While most of us have probably used it for job hunting at some point, LinkedIn is more than just an online resume platform. In fact, according to the latest Social Media Marketing Industry Report, LinkedIn is THE most important social media network for B2B marketers. It's been estimated that of all the B2B leads generated across social media in general, 80% of them originate on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn can be a powerful platform for building brand authority for both your company and your own personal brand. When you leverage LinkedIn in the right way, it will help you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, stay engaged with existing customers, and generate new business leads.
Getting Started on LinkedIn
Whether you plan on using LinkedIn for B2B networking, tracking down sales leads, or job hunting, for LinkedIn to really start paying dividends, you'll need to do two things up front: fully complete your profile and build out your network.
Filling out your profile completely is the first step. It's been shown that users with completed profiles are 40 percent more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.
Completing your LinkedIn profile requires that your provide:
- Your industry and location
- An up-to-date current position (with job description)
- Two previous positions
- Your education
- A minimum of 3 skills
- A profile photo
- At least 50 connections
Keep in mind, this is just the bare minimum. The more complete you make your LinkedIn profile, the easier it will be for potential leads and business connections to discern what a high value connection you are.
Filling out your profile is pretty straightforward because LinkedIn provides helpful prompts that guide you the process. Once you're satisfied with the way your profile appears, the next step is to begin building your network.
Growing Your Network on LinkedIn
The larger your network is, the greater the potential you'll create for generating leads, discovering business opportunities, and cultivating new business contacts. While growing your network is always a work in progress, you'll want to quickly reach what many people regard as the magic number of "500+" connections.
While it's a myth that hitting 500 contacts unlocks special features that were previously unavailable to you, there are decided advantages to becoming a member of the "500 club."
For starters, once you hit 500 connections, LinkedIn will display your number of connections as '500+.' You could have 500 connections or 25,000 as far as anyone will know from glancing at your profile.
Having 500 connections also means you've established a nice broad network which will lead to many things taking care of themselves. For instance, once you've reached 500 or more connections, you'll find that the number of invites you get to join other members' networks will increase. People will start reaching out to you proactively.
If you can spend just five minutes a day discovering and adding connections, it's possible to grow your network exponentially in a relatively short time, which will in turn open up expanded opportunities for lead generation.
A few ways that you can grow you network:
- Look for people you've met in real life
- Use the "People You May Know" feature.
- Allow LinkedIn to scan your Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and Hotmail contacts to suggest connections for you.
Or you can...
Become a LION
One way to grow your network quickly is to become a "LION." On LinkedIn, LION stands for "LinkedIn Open Networker."
Identifying as a LION means that you will accept all invitations to connect that you receive and that you won't click the "I don't know" or SPAM response, which could harm the standing of the user who has sent you an invite to connect.
Being a LION also gives you license to freely connect with anyone else that identifies him or herself as a LION.
How to position yourself as a LION:
- Put "LION" next to your last name in your profile, example: "Alex Baker | LION"
- Add your email to your profile summary and say "Invites welcome"
- Join a LinkedIn open networking group
A few things to keep in mind.
Whether you're a LION or not, you do NOT want to send out more than 50 invites per day or you could be flagged for spamming. Also, LinkedIn will only allow you to send out 3,000 add requests.
Once you've identified as a LION you'll want to increase your visibility to other open networkers who may invite you to connect. One of the best ways to do this is to periodically post content and other updates in the open networking groups you join.
Taking a LION approach to LinkedIn increases the odds of the right people finding you on the network. However many users regard being a LION as a temporary means to grow their network.
In the long run, having a quality network comprised of people who make sense for your industry or career goals is as much about quality as it is about quantity. Once you've achieved your goals in terms of growing your network to 500+ connections, you can evaluate whether or not to continue on with the LION strategy.
Other Ways To Connect:
- See who's viewing your profile. If it's a person you would like to be connected with professionally, drop an invite mentioning a shared connection or something else you have in common professionally.
- Ask a mutual connection to make a referral or introduction on your behalf.
- At tradeshows, conferences or networking events, forget the business card, pull out your phone and make the connection via the LinkedIn app.
Even when you're actively taking steps to grow your network, it will take some time to build up a tangible network for B2B success on LinkedIn. And keep in mind that growing your network isn't the end goal here. In fact, it's just the beginning.
Once you have a robust network, the next steps towards using the LinkedIn to drive business is to become actively involved on the platform and position yourself as a thought-leader.
Want to optimize your current social media strategy for LinkedIn? Download the How to Grow Your B2B Network with LinkedIn ebook today.