In the marketing business today we are constantly barraged with people shouting the importance of Facebook and Twitter to promote small business. From my perspective, both as an owner of a small business and an advisor to over a hundred small business owners, I can honestly say that Linkedin is hands down the best investment of time to generate business using your computer. I’m not saying don’t use Facebook or Twitter to represent your company. I’m just saying from my experience, I’ve gained a lot more sales through Linkedin than through Facebook or Twitter combined.
The aspect of Linkedin that I like the most is that everyone who is on the site is there under no false pretenses. It’s known in advance that you are there to network. You are networking to grow your business or promote yourself for employment purposes. Linkedin is actually very similar to live networking events in many ways. Here are some do’s and don’ts.
1. Don’t pitch your product/services. You should be looking to connect with people that you can help out with other connections you already have. Just like networking in the non-cyber world if you connect people that can use each other’s products and services they will (or should) do the same. It doesn’t always work this way but this is the best approach in my opinion.
2. Do follow up with a phone call when you connect with people. Find out what they do and see if you know anyone that you can introduce them to that would make sense. I think this is the main thing that’s so commonly overlooked about Linkedin. You need to think of it as tool to connect in the real world.
3. Don’t link your Linkedin account to your Facebook or Twitter account. “I’m sitting at Starbuck’s at JFK waiting to fly home.” might be perfectly acceptable on twitter but it just doesn’t fit on Linkedin. The only quicker way to lose a connection on linkedin other than aggressively trying to sell, is to blow up somebody’s Linkedin home page with 27 mindless tweets or Facebook posts a day.
4. Do join some groups. Find groups that make sense for you to join to position yourself to do business. If you sell paint it’s probably not going to be real productive to join a group of other painters. Maybe join a group of Contractors. Then ask some questions, answer some questions and position yourself to be able to meet people who may need your product/services.
5. Don’t try to be the person with the most connections. Think quality over quantity. Obviously, 100 connections that include 10 customers is better than 1000 connections and 2 customers. If you have 30 good connections that you are actively networking with you should be doing a lot of business.
6. Do start your own group eventually, but before you do, you need to build up some good connections both from existing friends, customers, previous co-workers etc. You also need to wait until you’ve developed some good connections through joining and participating in some well-planned groups. Also, remember when you are ready to start your own group, don’t make it competitive with a group you are already in. I would suggest putting a little thought into what groups you join so that you don’t spin your wheels or create conflict down the road when you decide to start your own group.
7. Don’t be a bull in a China shop. If you try to go from 10 connections to 300 in a couple of weeks you will lose credibility and connections. I’ve seen it happen. When you connect with someone, everyone you are connected with can see it when they first log on and it just doesn’t look right when you log on and see the person who just connected with you also just connected with 14 others.
8. Do get familiar with the search feature. You can target the prospects that you want to meet. Follow their activities and see what groups they are in. You can join the group that they are most active in and participate in the conversation. Find out about the companies chain of command. Is this tactic sneaky or smart? Leave a comment and let me know.
This is by no means a complete guide to all of the ins and outs of Linkedin. These are just some things I’ve learned that work for me. Please share how you’ve used Linkedin to connect with people and generate business.
by Matt Fortenbery
CEO Total Printing Solution
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