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LinkedIn 101: The Business Network

Most business professionals have at least a peripheral understanding of how to market their products or services on social media sites Facebook and Twitter. (If not, Geek Chicago is here to help with those, too.)

LinkedIn, however, is often vastly misused or misunderstood, by businesses and professionals alike.

On the one hand, LinkedIn is the preferred social media network for B2B marketers, it’s able to call itself one of the leading job search sites in the world, and Microsoft valued the company enough to acquire it for more than $26 billion.

On the other side of things, plenty of would-be LinkedIn users have been left scratching their head after creating a profile. Others have told us that they’ve long avoided the process altogether.

Whatever the case may be, LinkedIn remains one of the key social media networking and content marketing opportunities for businesses and individuals, and if you aren't an active part of this community yet, there’s no time like the present to get started.

Here's our 101 crash course on learning the basics of LinkedIn.

What is LinkedIn?

As of the middle of 2017, LinkedIn houses over 500 million users, and continues to steadily increase this number; at one point, the network was adding as many as two users per second, according to Smart Business Trends.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – which have added professional and business-oriented functions over time – this fast-growing social media site has always been designed with professionals, job-seekers, and businesses in mind.

Why Use LinkedIn?

The power of LinkedIn specifically lies in the power of networking, and it works the same way online as it does in real life.

With networking connections, leads, and tips are created organically. LinkedIn provides people and organizations with opportunities to grow their business’ reach and, quite literally, "link" themselves to a vast community of professionals, across a variety of fields.

LinkedIn is a heightened source of networking that you can do in your pajamas in your living room (though we wouldn't recommend sharing this level of detail with your LinkedIn community). You can use the platform to:

join groups collect information uncover events in your area share articles and visual content add one's own professional contributions to the conversation

All members of this website who get what LinkedIn is trying to do are there for the same reason: creating a business network. You won't find this type of condensed business-focused environment on any other "big dog" social media website.

Step 1: Setting Up Your LinkedIn Account Properly

When you first join LinkedIn, you set up a profile as you, yourself, the person that you are - not a company. This distinction is important, as you will be able to build out a company page later – but you should always begin by joining LinkedIn as yourself.

So, how should you think of your LinkedIn profile? As Constant Contact puts it:

"Your LinkedIn Profile is like a supercharged resume that lets you showcase your experience and expertise.”

Think of this as a way to put your best, most professional foot forward. Once you’ve created a profile, you will then upload a photo, fill out your information, and set out to build your network of friends, family, co-workers, professionals, and more.

LinkedIn will help guide you through the initial process because setting up your account properly is one of the most important steps you’ll take over the course of your LinkedIn journey. In fact, according to some metrics, only about half (50.5%) of all LinkedIn users have actually completed their profiles.

Yes, ladies and gents, you read that right: one in two users aren't anywhere near getting the results that they would like, just because of less-than-average profiles.

Don't be those users. Here's what you should do:

  1. Upload a professional photo - We're in an age of visual stimulation, a good, professional photo matters now more than ever. Do you have to look like a model? Absolutely not. But your photo should be of a high-quality image resolution (i.e. no pixelation or distortion), up-to-date (i.e. not from your high school year book), and professional (i.e. you're not holding a beer or wearing a swimsuit… or holding a beer while wearing a swimsuit.)

  2. Create a professional headline - Your headline is one of the first things people see when they come to your LinkedIn profile page. Use a headline that accurately reflects your professional experience, like "Owner at Name of Your Business." Clear and articulate is always best.

  3. Create a summary - This is where you tell prospective customers, clients, or other connections who you are, what skills or experience you have, and why you are a valuable connection. 2-3 paragraphs are best here.

  4. Additional information - If you have other online profiles, like a website, blog, Facebook Page or professional Twitter handle (not a personal one), link to them in your “Contact and Personal Information” section. Build out your “Experience” section using multimedia links and a strong voice, and don’t hesitate to use LinkedIn’s publishing tools – including Articles and SlideShare – to create unique content and stand out. Have any “Skills” or “Honors & Awards” to your name? Don’t hesitate to list them! This page is all about showcasing you.

