personal "Summary" should reflect the words your customers search on and be wisely repeated throughout your profile. The pay-off is how many times your profile comes up in search results per day: aim for at least 20-40 minimum.
- All of the above translate into being found, being like and being contacted. Your personal profile is a brochure for yourself and your company. Don't settle for less than perfection.
2. Company Profile -This is significantly under utilized by large and small businesses alike. In most cases people just don't know about it. To find it go the top menu bar, look for "More" on the right hand side and select "Companies". LinkedIn is very user friendly for getting set-up and most of the steps will be self explanatory.
A few companies that have done a great job fully utilizing this feature fully include; Cisco who has 66 jobs posted; Research In Motion who has 25 jobs posted; Accenture who has 16 jobs posted (as of January 12, 2010).
Key areas to pay attention to:
- Ensure all company staff select the company profile when they set-up or join the organization. This ensures consistent brand and public relations representation.
- Have all your staff join LinkedIn and set-up their profiles. The more people in your company, regardless of their position, the more likely your company will be found in search results within LinkedIn and external search engine returns.
- Utilize as many features as possible for a company profile including, logo placement, consistent company description as your website and sales collateral, full company details with address and number of employees and website, add your blog feed in the News section, don't forget your stock market information if applicable.
- Ensure senior staff sign-off on the company profile. You never know if media, clients, future staff or future investors are watching your organization.
- Your company profile is a free online mini-site. Create a profile that attracts business at all times regardless of what search engine locates you.
- Equally important is reviewing all staff's LinkedIn profiles to ensure position titles and descriptions accurately represent the company image and message you want to portray. Every public face in your business is an opportunity to attract or repel future clients.
- Don't be afraid of competitors evaluating you: there's dozens of ways they can get the same information online or in the industry about your company. The days of private data are coming to a close. What might protect you from competitors might exclude you from potential customers.
3. Segmentation Analysis -with such a huge membership on LinkedIn how do you know what your opportunity for finding clients are and developing an online following? Answer - segmentation analysis. Many people join social networks without knowing how many people and businesses can be accessed. The results of your findings may determine whether you put more or less time into LinkedIn.
If your target audience just isn't large enough, close enough or not easily found LinkedIn may not be the right marketing resource for you. That's OK. It's better to put effort into marketing that has reliable results rather than just 'hoping for success'. Also consider that only 30% of all LinkedIn members use the site on a given month. This statistic is a result of studying Compete.com and measuring monthly unique visitors versus LinkedIn's total membership.
Starting point for LinkedIn segmentation analysis:
- Find the search box near the top right hand side of your home page. Click once on the default search "People". You will see a window drop down with the options for "People, Jobs, Companies, Answers, Inbox, Groups". We want to focus on "People" and "Companies" for now.
- A simple search would be to enter an industry term to find out how many people used that word. So for example if you are an executive recruiter you might enter in the "People" search, the word CEO. You'll see over 700,000 returns. The term President has over 2.48 million returns.
- Another simple search you can do is on "Companies". If you were a software company you may have a few target markets you want unqualified sizing for such as retail - 15,000+ returns, hospitality 4,800+ returns, hotels - 3,884 returns. Keep in mind many companies do not have their profile set-up and are best found by entering the same term under the "People" search option.
- Another option is return to your "home" page, look at the search option again and select the word "Advanced" at the far right side of the search box. Click on it.
- This will give you some detailed options for searching on people and companies that include specific key words, location (down to zip/postal code), industries and more.
- Keep track of the data and the specific companies and people in search returns so you can have resources to go back to. This segmentation work and data mining are powerful resources for converting resource into revenue.
Measurements Lead To Defining Payback Potential
The outcome of this segmentation exercise helps you see how much of your target market can be found on LinkedIn, where they reside, what industries have a high representation of members on LinkedIn, and more.
It is suggested that an evaluation is done at this point. Your goal is to decide whether there are enough target prospects on the site to make the effort of a regular LinkedIn marketing program worthwhile or the time is better invested in other growth efforts.
This is an essential exercise if you're serious about getting results. If your audience meets your criteria on being an acceptable size you are in a good position to start a whole series of deliberate marketing activies. This data gives you a baseline for measuring whether you are achieving the response rates and participation levels you need that will have an acceptable payback for the resources deployed.
There's 2 caveat's to this point: in some cases the size of the audience matters less if you have additional marketing objectives. First, there are a substantial amount of media groups that search LinkedIn looking for news stories. Your LinkedIn marketing could get you online and offline press opportunities you wouldn't have had access to otherwise. Second, you may want to develop a profile as a thought leader in your industry amongst your suppliers and peers. This often results in speaking engagements, collaboration and great branding which cements your role as a recognized leader.
The better you measure the size of opportunity with your LinkedIn audience reach, the clearer your goals, the more you learn what LinkedIn has to offer, the better the position you are in to achieve a payback or know when to redeploy marketing efforts elsewhere.
Watch for future articles on LinkedIn marketing that include:
4. Connections - building a quality and quantity based following
5. Events - the value of letting your network know about key dates
6. "Answers"- how to move from masses to individual connections
7. "Polls"- a great way to collect data that helps make effective decisions
8. Groups - "News", how to reach a hundred thousand or a million members
9. Groups - "Discussion", how to build a leadership position and more
10. Groups - "Answers", how answers helps develop connections
11. Groups - "Create", is hosting your own group worth it?
12. Slideshare - how to showcase what you want to be known for
13. Communication Plans - set goals and move from busy to effective
14. Analysis - is the time worth it? What is good versus poor performance?
15. Return On Resources - is LinkedIn an effective channel for growth?