The question I get asked the most on LinkedIn is “How can I use LinkedIn more effectively?” People see a new platform (at least new to them) and think that they are in store for a giant learning curve. But the truth is, LinkedIn is just a tool that allows you to do what you already do in business – more effectively. Yes, you need to learn how to use the tool, but you don’t have to create a whole new series of business strategies as well. LinkedIn’s mission statement is: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” That’s how we should be using LinkedIn.
I think we forget in this world of social media where people are focused on millions of Followers and thousands of Fans and hundreds of Connections that the whole point of social media is to connect with our audience. And when it comes right down to it, that audience should be the one person you need – whether you are looking for a new employee, wanting to sell your product or hoping to woo donors for your non-profit. No matter what your end game, social media should be about that one person you need to reach out to today to create more business.
Unfortunately many would rather make a million dollars by clicking a button and hoping their fans will financially support them then work at engaging with their tribe. The get rich quick schemes on the web today remind me of the magical fantasies I read as a kid. If you just know the secret formula, the world can be yours! Every day someone asks me what the best LinkedIn automation gizmo is for feeding leads into some automated marketing tool. There isn’t one. And if there was, I probably wouldn’t recommend using it.
The power of LinkedIn is that it helps us connect with real people in real life. We need to go old-school. Do our searches, do our research and then pick up the phone!
One of the reasons LinkedIn works so well is that it tells us exactly how we’re related to the people in our network (1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections) and the best ways of communicating with them. To a first level connection we can simply send a message. 2nd and 3rd level connections might get an invitation or an introduction. Folks who fall outside our network get a paid InMail.
Once we have found the person that we want to connect with and have researched them by reading their profile on LinkedIn and checking out any content or links they might’ve shared with us, then it’s time to reach out to them for that face-to-face or at least phone a to phone meeting.
The best way to communicate with your first-level connections is through messages. (Remember that messages are about engaging – not selling your stuff.)
I love the Sharing Bookmarklet tool that allows me to send a link from any webpage I’m on to any of my connections. That way if I come across an article and I think – “CEO John and I were talking about that just yesterday – I can use the Sharing Bookmarklet sharing link to send that article to John and let him know that he was top of mind with me.
I also like the ability to send messages to groups of people through the tagging feature on LinkedIn.
Make it a practice to tag all new connections with the appropriate tags. And then go through your existing first-level connections and tag them appropriately too.
This will allow you to quickly send a message to a group of people that you want to stay top of mind with a few times a month.
For second-level connections there’s no better tool than the Introduction. I don’t know why people don’t use this feature more often! You get five introductions at a time with a free account, 15 with the basic paid account.
If you have a free account and you’re nervous about your introductions going through, you can always send a message to the introducer and ask them if they’re willing to send an introduction to you. If they say yes, you’re good to go. If they don’t reply or say no, then you know you just have to find a different introducer.
Remember that an introduction is not an invitation. You still need to take that second step and send an invitation. But that’s the easy step.
Instead of asking someone to buy your product or service, just ask them if they’re willing to accept your invitation on LinkedIn.
Then as soon as they accept your invitation, you tag them and send them useful content on a biweekly basis or when you come across it.
Of course once you’ve built up that feeling of know, like, and trust, then it’s okay to offer your product or your service.
For third-party and out-of-network connections, the best thing to do is join a group that the party you are interested in is in.
Once you’re a member of that group you can send a message to that LinkedIn member without having to pay $10 for an InMail!
I love the ability to send messages through groups. Again – the first message you might send is, “Are you willing to accept an invitation from me?”
Of course if you don’t hear back from them – don’t send it! You don’t want to waste one of your 3000 invitations on someone who’s not going to accept, or even worse, report you as a spammer.
Once they accept your invitation, you tag them and then return to step one. 🙂
So even despite LinkedIn’s new limitations on visibility and connections – there’s still some loopholes you can jump through. Use LinkedIn tools as they were meant to be used – to build rapport with your network.
LinkedIn isn’t about selling your stuff. Its about finding and engaging with people; developing that feeling of “knowing, liking and trusting.” And once you have established a relationship with the person, then you can move to the next stage in the game. The more you know about them, the better you have of getting to that next stage.
I’m sure there are automation tools out there that will help you get thousands of connections on LinkedIn. I’m sure you could funnel those new connections right into your email marketing strategy. Or you could send a quick message to the folks who connect with you, thank them for their time, and ask them about themselves. Use LinkedIn the way it was meant to be used. A human connecting device.