Harnessing LinkedIn to build your business, not just your resume pool
LinkedIn is often referred to as a ‘professional version of Facebook’. Somewhere to build out your resume and hope that the offers of dream employment come flooding in. But in reality, LinkedIn has developed into an incredibly powerful networking, business development, relationship manager and ‘alumni’ partner to allow individuals and businesses to further develop their online presence.
LinkedIn launched in 2003 and had as few as 20 signups on some days. It’s 100,000th member joined early 2004 and in 2005 revenue begins flowing in through its Jobs and Subscriptions channel. By 2006 the company is profitable and core features such as People you may know and Recommendations are introduced. Going global in 2008, the company reaches 20 million members and by the end of 2010 has 90 million members and 1,000 employees. Staggering growth. By the end of 2014, 332 million people across the globe are LinkedIn members and is growing at more than 2 members every second.
A key question I’m often asked is ‘How can LinkedIn benefit me in building my personal brand and business’? Here are three tips which may help to do just that.
1. Credibility and a meaningful contact
Just like your own professional resume, you wouldn’t lie about your skills / experiences / education etc, so firstly, ensure your profile isn’t embellished in any way. Fill in all the gaps, ensuring your profile is as complete as possible. Linking previous roles with the businesses ensures you firstly build out your network with relevant alumni – and most of those in much older roles would have moved on to other businesses, meaning your ‘web’ is organically growing from the word go.
Like any networking site, you can invite people to join your network – socially, the person you met at a bar one night for a fleeting 20 seconds may get a Facebook request. With LinkedIn, there could be a temptation to invite any person you’d ‘like’ to connect with. LinkedIn has measures to ensure you need to prove a relationship to ensure it isn’t a spammy, empty relationship. If enough of your requested connections ‘bump’ you due to no history, your profile may be temporarily suspended. Worse, your credibility amongst those you care about could be adversely affected.
2. Consistency and expertise
Your professional life is ever – evolving, therefore your LinkedIn profile should do the same. Any time you gain a new experience, skill, qualification or achieve a promotion your profile needs to be updated. Not only are you building on your professional story, other prospective hirers are always seeking new talent – especially the passive ‘off market’ candidate – not actively seeking employment. And let’s face it, everyone loves to be tapped on the shoulder every once in a while.
3. Harness the ‘Shared Network’ to build your referral base
Let’s assume you are an active LinkedIn member and am considering a new home loan therefore have requested a mortgage broker to meet and discuss options. As a part of your research, you head to LinkedIn to see what the broker’s experience is prior to the meeting. Here’s the power of the network – when the customer finds the Broker, they are also presented with a list of connections who are shared between all parties. There’s a fair chance the prospective customer will ask their contact what ‘Broker A’ is like, how they know them, and whether or not they should engage with that person.
I like to ask audiences how many people have googled their current, ex or prospective boyfriend or girlfriend – on average I’d say 80% have. It’s the same when consumers are making important purchasing decisions with individuals – property, mortgages, personal training or accounting. Your chances to build a relationship with a prospective customer prior to engagement are improved by having a completed and professional profile with meaningful contact base. And for consumers, the experience is free (of course there are valuable additions available at a cost).