As one of the first million LinkedIn members (but unfortunately not one of the early investors), I've had an opportunity to refine my knowledge of, and visibility on, "the Facebook for business." Most professionals use LinkedIn for networking. While I see the value of networking (I have more than 2,000 connections myself), I do believe a vast majority of business-to-business sales and marketing professionals are missing tremendous opportunities on LinkedIn.
In this article, I'll examine advanced strategies for optimizing your personal and company profiles. First, let's begin with your own persona on LinkedIn.
Your LinkedIn profile
Whether you're looking for a new job or just enhancing your current network, having a highly visible profile is critical. In the past, I've written extensively about social media, including building and managing your online persona via profile optimization. LinkedIn is perhaps one of the most effective social platforms for online reputation management, as it is highly trusted by Google and built to be search engine-friendly.
To get the most out of your presence on the network, the following LinkedIn profile elements should be optimized with descriptive, relevant, and compelling keywords and copy.
Tagline: Make it unique and memorable, but don't forget to incorporate relevant keywords.
Summary, experience, and skills: Be thorough -- include all relevant past employers, as well as any organizations or associations with which you've been involved. Make sure your employment dates are accurate and job descriptions include accomplishments and metrics.
Recommendations: While employers and volunteer experience demonstrate breadth of experience, nothing can replace depth, in the form of powerful peer recommendations. Set a goal of at least one recommendation per job, back as far as possible.
URLs: Include three relevant websites (personal or professional blog, other professional social profiles, or current employer) and optimize the anchor text (see example below). Don't forget to include your Twitter profile and claim your public profile vanity URL.
Recommend API: Incorporate the LinkedIn "recommend" button on your company bio page. The recommend link should also be incorporated on company product or service pages, which we will cover later. Notice the option to "view my profile on LinkedIn" below the bio on the Anvil website.
Résumé: Not in love with your current paper résumé? Not to worry, as LinkedIn Résumé Builder offers templates that format your profile into a formal PDF paper version. Regardless of format, consider incorporating your LinkedIn (and other social profile statistics) into your résumé. Specifically, the number of connections and recommendations are your personal IP and create value for potential employers. Don't forget to include social profile URLs or handles (i.e., @KentLewis on Twitter).
Status updates: To stay top-of-mind with your network, post regular status updates for your followers, which they will see in their feeds. If you have a Twitter account and limited bandwidth, simply syndicate your (professional) Twitter feed to LinkedIn.
Additional information: Add your interests, as some employers or prospects look for shared interests by which to create a connection. Add skills "tags" to your profile (accessible via the "more" menu). Also include any honors or awards you might have received on your own or on behalf of an employer.
Personal settings: Be careful when including personal contact information, especially birthday, address, or marital status, as it can be used to steal your identity or compromise your credit.
Personal LinkedIn homepage
One of the lesser-utilized benefits of being a LinkedIn member is the personalized homepage functionality. A variety of tools and resources are available, as outlined below.
All updates: Regularly monitor updates from your network to identify industry news, trends, and business opportunities. To expand beyond your network connections, consider bookmarking and visiting Signal.
People you may know: Monitor this field regularly and invite people of interest to grow your network. I typically review this section daily.
Statistics: Track the "Who's Viewed Your Profile" and "Your LinkedIn Network" sections for opportunities. It is helpful to know who is showing interest in you and your profile.
Groups you may like: Peruse and request invitations to relevant LinkedIn Groups, then engage with those communities regularly. See the following section for more details.
Apps: Add and customize free applications (including Company Buzz, SlideShare, and Polls) to provide more value to your LinkedIn homepage dashboard.
Behind pure networking, LinkedIn Groups are perhaps the network's most popular offerings. LinkedIn power users regularly participate in groups of interest in order to generate awareness, thought leadership credentials, and generally build business.
It's never too late to get involved; simply visit the Groups Directory to identify and join those relevant to your experience and areas of interest. Note: There is a cap on the number of invitations you can have outstanding at any given time. If you don't see any groups of interest or feel a need isn't being met by the current community, consider creating your own group.
