LinkedIn.com officially launched on May 5, 2003. At the end of its first month, it had a total of 4,500 members.
Today, the world’s largest business networking site gains roughly one million new members every week – the equivalent of more than one per second – and now totals more than 100 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
So how do you leverage the power of all those people to help your small business grow? Here are some tips:
1) Link, Link, Link – Your network’s size is essential. When your LinkedIn profile page shows photos, names and companies of “People You May Know,” there’s a high probability that someone you know is linked to them, or you may even know them directly. If so, click “Connect” and send them an invitation to join your network. Keep adding to your network to build up your contacts. Your network also relies on everyone else’s network: It’s better to connect with others who have hundreds of people over those with just a dozen.
2) Give Your Profile 100 Percent – First, make sure your LinkedIn Profile is 100 percent complete with name, industry, location, photo, headline, summary, current and past positions, your contacts, and a number of recommendations. Next, on your Profile page, click “Make My Public Profile Visible” to let people see everything you’ve created.
3) Ask For and Give Recommendations – If you hope to get business via your page, be proactive about trading recommendations with your colleagues. These endorsements give you credibility to people who may not know you and work as a static “word of mouth” recommendation.
4) Review Your LinkedIn Update Emails – I spend 15 to 30 minutes a week reviewing the names on my LinkedIn email update. Last year, I saw that a colleague from a company where I had worked 10 years ago had a new job at an ad agency. I invited her to join my network. Within a week, she hired me for to write the first of an ongoing set of projects.
5) Don’t Be Shy – If you want to meet someone who’s out of your network, ask for introductions to friends who are connected to them. This is always more powerful than an unsolicited invitation to link with you.
6) Promote Your Business – I communicate with my contacts by sending updates several times a month to promote my business. I just write a short sentence about projects that I’ve completed, links to my newsletters, and more. It keeps my name at top of mind on my contacts’ Profile pages.
7) Combine Your LinkedIn and Twitter Accounts – You can also pair your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts so your updates are sent to both networks at the same time. Just go to your Settings page and click on “Manage your Twitter settings.”
8) Join or Start a LinkedIn Group – There are thousands of vertical industry LinkedIn Groups available. Just click “Groups” from any page on your account to join a group, find groups you may like, or create your own group.
9) See Who’s Viewing Your Profile – On the right side of your LinkedIn home page, you’ll see “Who’s Viewed Your Profile?” Click on that once in a while to see if you know any of these secret admirers.
10) Find Out How to Double or Triple Your Referrals – Rick Itzkowich was asked by a friend to introduce him to a certain product director at a specific company. On LinkedIn, Rick discovered he and that guy had a contact in common. Rick asked the connection if he’d be willing to facilitate an introduction between the two of them. He did, and it resulted in $30,000 worth of business for his friend. That led Rick and Betty Joe Waxman to create a PowerPoint Presentation entitled “How To Triple Your BNI Referrals Using LinkedIn.” Read it!
The bottom line: Invest an hour or so each week in LinkedIn and see how it can help you grow your network and help your small business in the process.