So it’s 2018, and you want to create your LinkedIn profile, or you want to start using the one you created 10 years ago.
It’s a lot of pressure, right?
LinkedIn is a pretty awesome multi-tool that is always upping its game and changing its interface. LinkedIn can help you hunt for a job, hire people to work for your company, expand your professional network, develop your professional brand, and more. In this post, I’m going to talk about how you can use it to boost your sales and marketing efforts in just five minutes a week.
A lot of clients and even personal acquaintances of mine have been skeptical of LinkedIn because they are skeptical of all social media. Let me dispel a few common LinkedIn misconceptions: being on LinkedIn does not equate to being on the job hunt, adding connections is not the same as sending friend requests, and being on LinkedIn does not give people access to ALL YOUR PERSONAL DATA (unless you put it up on your public profile, so maybe don’t do that). There are definitely some things that people do on LinkedIn that are marginally creepy. That being said, you can totally have a strong LinkedIn presence without coming off as a creep.
Step 1: Show Up
Disclaimer: This part may take more than 5 minutes, but it’s worth spending an hour or two getting this part right.
Your basic LinkedIn profile should have your full name (whatever name you use professionally), current title and company, a brief description of what your company does (if your company has an elevator pitch, use that!), a professional-looking photo, and any prior work experience you would list on a resume if you were applying for a job.
Caveat: If you left somewhere on bad terms or would not benefit from being associated with a former employer, feel free to leave it off.
Specific things to check:
- Use your work email (if allowed at your company) to set up your profile, with a back-up personal email that you actually check on a regular basis.
- Link your previous work history with the appropriate company pages to expand your network.
- Link to your university/degree program and any other educational programs or certifications.
- Check your public profile settings and make sure you are 100% comfortable with the way it is setup. (You don’t have to share everything with the world, but if a new customer was searching for you, make sure you’re able to be found.)
Step 2: Connect
This is the part where I see most people hesitate. It can feel a bit awkward. But I promise, if you do this part right, there is less than a 5% chance that people will think you are creepy.
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to developing your LinkedIn network. Some people will connect with anyone and everyone. Others are a lot more selective and will only connect with someone they know personally and would recommend professionally. There are also a number of hybrid philosophies, and all are valid! Do whatever feels most comfortable to you. Keep in mind that the more connections you have, the more likely you will have a connection in common with that hot prospect or new sales lead.
Resist the urge: Do not import your email contacts and mass-add them to your profile. (LinkedIn will ask you often. The “Skip” button is your friend when this happens!)
Rule of thumb: If you’ve been in touch with someone within the last month and/or you email or talk to them regularly, you can probably get away with sending a non-personalized connection request.
- Connect with bosses, supervisors, and direct colleagues at current and prior companies.
- Connect with your contacts at your main vendors, partners, and suppliers.
- Connect with your current, active customers.
Network growth strategies:
- Connect with anyone you have a meeting or phone call with during the week. Consider blocking a couple minutes at the beginning or end of the week to send requests based on your calendar.
- Use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator Chrome Extension to easily connect to people who you are emailing.
- Connect with people you’ve met at conferences, networking events, or industry programs as soon as possible after the event (This will minimize the awkwardness!)
Not sure if people will know you? That’s why Step 1 is important. Most people will at least look at your profile, and if they see a company they recognize, they are more likely to accept the request. If you’re in doubt, personalize the invitation.
Also, start slow. When I said 5 minutes a week, I meant it! When you’re just getting started, people expect your connections to grow slowly. Pick a prior position, industry group, or your alumni contacts and tackle one each week.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all the work! Once you’re on LinkedIn, people will try to connect with you too. When you look at your connection requests, do not in any way feel obligated to accept all requests that come your way. If you do not know the person, have never worked with them or attended school at the same time as them, and they did not send you a personalized invite explaining how they know you, you are totally justified in ignoring the request! Alternately, you can send them a message asking how you know each other (this article has a nice template for this follow-up).
Also, for peace of mind, here’s what happens when you ignore an invitation.
On the other hand, if they seem interesting, are relevant to your work or in your industry, and you think you might have a business interest later down the line, accept away!
Step 3: Set yourself up for Sales & Marketing Insights
A few years ago, one of the complaints I heard most often about LinkedIn was the noise. I was a member of several groups and was getting emails daily with comment threads, new members, and all sorts of information that I couldn’t care less about. If you’re new to LinkedIn - congratulations! You just might escape this fate.
Groups are a valuable LinkedIn resource, but if you haven’t been using LinkedIn for the past 15 years, it’s probably not where you want to start. Here are some other ways to engage that might be helpful for your sales and marketing efforts.
- Follow company pages of your customers, vendors, suppliers, and major industry associations or trade groups.
- Set your email preferences to something that is manageable. A weekly digest pairs well with the 5 minute time commitment.
- Block time on your calendar to check in at least once per week.
How to spend your 5 minutes a week:
Review your connection requests:
- Accept, ignore, or follow-up based on your comfort level.
- For new connections, check out their profile and company info. Things to look for:
- Do they have prior experience that you didn’t know about or that would be helpful to your business/sales process?
- Look at their current company LinkedIn page. Does the company size, industry, and description match what you knew about them?
- Review the “people you may know” and add any that are relevant.
- Review your meetings/phone calls from the week and connect with anyone new.
- Check your email digest and/or news feed for any changes in your contacts or the companies you work with or follow.
If you receive a notification that a contact has a new position:
- Say congrats!
- Update your customer list to show that contact person at a new company and follow up to get their email/phone at the new job.
- Follow up with your current customer to find out who is replacing them.
If a company or connection that you work with shares something interesting:
- Consider liking or commenting on their article.
- Review any company news for information that might impact your opportunities with their company.
Have any time left? Do some prospecting!
- This article has great resources for using LinkedIn’s free advanced search functionality to identify people by job title and industry.
- If you are attending a tradeshow or networking event, consider searching by geographic area to find potential contacts in the area.
There are hundreds of other things you can do on LinkedIn, but if you’re like most of us, spending five minutes a week on these activities is a manageable commitment. Best of luck - 2018 is your year for LinkedIn!
Still feeling overwhelmed? We can help! Check us out.