LinkedIn. Isn’t that where nieces and nephews go to find jobs? Well, with two new members joining per second, it is now the preferred social channel for professionals – an inescapable juggernaut. This status yields unique opportunities for collaboration, customer service, branding and much more. This includes unprecedented mingling and marketing opportunities with targeted executives and decision makers. Further, it turns out that these professionals do fun things besides career harvesting – like vendor sourcing, product/process research, problem solving through crowd sourcing and much more. Here’s why you should care:
Users are Professionals
You won’t find many pictures of puppies, babies, BBQs or the high school reunion dinner on LinkedIn. Instead, you’ll find professionals, many of whom make purchasing decisions for their respective companies. The LinkedIn community includes executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies. I can’t think of any other avenue that allows you to easily reach so many industry-specific decision makers and power players.
Since the LinkedIn community is comprised mostly of professionals, it should come as no surprise that active, genuine participation generates leads over time. A study conducted last summer by ThomasNet indicated that over 53% of 2,800 companies surveyed were leveraging LinkedIn. More significantly, almost a third of them are using it as a prospecting tool.
The essential lead generation process is no different than the traditional one: prospects learn about you and your company, if you offer the products and services they require and they like you or your company, they will request quotes or buy from you.
It’s a Key to the Future
As of this spring, students and recent college graduates are the fastest-growing demographic on LinkedIn. Why is this important? These are the executives and decision makers of tomorrow. One of the most common challenges I hear from industrial business owners and marketers is, “How do I reach the younger generation?” LinkedIn, in conjunction with other social efforts, is the path to reach them.
Let’s face it – the world is shrinking by the minute. More and more US companies are exporting and doing business on a global scale. I have good news for current and future exporters: LinkedIn is used in over 200 countries/territories! It is available in seventeen languages: English, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. While a soft dollar isn’t something we are particularly proud of, it does make our products and services much more appetizing for the international market… so why not make sure the world knows what you have to offer?
It Keeps Growing, and Growing
Earlier this year, LinkedIn negotiated to take an entire floor of the Empire State Building. That’s 31,000 square feet in one of the world’s most prestigious business addresses. Why? Status. Prestige. But think about the bigger implications – the expansion reflects LinkedIn’s phenomenal growth. Ten years ago, it didn’t exist. Today, is has more than 161m professionals worldwide growing at 2 members per second.
Readers, Act Now!
There are many facets of LinkedIn that you can leverage. The more you do, the better off you will be:
- Your Profile – If you haven’t yet – start with the basics and create your own profile. Fill out all required details. Encourage others at your company to do the same. Keep your profile up to date. Seek out people that you know and connect with them to grow your network.
- Company Page – After the people are on board, build your company page. Over 2 million companies already have! Be sure to fill out as much as you can. Write up a good, concise company profile. Take advantage of the ability to add your products and services as well.
- Get Social – Next step is to start getting social. Publish routine posts relating to your industry. Resist the temptation to talk about your business, focus on thought leadership by sharing your knowledge to help other community members.
- Group Participation – Group participation is one of the best ways to meet people in your industry, and grow your network. Through group discussions, you can share your knowledge, solve problems, follow top thought leaders and keep abreast on what’s new. If you stay at it long enough, you will establish yourself as a go-to person for your industry – which is exactly what you want to do!
- Advertise – Consider paid advertising on LinkedIn. The tools allow for precise targeting, and keep in mind that you are reaching an influential professional audience.
As with most things social, success is not immediate. It will take time to build your audience and earn their trust. Regard the other golden rule: make sure participation is at a consistent pace. And, of course, resist the temptation to talk only about you and your company. Focus on your industry, applications and expertise – perhaps sharing best practices. Become a problem solver. Help community members with their challenges and eventually turn some into customers. Most of you are doing these things already with clients and prospects, but it’s time to share your expertise with new audiences, and allow your brand and business to grow.
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