In Part 1 we discussed how changes in technology have changed the way prospects look for professional service providers. In Part 2 we looked at the strategies and social media tools prospects are using to find and hire professional service providers. In Part 3, we focused on Facebook and Twitter. These are two tools you should be using to market yourself and your practice. Here in Part 4, We'll focus on LinkedIn and its ability to help you with business development.
LinkedIn: The Place Where Business Gets Done
A headline in the September 29, 2010 The New York Times read, "The Social Network That Gets Down To Business." In addition to pulling off an extremely successful IPO in the last couple of weeks, LinkedIn now has over 100 million members and is widely considered the premier social network for professionals. All 500 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented on LinkedIn. Over 36 million people visit the site each month and 66% of the 100 million users are decision makers.
LinkedIn allows you to connect with people you know and get introduced to people you want to know. Used properly, LinkedIn can provide you with a multitude of business development opportunities. Here are a few tips for using LinkedIn.
All the rules we discussed with regard to Facebook and Twitter apply here too.
- Connect with people you know or want to know. One of the features that sets LinkedIn apart from Facebook and Twitter is the "Advanced Search" capabilities it has. Search for people you know by their name, their industry, their location, the size of their firm, or any number of other ways.
The more connections you have, the larger your network is. The larger the network, the more opportunities you have for introductions. For example, as of today, I have 3,481 connections that link me to 14,969,695+ professionals.
Take advantage of LinkedIn's "Power of Three" which is how I have almost 15 million professionals in my network.
Spend a lot of time on your profile. Write a compelling summary. List your specialties. Describe your firm. List your prior jobs and tell us what the firm did and what you did at the firm. Tell us how each of your jobs prepared you for what you are doing today. Don't be shy. Your profile can be the deciding factor when someone is trying to determine whether they should contact you.
Keep in mind that Google indexes LinkedIn profiles and your profile is often the first thing that appears in a Google search.
Write recommendations for other people and request recommendations from others. Even with SEC and FINRA rules in place, appropriate recommendations can appear on your profile.
Join groups and/or start a group of your own. Joining a group is a great way to make new connections, establish yourself as a thought leader and build credibility and trust.
Take advantage of the applications you can add to your LinkedIn profile. Connect your blog to your profile. Create a presentation and put it on your profile with Slideshare. Attorneys can connect with JD Supra on their profile, as well as their Martindale-Hubbell listing.
Post updates often. Drive people to your blog and your firm's website. With every post, ask yourself, "Am I adding value to the life of the person reading this" and you can become a star. This would be true on all the social networks.
Think Before You Post, But Post
The social media world is filled with potholes professionals can fall into. There are ethical concerns as well as concerns about following various rules and regulations that govern an industry. This should keep you on your toes, not prevent you from participating. Be careful about who you let manage you and your firm's social presence. Are they aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them? Does your firm have a social media policy that is enforced and applies to every employee? There are many stupid things you can do while participating in the social media sphere. If you think before you post, all these things can be avoided.
Social media marketing is not a fad. It is here to stay. A presenter at a recent conference I attended said, "The ROI on your social media marketing is that you will still be in business in five years." Food for thought?
Don't use social marketing as your sole means of marketing. You still need to buy tables at charity events, give speeches, join Chambers, attend networking events, and meet prospects at Starbucks. Add social marketing to your tool box. Use it effectively and you'll be glad you did. Don't expect overnight results. It takes a lot of hard work and energy to build communities, credibility and trust. When the first prospect sends you that email or the message on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you'll wonder why you didn't get involved sooner.