Congratulations! You have joined the 21st century of networking by creating your LinkedIn profile. You were told everyone has a LinkedIn account. You couldn’t be left behind. You check your LinkedIn mailbox each day, but nobody has contacted you. What happened to all of that online networking?
Networking, both traditional and online, takes work. LinkedIn has given you a posted profile to talk about yourself and your business. Have you finished your profile? Did you post your picture? Please make sure your have a professional headshot. Seeing you doing gardening or working on your car will not give your potential clients trust in your business abilities- unless of course you are a gardener or mechanic!
Your LinkedIn profile is the first place to begin your LinkedIn experience. You must be informative when writing your business description. Explain why a client would want to chose you over your competition. Show your experience and background clearly. Make certain to add your contact information as well as your website address. This profile is your 30 second elevator speech, however, without your personality. Make sure readers get a sense of who you are through your words.
After your profile is complete, the fun begins. Imagine that you have your business cards in hand and are about to walk into a networking meeting with complete strangers. Are you nervous or excited? LinkedIn takes some of the anxiety away from approaching new prospects, but as described before, takes the “human” touch out of the initial meeting. You can’t give a warm smile when approaching a new online contact. Instead, you must use your words to convey your confidence and personality. But where do you find people to “talk” to?
The first and easiest place to begin is your own email accounts. LinkedIn has an application which will search your address books on certain accounts to find current friends or business associated whom are already on LinkedIn. You simply send them an invitation to add you as a connection. Once they are added, you can then examine their connections for possible introductions. Just like you use your current “ins” to get an introduction now, so you will do the same with LinkedIn. You can ask your current connections for an introduction to someone within their connections whom you would like to “meet”. It’s that simple.
Being on LinkedIn does not mean you will not network traditionally. As you meet your new contacts outside of the computer, ask them upfront if they are on LinkedIn. Many of them are, but they too may be confused on how to use their account. You can use this as an opportunity to become an expert to them. When they tell you that they do have an account with LinkedIn, ask if you can add them as a connection. By doing this, your connections will increase dramatically.
Once you have your feet wet with navigating adding connections as well as asking for introductions through your connections, venture now into joining relevant Groups. LinkedIn has a large selection of industry Groups to which you may request to be added. What profession or professionals would be a good referal network for your buisness. Do you want to target a certain industry. Joining LinkedIn Groups allows you to do just that- find a targeted audience. For instance, your target may be women-owned businesses. They are various Groups for women business owners. If marketing companies are a better fit for you, they are many LinkedIn marketing groups to which to join. All you have to do is request to be added to your chosen Groups, then await your approval. However, you must create a “buzz” for yourself within the Groups once approved. You can do this by either starting or responding to various discussion which other members have begun. By doing this, you will become an instant expert. It is another opportunity to show your experience and “personality”.
LinkedIn is an excellent avenue to expand your networking reach into geographic areas otherwise unreachable. However, you must dedicate time and effort to your online networking efforts. Once you commit yourself to working your LinkedIn account as described above, you will dramatically broaden you sphere of influence. The ultimate goal of networking is to find either potential clients or referral partners. LinkedIn allows you one more way to accomplish this.