If you’re involved with a business-to-business business in any way, you almost certainly know of LinkedIn, a social network geared specifically toward professionals looking to build business connections and promote themselves or their companies. But, what have you done with that knowledge? Does your B2B business have a robust and active presence on LinkedIn? Or maybe you have a profile that you check in on every few months. Or perhaps, getting on LinkedIn is just another thing far on the bottom of your “to do” list.
If you’re not actively using a LinkedIn account, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to build professional relationships, generate leads, make new contacts, and promote yourself or your B2B business.
What LinkedIn can do for you
LinkedIn isn’t just another MySpace or Facebook; since it was created for professionals, you won’t sign on and see ultrasound pics from a girl you knew in high school, or read political rants from your belligerent second cousin. Instead, you can tap into LinkedIn’s well-established network of over 100 million professionals to find or “meet” industry leaders and qualified specialists who can help you take your business to the next level. In addition, LinkedIn can connect your B2B business with current or potential customers and increase its overall visibility.
Once your business is established on LinkedIn, the site itself creates a rich aggregate of data for potential partners or customers to explore, enabling interested parties to get a more complete picture of your business. For example, LinkedIn will scour the site and present links to employees’ profiles, links related to recent company promotions and information about all your job listings. It will also analyze the data it finds, determining which other companies your employees are well-connected to and calculating the top schools represented by your employees, for example. Although LinkedIn also offers several premium features for a fee, a basic, well-maintained company profile is generally sufficient for a small-to-medium-sized B2B business. But while getting started on LinkedIn is easy, fully utilizing this potent networking medium takes some experience and plenty of screen-time.
Where to begin
Before focusing on your business profile, get started simply by creating or fleshing out your own personal profile. While you work on this, strongly encourage each of your employees and others connected with your company to do the same. Keep the emphasis on being professional, but also include some information on personal interests in order to help you build real, lasting connections with others.
Once your profile is complete, focus on building your contacts with other professionals. Since each connection is a potential customer, ensure that every item you post will be relevant to your contacts.
After you’re confident in your own profile, you can turn to your B2B business’ profile, following similar steps to create a compelling summary. With your business profile underway, don’t hesitate to cross-promote: every time your company runs a new campaign or has major news, be sure to promote it on your own profile. However, be respectful and don’t “spam” your contacts with trivial company information, or you’ll quickly turn them off. Just be genuine and concentrate on building authentic relationships, rather than inundating everyone with links or pressuring contacts to follow your company page. Provide valuable information on your own profile, giving your contacts the “inside scoop,” and your personal profile could be even more successful than your company profile in turning potential customers into actual ones. Then, make it a priority to update and edit both your own and your company’s information regularly.
As for your LinkedIn company site, you can easily promote it on your company’s website or blog, as well as on other social networks in which you may be involved. You could even offer a small incentive to follow your company’s LinkedIn page. Remember that building an effective company page isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming, so be prepared to put in some real time if you want to see real results.
So what are you waiting for?
Among the many social networking sites out there, if you had to choose only one to join to promote your B2B business, LinkedIn should be it. LinkedIn offers ways to make new business connections, generate more business, research your competition, achieve greater visibility on the web, conduct market research and facilitate introductions. All that, along with the fact that executives from every Fortune 500 company are LinkedIn members, is hard to argue with. LinkedIn is the professional social media site, and it’s an ideal business-to-business marketing tool.