The Real Scoop on LinkedIn for Business

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LinkedIn is another massively popular social web platform. It has similarities to other social platforms, but some key differences as well. The primary difference is that it’s centered on people’s jobs, careers and businesses. It’s the go-to place for displaying your achievements and business credentials. It’s a place to connect with others who share similar interests or have similar goals. And it’s a place where many companies go to look for new employees and freelance contractors to hire. LinkedIn is free to use, although there are premium memberships available which allow more features and freedoms for making connections.

Although LinkedIn has many great features, its most basic function is that of an online resume. When you create an account on LinkedIn, you are prompted to complete a profile that represents what you have to offer in the workplace. When you create your profile, you put your best foot forward to explain your skills, specialties, achievements, education, and career experience. Profiles are very important and should be made as clear and complete as possible. This is how other members of LinkedIn will view you and decide if you are worth seeking out for a connection.

Since LinkedIn is geared toward careers and business, it requires a much different approach than Facebook. On LinkedIn, the objective is to obtain credibility and respect in your profession. You want to present yourself in a professional manner. To help build credibility among your network of contacts on LinkedIn, you have the opportunity to request recommendations from people who know you. You may also garner “endorsements” from others members who are inclined to vouch for you in that way.

Another important feature of LinkedIn is its groups. There are groups that can be a fantastic source of information and exposure for the members. Members post questions about topics related to the group, and other members attempt to provide answers. This creates a healthy learning and networking opportunity. It also gives the members a chance to shine by displaying their knowledge to the group, which can lead to more connections and endorsements.

Methods of contacting others

For the people who are your 1st degree (direct) connections, you are free to contact them directly by clicking the “send email” button on their profile pages. Contacting 2nd- and 3rd- degree people involves using a feature called “Introductions.” When you open a new account, LinkedIn provides you with five introductions for free. To have the ability to send more, you need to upgrade to a premium account. This is how introductions work: Find a 1st- degree connection who is connected to the person to whom you want the introduction to go. Send an introduction message to your 1st- degree connection and ask that he or she forward it to the person to whom you want the introduction to go. (Of course, your direct connection has the option of declining your request.)  If it does get forwarded, the person who receives it gets the option of accepting or declining the introduction. If the introduction is accepted, that doesn’t make you 1st- degree connections. An invitation still must to be sent for that to occur, which would require getting an email address for the person.

LinkedIn also offers messaging capabilities called InMail and Openlink, but these are only available to premium members. InMail allows you to directly contact anyone on the LinkedIn network without an introduction. OpenLink allows you to receive OpenLink messages from anyone on the LinkedIn network. With OpenLink, you can keep your email address private while opening yourself up to more contacts and connection possibilities.

Contacts & connections

Network building on LinkedIn involves your contacts and connections. A contact is someone of whom you are aware, but is not part of your network. It might be someone you found while doing a search. It might be someone you already have as a Gmail, AOL, Hotmail or Outlook email contact. Or, it might be someone who’s connected to one or your connections. To turn a contact into a connection, you send the contact an invitation to connect. If they accept your invitation, you are then connected as 1st- degree connections.

Since LinkedIn is your network of professionals online, it is vital to keep your reputation in mind. The goal is to build connections and credibility. Therefore, it’s important to be cautious about your 1st-degree connections. The more you know about the people you invite (or who invite you), the better. When you receive an invitation, ask yourself, “Does this person seem like someone who would have a positive effect on my network, and perhaps give me a positive recommendation?” Also, someone who is your 1st-degree connection has the ability to access all of your connections. Consider how that might reflect on you. Your reputation on LinkedIn should be guarded carefully, so it’s not a good idea to send or accept invitations without some degree of caution.

Would LinkedIn be helpful for your business?

The three main benefits of using LinkedIn are: finding people with whom to connect, being found by others, and keeping in touch with your connections. Obviously, each of these benefits can have tremendous value in the business world. As a business owner, you need to decide if this type of networking is right for you. As with other social web platforms, it takes a continuous effort to reap the benefits. It’s not something you can set and forget. You have to spend time on a regular basis cultivating real, human connections and interactions. It is an investment of time, but the possible rewards can be substantial as your LinkedIn presence grows steadily over time

Setting up your profile

As I mentioned earlier, your profile acts as your online resume on LinkedIn. It is important because it is how other members will get a first impression of you. Based on your profile, they will decide if they think you are worth connecting with. You should strive to complete your profile in the best way you can. Here are some tips for creating a good profile:

  • Be sure to include your picture.
  • Be sure to include your contact information.
  • Mention if you are freelance/independent in your line of work.
  • Put your skills in the Professional Headline. Your name and professional headline are the only things that appear in search results on LinkedIn.
  • Write a good background description of yourself, but not too long. Two paragraphs is a good length.
  • List languages you speak and how well you speak them.

How to create a company page

Creating a company page on LinkedIn is a free and simple process. One important caveat is that it is required to have an email address that is on its own distinct domain. That means it needs to be like “pete@petescompany.com,” and can’t be a Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, or other common email domain.

When you have a company page, other LinkedIn members can choose to follow your company, much as they do on Twitter or by “liking” your Facebook page. You can then post status updates to inform your followers of new products, services, promotions, or anything else about your business that they might be interested in.

To create a company page:

  1. At the top of your LinkedIn homepage, go to Interests, and then Companies.
  2. Click “Add a Company” on the upper right area of the page.
  3. Enter the name of the company and your work email address.
  4. Click “Continue” and follow the instructions for confirming your work email address.
  5. Add information about your company.

Paid-advertising on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has its own pay-per-click ad system for reaching out to other members. The ads can appear in two different places: on the sidebar, and at the top of the site. They include a photo, 25-character headline, and 75-character description. You can target your ads by industry, job function, groups, geography, age and more. You can also split-test ads to see which get a better response.

Top things to remember about LinkedIn

  • The most basic function of LinkedIn is to act as your online resume.
  • People search LinkedIn to find workers and businesses that offer certain skills. Your Profile is what they will look at to decide if they want to do business with you or connect with you.
  • The objective on LinkedIn is to build credibility for yourself and/or your business. Features like recommendations and endorsements help in that way.
  • LinkedIn has many groups based around certain topics. Getting involved in those groups (by asking and answering questions) is a great way to get information and display your expertise on a subject, which can lead to new connections.
  • Emails are sent to create connections. Your 1st-degree connections are the people who you can contact directly. Your 2nd-degree connections are the connections of your first-degree connections (and so on.)
  • Contacting 2nd– and 3rd-degree people involves using a feature called Introductions.
  • LinkedIn is free, but you may upgrade to a premium account.
  • With a free account, you are given five introductions to use.
  • Premium accounts allow you more freedoms for contacting people outside of your 1st-degree connections.
  • It’s very important to complete your profile as much as possible.
  • You may create a company page for your business that others can follow.
  • LinkedIn has paid-advertising options that give you more exposure to other members.

 

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