Two months ago I started this series asking the question “Can LinkedIn work for you?”. Today we come full circle and look at expanding on the four keys of success that I listed in the original article:
1. The Right Purpose = The right Activities
2. More Reach = More Opportunities
3. Provide Value to Others = Know, Like, & Trust
4. More Activity = More Success
Get these four right and LinkedIn will work for you. The components of each of these have been covered throughout the series so if you’ve followed along this should put the icing on the cake.
The Right Activities
There is the ideal and there is reality. Reality is that most of us first joined LinkedIn and begin to explore it over time. Most people get that LinkedIn is about connecting to other people so the first step is that people invite those that they know. After those first connections are made, though, is where most people hit the wall.
My kids love movies and there is a scene in “A Bugs Life” where the ants are carrying food in a neat and orderly line…one after another. Each one is simply following what the other is doing. Suddenly a leaf lands between two ants and the one in front keeps moving but the one behind has no clue what to do. The leaf is the ant’s wall.
After some coaching the ant simply changes directions to go around the leaf and the line continues moving.
On LinkedIn the ability to move around your walls is dramatically increased if you have taken the time to develop goals and a strategy for reaching the goals. Because if you don’t know what you hope to achieve (purpose) how do you know which actions you should be taking.
You need to think about why you are on LinkedIn and develop a strategy to make it work for you. My purpose for being on LinkedIn is to make money. Actions such as connecting, starting discussion posts, posting news articles, joining groups, asking and answering questions, posting status updates, etc. are all done with this purpose in mind.
Listen to enough conversations about connecting on LinkedIn and you’re sure to hear the quantity verses quality argument. The LIONS (open networkers) are on one side and what I call TURTLES (closed networkers) are on the other side. Arguing that it better to be one or the other misses the point.
The point is for LinkedIn to help you make more money. Whichever can best help you do that is the right connection strategy for you. For me it was at a point between the two.
There is what I call “Expected Opportunity” and “Unexpected Opportunity”. The expected opportunities are those that came from people on LinkedIn that I already knew. I expect that if I’ve done my job networking and communicating my unique selling position then those that know me will refer me when possible. I don’t really need LinkedIn for these opportunities.
Where I need LinkedIn to assist me in growing my business is by being the tool that brings “unexpected opportunities”, opportunities from people I did not previously know, to my door.
My first year I was what I named a “Hound Dog”. I connected to those I knew and to those I wanted to get to know. This helped me begin to expand my network but it was slow and steady.
In my second year I changed my strategy. I decided I would begin to accept most invitations that I received but still only send out invitation to those I knew or wanted to know. I’ve dubbed this connection strategy a “Alley Cat”. Not quite a LION.
This has led to a significant increase in my direct connections. Why is this important? Because every new connection is an opportunity to share value (we’ll cover this next).
Along with using direct connections to expand my reach I also made the commitment to join 50 groups. About a year ago LinkedIn added the ability to post discussions, post news articles, and believe it or not, finally search for specific groups. These three things changed groups from meaningless connections of people into a powerful tool.
When I discuss reach what I’m really talking about are the number of opportunities you have to communicate your message. With my direct connections I can communicate with about 4,500 people. In the groups I belong to I can communicate with over 1.3 million people.
Communicating your message is an important part of monetizing your LinkedIn presence and through discussion posts and news articles you can engage a significantly larger population than your direct connections. More opportunities to communicate your message means more opportunities.
Provide Value to Others
I’ve talked a lot about the successes I’ve developed on LinkedIn. Most of that success occurred because I first sought out opportunities to help others. Much of the value I share is through this blog. But there are also the countless questions I’ve answered for people needing help.
In business there are three things that must occur for someone to want to do business with you. They have to first get to know you. At this point its enough that they know you exist. This happens through connecting, through group conversations, and through the content you share.
Once they know you they need to like you. Since we’re dealing with an electronic form of establishing this “Like” the content you share is important. How you interact with others is equally important.
The final step is for those who know and like you to move to a point of trust. This requires that you do everything you did to get them to like you on a consistent basis over time.
You also need to ensure that you profile communicates the information needed for someone to answer the questions of “What it is that you do” and “How you can help them”. Recommendations will add to your credibility and factor into the trust equation.
The final key is that you have to participate on a consistent ongoing basis. Without participation you can’t hope to extend your reach or build trust. You don’t have to spend your entire day on LinkedIn but you should plan on investing at least an hour a day.
At least several times a week I see a reference to LinkedIn having over 50 million members. What I don’t see as often is that the percentage of regular users (defined as 5 hours a week) is about 24%. There’s less competition in establishing yourself in your industry than you think.
You can choose to participate focusing on how you can directly drive potential business. In this case you’re hoping your message is enough. Or you can choose to let your participation work overtime, providing value to others and in return evntually driving new opportunities. Its the difference between push and pull.
I often receive direct messages on LinkedIn from direct connections. There’s no value only a sales message. And a lost chance to engage me.
I see the same type of activity in groups as well where someone adds a discussion post that is nothing but a sales message. Another lost opportunity.
A better approach would be to post something of value. In health insurance many people don’t understand health savings accounts. I might start a discussion post asking “How can a HSA save you money?” Then I would list a few of the benefits and add a link to a white paper I wrote. Finally I would end it by asking “What do you think about HSA’s”.
The end result I hope to achieve is that you call me with your questions. The purpose of the post is to drive new opportunity, but I’ve first engaged people with the post and I’ve provided value in the form of the white paper.
News articles are another way to share value first. I usually add my new blog posts to my LinkedIn groups. The articles, such as this one, help people understand how to use LinkedIn more effectively.
What I found was that over time people began to get to know me. Since they liked the information I’ve been sharing they begin to like me, at least to som extent. Finally because I’ve done this consistently over time, the like has grown into trust.
Its been interesting that my blog articles about LinkedIn led to people calling me to help them with their health insurance. Now that I’ve partnered with SONARconnects helping companies implement social media strategies the blogs are starting to drive people to call to inquire about how I might help them with their own social media needs.
Answers has been another way to share value and benefit in the long run. Answers allow you to help others while demonstrating your knowledge and expertise. I try to answer questions that involve social media. Each time I do I add a link to the blog. I always see a spike in my visits whenever I answer a question. Its also led to new connections and new conversations.
You also should seek out opportunities to help others. One of the simple things I’ve done is introduce connections of mine to each other by forwarding each person’s profile to the other with a note of introduction. I’ve also passed on introduction requests to help a connection connect to another.
Finally recommendations are a great way to share value. I limit most of my recommendations to people that I have purchased from or engaged their services. I have also written recommendations for people that I know where I can provide some insight into the type of person they are.
These are only some of the ways to participate on LinkedIn. As you become more familiar with the tools and features you’ll discover additional ways to participate. In the process you’ll began to get known and starting moving towards trust.
In the last nine articles we’ve walked through the concepts to help you more effectively utilize LinkedIn. I’m a firm believer that LinkedIn should be used as a tool to grow your business, or stated more directly to make money.
These are not overnight solutions and will likely take time to develop consistent activity. The key is to begin building your communities and starting conversations. Over time this will lead you through the three steps we discussed: Know, Like, and Trust.
In the end it comes down to providing great content and value consistently over time. What do you think?
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