Reminder: You do not own the content you create, and despite levels of access control, sensitive information could be compromised.
A meaningful number of companies are not aware of the various opportunities to build and customize a corporate presence on LinkedIn, from a basic profile to fully customized microsite. Let's start with the basics.
Overview: This is the easiest and most essential element of a company profile; simply upload your logo and a keyword-loaded description.
Careers: Although a default tab, be sure to include current company job openings.
Products and services: The second most important tab, be sure to build out a module for every relevant product or service you currently offer. Note: For optimal value, be sure to associate each module with a page on your corporate website. For bonus points, incorporate the "recommend" API link from your corporate product pages back to the associated service module on LinkedIn. For extra bonus points, encourage your customers to recommend your services on LinkedIn.
Analytics: To get an understanding of the level of interactivity and value of your efforts, review LinkedIn's analytics for your pages regularly. Ideally, compare data against on-site analytics and integrate with monthly marketing reports.
Recent tweets and blog posts: An excellent way to extend the value of your current Twitter and blogging efforts is to syndicate both to your company overview page. If your company does not currently tweet or blog, then this is yet another reason to reconsider making the leap into social media. The example below is from Formic Media.
Follow: The "follow company" feature is an excellent market intelligence tool. Every time a company updates its profile, or employees change status, it will show up on your feed.
Custom microsite: For well-funded corporations, developing a fully customized presence on LinkedIn can reap tremendous benefits. Below is an example of Dell's LinkedIn company page, complete with detailed product promotions and embedded YouTube videos.
Perhaps the greatest single feature LinkedIn has to offer, based on my experience, is its questions and answers. Similar to Yahoo, Facebook, and Quora expert communities, the premise is straight-forward: Answer questions and earn visibility. Ask questions and gain insights.
I've used Q&A extensively to conduct research for articles I've written in the past. Over the past four years, I've asked 16 questions, but answered 564. Of those answers, 31 were selected as "best answers," which is a small but powerful number, as it moves my profile to the top of select categories where I've earned more "best answers" than others.
Not only can you generate visibility by asking or answering questions, but the quality of your answers (or even questions) can also lead to a variety of opportunities. I've personally generated new business leads, speaking opportunities, and strategic partnerships through Q&A. Most importantly, we track referring traffic from LinkedIn (mostly Q&A), and it tends to drive the most qualified leads of all social profiles we currently manage (including our blog, Twitter, Picasa, and YouTube).
Easy to create and share, LinkedIn Polls are an effective way to conduct primary research, while generating awareness and thought leadership. The strategy can be quite simple: Ask a compelling question to your LinkedIn network, then share it across your social graph (or even email newsletter). Weeks later, share the results and analysis with your constituents. Monitor and participate in other industry polls, which can be a good source of ideas for sales and marketing strategies.
One of the least-tested (but potentially most powerful) LinkedIn offerings is targeted advertising. Similar to Google and Facebook, LinkedIn offers an affordable, intuitive, and measurable ad platform. The self-service text- and image-based platform allows geo-targeting down to the city, across 10 industry categories and 18 job functions. Additional targeting opportunities include job title, company size, company name, age, gender, and even segmentation by LinkedIn Group membership. Costs range from $10 to $1,000 a day, and you can choose between a CPM and CPC model.
For those of you wondering if advertising on LinkedIn is a viable lead-generation strategy, check out Anvil Media's LinkedIn advertising case study for Axway. LinkedIn ads generated the lowest cost-per-lead of any form of advertising Axway has done to date.
Now that LinkedIn is a public company with proper funding, look for a host of new features and services in the near future. One of the most recent additions, the "Apply with LinkedIn" application tool, ensures job seekers must take LinkedIn profiles seriously. Companies are now accepting LinkedIn profile (links) instead of résumés. How will your Linkedin profile stack up against other job seekers or hiring companies?