Last Tuesday, May 23, I attended StayLocal's breakfast workshop, "Managing Your Business and Professional Brand on LinkedIn,sponsored by Fidelity Bank. Grant Cooper of Strategic Resumes & Career Coaching gave a presentation about utilizing LinkedIn to promote our businesses, as well as ourselves as individuals. He also noted that in many cases, these are inextricably linked. I learned a lot at the workshop, and I want to share some of that with you.
LinkedIn is a professional social network, but I didn't realize how big the network is. Grant shared several statistics that I believe help make the case for using LinkedIn. Here are a few that stood out to me:
- There are more than 467 million users on LinkedIn.
- 50% of buyers use LinkedIn for purchasing decisions.
- 57% of businesses have a company LinkedIn page.
- 7 in 10 professionals say that LinkedIn is trustworthy.
- 94% of recruiters say that use LinkedIn to vet candidates.
These statistics will not have the same meaning for everyone, but it is undeniable that LinkedIn is widely used for a variety business interactions.
Uses of LinkedIn
As noted above, LinkedIn can be used for recruiting, hiring, and purchasing. Grant discussed these in greater detail and shared other uses for LinkedIn:
- Recruiting & hiring. The search functions on LinkedIn allow employers to identify individuals based on location, employers, job titles, key skills, and others. LinkedIn can help you identify individuals who match the experience for an opening you have, without waiting for them to apply.
- Generating leads. Grant talked about the "gatekeeper,î a person who controls access to something. A company receptionist can be a gatekeeper, preventing a sales rep from talking to the purchasing manager. However, if the purchasing manager is on LinkedIn with his/her company name and title, you can go around the gatekeeper and contact the individual directly.
- Finding speakers. If you're organizing an event where you'll want a guest speaker--such as a conference or a lunch, LinkedIn is a good place to look. Or maybe you are an expert on a particular topic; LinkedIn can help you find your next speaking engagement.
Improving Your Profile
Grant discussed steps we can all take to improve our LinkedIn profiles. First, he said, a profile picture is a must. LinkedIn also includes capabilities to utilize other visuals including a background image, company logos, and others. Grant encourages the use of these. Regarding a profile is content, I learned that it is important to stand out. Many of us are familiar with the term "elevator pitch," during which you concisely explain your company in a matter of seconds (the time of an elevator ride); this concept also applies to the LinkedIn profile. You want your profile to clearly convey what you do or your company does, and what you can do for others. The "summary" portion is particularly useful for this purpose.
Actively Building Your Network
Grant gave a great analogy when explaining the need to be active on LinkedIn. He said that setting up a LinkedIn account and not using it is like putting a stack of business cards in the lobby of a building and leaving them there. Wouldn't it be more effective to hand your cards directly to individuals? The same goes for your LinkedIn profile: don't just leave it there; connect with people.
LinkedIn offers you suggestions of individuals to connect with, and Grant says to invite them to become a connection. You can use LinkedIn is search function with keywords such as industries or job titles that might show up in someone's profile. Grant said "don't be afraid to connect with strangers," but he encourages sending a short message explaining why you're inviting them to connect. His advice, even for novice LinkedIn users, is to get on there and see how it goes.
Takeaways - Personal Connections
It was clear to me that Grant is both knowledgeable about and skilled at using LinkedIn. One thing that stood out to me is that he discussed and encouraged the use of LinkedIn as an individual, as opposed to as a business. While business profiles exist, Grant encourages being active on LinkedIn as an individual. We all have roles within our companies, and I came away with the idea that LinkedIn is a place for individuals to connect with individuals. Two individuals connecting may be in the context of the two businesses, but the LinkedIn connection is about the individuals.
One last thought: this workshop focused on using LinkedIn as an online networking tool. This is different from an online marketing tool. Prior to this event, I saw these activities as the same, but I now recognize them as separate. That is, using LinkedIn as an online media outlet is different from what Grant discussed at the workshop. And it can provide a topic for a future blog post.
"What I Learned at..." is a series in LCIA's Orange Blog where we provide a recap of LCI and LCIA events. Additionally, our staff will occasionally attend professional development and educational classes. We use the "What I Learned at..." blog series to report what we learned to you.