So how does LinkedIn work and where is the value in it? If you’re new to LinkedIn, or if you’ve registered but not really done anything on it, then imagine everything on LinkedIn as like being at a business networking event.

People use business networking events for many reasons but these are the top ones:
1. Finding work or business opportunities (this is probably the biggest)
2. Finding someone who can do a job for them, or getting recommendations
3. Getting advice and support on business matters.

LinkedIn is exactly the same. Here’s our advice on how to make the most from this global networking event.

Your Profile Page
If your LinkedIn goal is to gain new business opportunities then your profile is your business portfolio. It is the image you are looking to project as you first open your mouth at the networking meeting, so let that idea guide you when deciding how much and what kind of content to include.

Make sure your content reflects your positioning strategy.
If you want to be seen as an expert in your field then add papers you’ve authored, presentations you’ve done and articles (or books!) that have been published. If you’re a creative business then you need to show that by having an appropriate background image and by showcasing examples of your work.

We can’t overemphasise how important it is to connect with people you know, both business and personal. Neglecting to make any connections is like going to a networking event but not talking to a single person – a waste of time!

When connecting with someone new, think of it as offering your business card. When connecting with someone you don’t know, write them a message explaining why you want to connect with them. You wouldn’t post someone your business card with no explanation so don’t do it online.

Your company page
This is your exhibition stand. Introduce your company and direct them to your website, email or phone number to find out more. As with everything online, make sure you keep it up to date.

The best feature of the company page is that people can choose to “follow” you. In the same way as on Twitter, when you post an update to your page, it’ll pop up in your followers’ news feeds. This is a fantastic way of keeping in touch with customers and reminding them about you.

As well as news, you can also use your page to publish jobs (considering many people use LinkedIn to find new career opportunities, this is a great place to advertise) and to promote specific aspects of your business, such as individual brands, business units or initiatives on “showcase pages”.

Groups are the workshops and round-table discussions of LinkedIn.

They are great for initiating discussions with like-minded people and are exceedingly diverse: groups with broad topics have 10,000s members whereas some very niche topics have only a handful of members.

How do I know which groups to join? Find out which groups your customers are members of and start contributing to the discussions. Ask your own questions and see who bites. If there isn’t a group related to your particular area of interest or industry, set one up.

How do I get results?
As with anything, you get out what you put in. So make lots of connections and maintain your network, both virtually and in real life. Whenever you meet someone new, find them on LinkedIn and connect.

Get involved in the community. Join groups. Ask and answer questions. Share useful and interesting content: of course this includes your own but don’t be too “salesy”. No one likes the person who starts reciting a sales pitch in the middle of a round-table discussion.

Like networking, LinkedIn is a powerful tool – build relationships, be useful, interesting and polite, and stay the course. This will lead to results.

Ros Conkie is a Marketing and PR Consultant at KMS Marketing.

KMS Marketing can manage and run your on-line presence, setting up and maintaining it for your business, from £195 pcm +VAT. Click here for more information or contact us to find out how we can help your business use LinkedIn as part of a successful marketing plan.

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