Step 2: Building a Network

Now that you've established an identity on LinkedIn, it is time to build out your network.

Go slow. It may be tempting to send out mass invitations to any and everyone you know. Resist this impulse. It is important to connect carefully and mindfully on LinkedIn. You want to present value to those you are networking with, and conversely, you want them to provide you networking value right back.

This connection starts with a personalized invitation. When you invite someone to connect with you, LinkedIn will automatically draft you a default invitation. Whenever possible, replace this with a personalized message. Taking the extra time to really explain why you want to join their network shows you that you are actually a valuable professional connection rather than someone who is strictly looking to build out their profile. Some LinkedIn users gets dozens of requests a week - if they don't know why you're connecting, they'll reject you.

First, connect with the people you know, trust, and value on some professional level. Co-workers, business partners, and other professional connections are a good place to start.

Second, connect with family and friends that are trusted connections. This can be a good way to expand your network outside of your own industry, but again, make sure these connections provide you with specific value.

Step 3: Become Socially Active

Many professionals fall into the trap of creating a profile and stopping there. To really take advantage of LinkedIn as a networking tool, it is essential that you take advantage of the social aspect of this social network.

As we mentioned earlier, LinkedIn comes complete with the ability to post content to your personal profile for your network to see (and also share content directly with groups, which we'll talk about later). You can share valuable articles and news stories written by others, though it is even better if you share your own valuable content - like a blog post, or a video.

Key Note: Notice which word we emphasized there? Value is important in these posts, as these are displayed directly on your profile. Funny jokes, sports rants, pictures of your kids and more simply don't belong on LinkedIn. Keep that stuff to your personal Facebook page. LinkedIn posts should be strictly professional and in some way communicate the value you present as an industry professional or the value that the company you work for presents to its audience.

Step 4: Create a Company Page

A Company Page is, effectively, an extension of your LinkedIn personal page. As you've probably already noticed, LinkedIn is primarily structured for individual-to-individual connections, as your profile creates a picture of you, the individual, rather than a specific company.

However, building out a Company Page allows you paint a picture of your company. If your company doesn't already have a page, and you're authorized to create one, make sure that you do so.

Through your Company Page, you can:

  • post job openings

  • create marketing content that highlights your products and services

  • engage with followers

  • share key updates

… and all under your company’s name and branding.

Set up your Company Page by going to the “Work” icon, and then selecting “Create Company Page.” From there, you'll be able to follow LinkedIn’s prompts to set up your page, employing a similar strategy that you did in setting up your personal profile. Make sure that all of your written and visual content align with your corporate branding, and be sure that you’re using a high-quality company logo for the profile picture.

Step 5: Join Groups

Groups are discussion forums on LinkedIn that share some common understanding - like an Alumni network for Roosevelt University, perhaps, or an Executive Assistants forum.

This is a great place to continue your social networking that we described in Step 3, sharing valuable content with targeted groups and engaging in opportunities for conversations and social listening.

You can search for groups to join based on keywords pertaining to your industry (Chicago Real Estate, for example) or even start your own group. LinkedIn also gives you suggestions for groups that may be applicable to you. Get exploring!

Step 6: Explore News Updates and Events

LinkedIn is a great way to stay up-to-date with industry happenings in your area and around the world.

In the “Feed” and “What People Are Talking About” categories of the site, you can take stock of the top news stories in your industry. This can be a great resource to you in building your own content, or for redistribution on LinkedIn (and other social networks). Don't hesitate to like, comment, and interact with particularly noteworthy or relevant content - this can be a great way to establish your voice and increase your visibility on the platform.

Take a Deep Breath, and Dive In

If building a social profile seems overwhelming, don't worry. It's only natural to be a little bit intimidated. Understanding the inner workings of a new website always takes a little time and exploration.

Use this basic framework as a guide for getting your profile up-and-running, but remember – the real fun part is actually building up those personal connections and learning the potential of the network for yourself.

Should you come across any problems building your LinkedIn profile or have any questions for us at all, we'd love to help! Don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.

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