LinkedIn Best Practices

For B2B (business to business) marketers, as well as job seekers, LinkedIn remains the most viable option when attempting to select the social media tools that will help generate the best results. Since we work exclusively with B2B marketers (most in the healthcare and not-for-profit arenas), LinkedIn is the tool we use most often and we’ve become very familiar with it and the ways it can be used to leverage online awareness and build connections to build reputation and generate inquiries and sales.

If you’re a B2B marketer, a business person hoping to build credibility and reputation online, or a job seekers, here are some tips that can help you best leverage the benefits of LinkedIn:

1) Think carefully about the audience you hope to engage with and be selective in terms of how you build this audience. This is important (as with any type of communication) to ensure that the posts/updates you generate will be meaningful and of interest to your audience. If you don’t have a specific purpose and a clearly defined audience you will struggle to connect with any of them. Focus can help you better understand your audience and, therefore, will help you be more successful in forming strong relationships. If you find that you have multiple audiences you need to connect with, consider creating separate accounts. For instance, I have two different LinkedIn accounts for myself:

An account for my freelance writing activities where I connect with editors/publishers, sources and other writers.

An account for my communication consulting firm where I connect with thought leaders, clients and prospects –

2) Give more than you get. While most of the people engaged in social media sites, including LinkedIn, are hoping to “get” something–e.g. a job, clients, etc., social media success is based on building relationships, not “selling.” With your audience in mind, consider what is of interest to them and how you can provide value–then do that. For myself as well as for other consultants whose accounts I manage, I’ve found that the more you give (even sharing specific information that is part of the expertise you “sell”), the more you gain in terms of building credibility and, ultimately, clients and repeat business.

3) Participate regularly! This can be a challenge because social media involvement does take time and, inherently, contains many potential distractions. It’s important, though, that once you’ve committed to participating in social media you have a plan to ensure that your presence will be regular. This can be done by scheduling time when you will check updates, activity, etc.–and tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and others can help with this by allowing you to schedule posts in advance. I do this with my own and my client accounts to ensure a “baseline” of activity in case other commitments limit the time I can spontaneously interact online.

4) Take advantage of Groups to build audience and establish a network of people with shared interests. Many of my clients do this very effectively; much of the new business they generate is prompted by participation in these forums. Keep in mind, again, though that the information you share needs to be valuable and focused more on information than promotion.

5) Listen and learn! You’re not the only (insert your area of specialty or type of business) engaged in LinkedIn; this presents a few challenges, but many benefits. The biggest challenges relate to the ability of your competitors to monitor what you’re doing and saying online, who is interacting with you and, depending on how you’ve set your security settings, who you’re connected to. That’s the down side. The upside, though, is that you can do the same type of monitoring and assessment about what your competitors are doing–and what’s working, or not working, for them.

LinkedIn is a great tool for the B2B marketplace; if you market to businesses and haven’t already established a presence on LinkedIn, make a commitment to become engaged. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that you’re missing out on important business opportunities.

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