This week, I’ve been busy stalking various online gurus.
I love a bit of stalking online – and better to channel the habit in to your professional life rather than clicking through pictures of your neighbour’s Christmas morning five years before you even met them, right?!
Anyway… I was researching for some new reviews, and considering some new contributors to this very email and our sister newsletter.
Reading some pretty bad stuff about some (seemingly) decent people in the process, I got thinking about something that was a real buzz topic a few years ago: online reputation management.
I was then thinking about how, if you’re starting a business online, one thing you’ll always have to consider is: ‘What comes up on the front page when people Google me/my business?’
It’s something always worth checking: go on – Google yourself!
Yesterday morning, over a cuppa, I was talking to a friend who is in the process of starting an online craft business, and we got on to this subject.
She wanted ideas about how to better dominate the front page of Google for her name (which was a fairly common one!), along with various combinations of keyword.
I recommended various tactics to do with SEO and social media, but one, which ties in to search-result-monopolization for both your business AND online reputation management (plus a lot more in between) is LinkedIn.
Going back to my start point, I then went on to see how many of the gurus I was researching had taken the time to get on LinkedIn and use it well.
I was pleased to see that, unlike a few years ago where I could never seem to find anyone I wanted to on the site, most were there and very well connected.
This was a new research route for me, and also a great route into me finding more potential partners/contributors and contacts! ??Truly, we should all be using LinkedIn more than we currently do.
I never remember to update my own profile. I really, really should, and in light of that, I thought we’d take a look at it in this week’s email, before I get to work on it myself this afternoon.
Why use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is the networking site for professionals, with over 225 million users.
For years, its main use was as a career tool; a place where professionals could establish contact with others in their field: a kind of networking space where business-people could keep up with what their peers were doing.
Its main practical purposes were:
- Finding a new job or finding potential employees.
- Making contact with other professionals to pitch for business, or seek recommendations, etc.
It was a pretty limited network: not the kind of place that users would feel compelled to log in to every day in the same way that they check Facebook and Twitter.
Over the last couple of years, LinkedIn has improved a lot, adding a number of new features that mean it is a much more useful site for anyone who wants to make money online.
LinkedIn is now a great place to do all of the following:
- Make contact and establish relationships with people who could help you.
- Boost traffic and send more eyeballs to your website.
- Enhance your reputation as an expert in your field, whatever it is.
- Keep up with the latest news and useful content – a lot of which you may be able to adapt for your own site.
- Get extra work as a freelancer or expert.
In this article, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through LinkedIn and show you how it should be an important tool for you and your home business.
Registering for LinkedIn
If you haven’t already got a LinkedIn account, registering is very easy. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to www.linkedin.com.
- Sign up by typing your details into the box on the right. Remember, you are going to be using this for professional/business purposes so use your business email address if you have one.
- Create your professional profile, following the steps on screen.
The first thing LinkedIn will do is connect to your email account and search through your contacts for people who are already using LinkedIn.
This is a great way of getting started by building your network. ??The advantages of having a network of connections is that they will see the content and links that you post and are more likely to share them, just like on Facebook and Twitter.
It also helps people take you more seriously if you have a decent number of connections. Don’t worry if you don’t have many to start with: it will build over time.
It will also give you the choice of inviting people who are not on LinkedIn. I would recommend skipping this step, as you don’t want to annoy your friends! Most people who want to be on LinkedIn are already on there.
- Once you’ve set up your account, you will be asked to choose between a free basic account and a premium account. ??I recommend choosing basic: you can always upgrade later if you find that you need to have any of the extra features, the most useful of which is being able to send messages to people you’re not connected to.
- You should now spend some time enhancing your profile with information about yourself.??Remember, you are acting as a representative of your business. So if you are a writer whose aim is to sell more ebooks on Kindle, make sure you describe yourself as a writer and include details about your books and expertise in your profile.
If you have an information site for people interested in marketing, make sure you tailor your profile accordingly. Keep it professional, relevant and don’t waffle. Include only important information.
Make sure you upload a picture of yourself, and that it’s a photo that represents you as a professional. Unlike Facebook, this isn’t a good place to upload a picture of yourself with your kids or wearing a silly costume!
Congratulations! Once you’ve completed this step, you will have a LinkedIn profile.
Using LinkedIn to share content and drive traffic to your site
Once you’ve set up an account and logged in, the main body of the page will show a sight that will be familiar to any users of Facebook or Twitter: a feed of content containing links and status updates.
At the top is a box where you can update your status. This can include linking to a web page. So you could use this to link to a new blog post or piece of content on your site.
As with all social networks, the golden rule is: don’t just post loads of links to your own stuff. If you do, your contacts will quickly grow bored.
It’s important to include a mix of interesting updates – which would be comments about your specialist subject or questions that are designed to provoke a response from your contacts.
Then, when you want to include links to your own stuff – whether it’s a blog post, an eBay listing, a book on Kindle, or a new product that you want to sell – people are more likely to take notice of it and share it with their own contacts.
Just like on Twitter, the more people share your content, the larger your network will grow, as other users will see that you have interesting content to share and will ask to connect with you.
Speaking of Twitter, you can connect your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, if you have one, so that anything you post on the former is automatically posted to the latter, saving you time and effort.
How to use LinkedIn for effective networking
Any form of marketing, from word of mouth to social networking, is far more powerful when you get other people to do the hard work for you. That’s why LinkedIn can be such a great tool.
Here are some ideas on how you can build your network with the aim of getting your contacts to share your content, and recommend whatever you’re selling to their network.
1. Make as many contacts as possible.
You should have already imported your email address book and should see your contacts start to accept your invitation to connect. It’s worthwhile doing this regularly to make sure you keep up to date with new contacts.
You should take a look through your contacts’ lists of connections and add anyone you know or have had contact with in the past.
You need to make sure you add anyone you come into contact with, whether it’s through meeting them at a conference or chatting with them on Twitter.
2. Then, importantly, you need to engage with them on LinkedIn:
- Like or comment on their updates and posts: when you do this, they are more likely to reciprocate and it also means you will become visible to their contacts, which might go on to become your useful contacts.
- Endorse their skills or write recommendations for them. At the top of an individual’s profile page, you’ll see a box that allows you to easily endorse them. This is a very quick and easy way of making your contacts feel warm towards you, because they will receive a notification when you do it. And when people feel warmly towards you they are more likely to share your content!
It’s all about keeping ‘front of mind’ so that your contacts think about you.
As well as encouraging your contacts to share your content, it’s a good idea to keep in contact so they will:
- Let you know of any interesting opportunities that come up.
- Recommend you to their colleagues and acquaintances.
- They might even become your customer!
I highly recommend getting onto LinkedIn and testing it out.
Remember, as with all forms of marketing, you will need to invest some time and have patience to see what works best for you.
It’s also important to record how much time you spend on the site and measure what you get from it: e.g. how much traffic; and how does this translate to sales. If it works, do more of it, and if doesn’t do less. That is the golden rule of business!
Have a great week.