LinkedIn – more so than any other social network for my money – has got the niche game sewn up. No other network is quite so targeted at a particular type of user.
Everybody and their granny has a Facebook account. Twitter attracts marketers, professionals, celebrities and casuals by almost equal measure. Pinterest’s appeal skews more favourably towards females over males – but that, one tends to reason, has been incidental rather than intentional. And Google+, well – that still remains a mystery to most people (including myself at times) to be fair.
But LinkedIn has a very specific user in mind – the professional. Indeed, it’s perhaps not even accurate to describe LinkedIn as a social network, but rather a professional network.
Everything that happens on LinkedIn is all about the professional world. On Facebook, we’re automatically reminded to wish fellow members in our network a happy birthday when the fateful days arise – on LinkedIn, it’s work anniversaries that we are prompted to congratulate one another for.
Our profiles do not concern our relationship status, but rather our professional histories. We don’t have ‘friends’ but ‘connections’, who endorse us for our particular skills rather than ‘lol’ at our witticisms (or attempts at them).
LinkedIn For The Marketer
Ok, so LinkedIn is the professional network of the bunch. It wears a suit when posting to timelines, shakes hands and smiles warmly when leaving comments, and is never ever caught with its elbows on the dinner table.
And so, when utilising LinkedIn as a marketing tool, to whom are we appealing? It’s certainly not “the masses”, as it were. People don’t head over to the network to laugh at funny videos, engage with friends, and then click on the odd advert that pops up. And so once again it’s professionals – so does this mean that, from a marketer’s perspective, LinkedIn is only useful for the purposes of B2B?
Well, no it doesn’t – but this answer does indeed come with a caveat.
Let’s be clear – B2B marketers will find their target audience much more readily on LinkedIn than they will on, say, Pinterest or Facebook. But, that’s not to say that regular, everyday consumers cannot be reached on LinkedIn – it’s just that it’s a little harder and will all depend on what you’re selling.
For instance, let’s say you’re in the business of selling roller blades. On your Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and Twitter accounts, your marketing efforts will be focussed on trying to score additional customers. You’ll be posting some cool videos of the blades in action, engaging all commenters with some rad X-Games lingo and all the rest.
But, on LinkedIn, it’s business customers whom you will trying to appeal to. That is to say that it’s not the individual consumer that you’re trying to convert (though you will no doubt pick up the odd one or two), but rather business customers who will place bulk orders of your roller blades to sell on themselves in their skate shops on the high street. That is to say that it’s not necessarily fellow roller bladers whom you’re after, but fellow entrepreneurs/fellow professionals who are trying to make money through the practice of buying and selling.
How To Build A Profitable Network On LinkedIn
When it comes to making connections and building a network on LinkedIn, you must take all of the above observations on board. Essentially, even though a little bit of B2C is absolutely certainly possible on the network, it is in the realms of B2B that LinkedIn harbours the most promise.
So, how do you go about building such a network? Let’s take a look…
Optimise Your Profile
Your professional profile on LinkedIn is one of your most important assets for building a profitable network. Just like you, there are literally millions of other professionals out there specifically looking for other professionals to do business with. And this means that when they find you, you need to be creating a brilliant first impression to reduce the likelihood of anyone deciding to stock up on roller blades from anyone else.
Anyone who’s interested in doing business with you will go through your profile with a fine tooth comb. So you need to make sure that it’s complete and as up to date as possible, and keep it this way on a regular basis. You can of course insert a few keywords into your ‘About’ section, as this will help you get discovered in the first place. But you also need to make sure that you’re linking to your website and your other social media accounts. Include a photo of yourself, rather than, say, your logo, as people like to do business with people, rather than brands – and don’t forget to smile.
Look Back And Connect
Unlike most other social networks, you can see who’s viewed your LinkedIn Profile, even if they’re not an existing connection. The free version of LinkedIn limits how many people you can see, whereas the full premium version gives you all of the info.
When you get a notification that someone has viewed your profile, simply take a look back at theirs, and then, provided it’s not a spam page, ask to connect. If someone’s already showing an interest in you, then you’re perfectly within your rights to reach out to them. It’s advisable to include a short message – ‘I saw that you viewed my profile. From yours I can see we share the same interest in safety helmets – would you like to connect?’ Something like that is fine.
Make sure that you do actually view their profile, however. This way, the user will get a notification that you have done so, which indicates to them that you are not simply on a mission to connect to as many random users as you can, but instead have taken the time to read through what they’re all about and then made the informed decision to connect.
Participate in Groups
If you want to connect meaningfully with other like-minded professionals, then you need to start participating in and creating your own groups. Not only will this give you the perfect opportunity to showcase to other members of your industry exactly how knowledgeable and indeed professional you are, but you will also no doubt learn new things from your peers who are facing up to the same struggles as you are.
What’s more, by selecting the right groups, you will be exposing yourself to a larger pool of potential new connections – some of whom may very well turn out to be those profitable sales prospects that you’re after. If you’re smart and manage to start up a great, thought-provoking discussion about the future of roller blades, then you will also no doubt attract some of the highest-profile industry experts, who endorse you in the first place simply by acknowledging and engaging with you, but will of course also bring with them their own band of dedicated merry followers who will also start to sit up and pay attention to what it is you’re saying.
Use LinkedIn Pulse
Essentially, LinkedIn Pulse is LinkedIn’s very own publishing platform – much like the blog on your website. Now, there are many bloggers out there who simply use the exact same content absolutely verbatim when posting to LinkedIn Pulse. That is to say that all they’re really doing is publishing the same thing twice. Others change the headline and do some minor editing. This seems to work for them, but I’m a little wary, myself. After all, Google explicitly dislikes duplicate content, which means that if you’re copying and pasting to LinkedIn, then, even though you’re exposing your words to a particular audience who may very well be interested in what you have to say, you are nonetheless upsetting the search giant, and will probably be damaging your blog’s SEO.
That being said, LinkedIn Pulse is an extremely useful platform for increasing your network, and therefore should not be dismissed. When scouring your profile, those potential business connections will be looking for evidence that you are indeed an expert in your industry, and by posting blog-style essay to your profile you are providing this.
Indeed, the more interesting and though-provoking your posts are, the more likely they are to attract attention, so, my advice is to be as original as you can here – alter the headings and edit your blog posts as an absolute minimum if you intend to reuse your website’s material, however, I am wholeheartedly an advocate of producing content that has been written exclusively for LinkedIn, and is therefore exclusively available only on that platform. You may not attract as much attention as you do on your blog, but those who do take an interest will most likely be more valuable – so give them something that they can’t get elsewhere.
Got any more top tips for building a profitable network on LinkedIn? Please share your thoughts below.