The social media choice for businesses and professionals with over 180m worldwide users LinkedIn can, and in most cases should, be an integral part of your working day.
But are you making the most of your LinkedIn account?
Youve written your headline, carefully selected your areas of skills and expertise, filled in your career experience to date and chosen a suitable profile photo – probably a black and white image of you stood at a slight angle in your best professional get-up – so youre ready to start networking or reaping in those leads, right?
Wrong, according to Mark Williams, better known as Mr LinkedIn.
Search Laboratory in association with Finn PR and Adam Recruitment hosted a joint event where Mark gave a presentation on how to monetise LinkedIn for businesses.
While working in recruitment, where he headed up a 30-strong team, Mark noticed the business potential of using LinkedIn and has since become one of the worlds leading authorities on the social media network.Â In 2010 he became the first ever UK certified LinkedIn trainer, one of just three worldwide.
From real-life success stories to seven-point plans Mark detailed how LinkedIn is both an invaluable research tool and a fantastic way to generate business leads – but only if used correctly.
Here is what he had to sayâ€¦
Mark’s seven-point social selling plan
1. Stop selling!
â€œThe first stage of social selling is to stop selling. Social media is a community environment, and its a networking environment on LinkedIn.
â€œI like to use the analogy of offline networkingâ€¦ people are having a cup of coffee and talking to each other. Theyre not going up to each other and saying, these are the products that I sell or the services that I offer, and selling at them.
â€œYou just wouldnt do that – youd be embarrassed to do that. You also wouldnt just talk at people.
â€œNow just think about your LinkedIn homepage and whats piling through every day. People in a networking environment just talking at you constantly and selling at you – it just doesnt work, you just ignore it.â€
â€œPeople are checking you out all the time and you should be checking them out. This is an important part of the sales process; who are your target customers? Build your list.â€
â€œYou shouldnt connect with people on LinkedIn unless youve had some level of engagement with them first – its the biggest mistake you can make.â€
â€œThe right way [to grow a network on LinkedIn] is to target the right people first of all through research and then find a way to engage with them. The best place to engage on LinkedIn is in groups. Its where the most activity is and where people are more open to getting involved in any form of engagement.â€
â€œImmediately [after engagement] we bang off an invite to them: Great discussing subject X with you in X group, lets connect.â€
5. Provide content
â€œNow youre a connection it doesnt necessarily mean youre going to get business from them. The next thing, and this is critical, is to provide them with interesting content.
â€œIf you know your markets and you know your clients you should know what theyre interested in.
â€œNow you start providing them with content – dont just broadcast though. Follow thought-leaders blogs, look at LinkedIn todayâ€¦ do your work to build more and more contacts. This is where a marketing department really comes in to play.
6. Build trust
â€œWhen you post something in a status update, always comment on it. Dont just broadcast it – thats just throwing stuff out there. Ask people what they think.
â€œProvided you do that and keep doing that you will start to build respect. This isnt something that happens overnight, but it does build trust and anybody whos ever done selling will know trust is critical to win business.â€
â€œThrough that process of continued engagement – not broadcasting – they [your contacts] will start to see you in a different light and at that stage the final process is to then go and meet them.
â€œThe bad news is that LinkedIn is not a tool that is going to accelerate your sales over night, because it just doesnt work that way.â€
â€œIt will be a simple call or email to say lets meet for a coffeeâ€¦ and thats when you sell. None of the online stuff involves selling at all. Its all about building relationships and trust and through that you can sell.â€
The Golden Hour
â€œThe Golden Hour on LinkedIn is 8.15am to 9.15am – thats when people are noticing their homepage. Theres no difference between Monday to Friday.
Mark’s five tips
1. Involvement in groups gets you noticed
â€œ[Groups] are where the majority of activity is on LinkedIn – 110m unique visitors a month and a high percentage of those are in groups.
2. Referrals are key to winning business
â€œReferrals have always been the key to winning business, but its exactly the same online.â€
3. A profile Picture is critical
â€œYou just need a profile picture thats a close-up head shot. It doesnt need to be anything fancy. Its so people can recognise and remember you because people remember faces. Its like your personal brand logo. Its not a would-be on LinkedIn its absolutely critical.â€
4. Put your name and describe your offering in your headline
â€œEveryone sees your headline, therefore if you put your name in it everyone knows your name and its about visibility.
â€œA job title is not a headline. A headline is something that says I know exactly what this person does and I want to get in touch with them. Start with your name and then describe what you offer.â€
5. Contact details at the top of your summary
â€œAlways put your contact details right at the top of the summary of your profileâ€¦ summary is an area that everyone on LinkedIn sees. If you want to make yourself visible to 180m people think about what goes in your headline and in your summary.â€