Linking In: Part I

We have been looking at marketing the home-based business, with the last several posts focusing on social media. We last looked at Facebook and this week we turn to another increasingly important social media platform: LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is much like Facebook, but it is a better approach to social media for businesses. Users on LinkedIn are there specifically for professional networking, which keeps the level of conversation higher than on Facebook (which isn’t hard). There are several components to using LinkedIn effectively for business:

Profile. It’s worth devoting extra time to working on your LinkedIn profile, as this is the “ad” that will attract contacts. Describe what products or services you offer clearly and concisely, but avoid sounding like an ad. Pay special attention to a profile picture; do not attempt a self-portrait with a cameraphone (aka “selfie”) as they never look good. You may even want to spend a little money and have a professional photo taken. This can be used on LinkedIn as well as on your own website and for any other promotional purposes. Remember, the key word in everything you put out to promote your business should be “professional.”

Contacts. Naturally, you will want to add contacts, otherwise no one will see your profile. How do you get started? Begin with people you personally know; search for them on LinkedIn, and if they have a profile, send a request to connect. Once you start amassing contacts, LinkedIn will often suggest mutual contacts, and at the same you will start receiving connect requests. It’s tempting to add everyone who wants to connect, but as with Facebook and Twitter, you are searching for quality not quantity. If someone very far afield of your business sends a connect request, give some thought to whether you want to accept. Here’s a tip: as soon as you meet someone at an event, seminar, networking opportunity, etc., and get their business card, look them up on LinkedIn and send an invitation to connect. You may even find that they’ll try to connect with you first.

Messaging. Sending someone a message through LinkedIn is a good way of contacting someone if you don’t know their “real” contact info. (Truth be told, some people exclusively send email through LinkedIn Messaging.)

Status Updates. Here you can post any news about your business, such as projects you have completed, awards you have attained, new clients you have landed, personal appearances, and so forth. It is also helpful to share links to stories or other content you have come across online—related to your industry—and add a brief comment. Try to craft intelligent and helpful comments; this can be very good PR for yourself if you can demonstrate enough expertise in a subject to comment on it in an insightful way.

There are many other features to LinkedIn, which we will look at in the next few posts.