LinkedIn Lowdown: Popular Social-Media Network Is Powerful Aid to Businesses and Has Several New Features
LinkedIn: It’s not just for job-seeking anymore. In fact, the social-media network’s biggest strength may be the ability it affords firms to grow their business-to-business relationships and sales.
Those were two of the overriding points made during a recent episode of the “Commercial Real Estate Show” radio program. The episode provided an enlightening look at how businesses of all kinds can use LinkedIn to grow and also gave a powerful overview of some of the network’s recently unveiled new features, such as its “endorsement” tool.
My guest was Eve Mayer, CEO of the Social Media Delivered consulting firm. She knows her stuff: Mayer has been ranked by Forbes as the fifth-most influential woman in social media, and Klout has named her the second-most influential authority on LinkedIn, behind only the network itself. Mayer does not work for LinkedIn or have a financial interest in the organization.
“If you talk to most people, they would say LinkedIn is the place to find a job or to find new candidates to work at a company,” Mayer said. “But I believe LinkedIn may be the most underestimated business-to-business sales tool ever. This tool has really changed the way business-to-business organizations are able to prospect and to build relationships.”
New Bells and Whistles
LinkedIn recently provided users with the ability to “endorse” the skills of other users. As Mayer described it, endorsements are quick-and-easy versions of the network’s “recommendation” feature.
“[They] are basically the Stove Top stuffing version of recommendations – they’re quick, easy and pre-made for you,” she said. “You just click a button, and it’s pretty much done. It’s the lazy-man’s recommendation.”
The new feature has left many LinkedIn users puzzled, my guest said. “A lot of people are confused and frustrated with endorsements,” she said. “They don’t understand them. My advice to them is: calm down. Accept it if it looks good and hide it if it’s something that you don’t feel you should be endorsed for.”
Mayer also outlined other new features on LinkedIn, such as its new profile pages and its elimination of the Amazon application.
Succeeding on LinkedIn
Firms should not only have robust company pages on LinkedIn, but also make sure their high-level executives, business-development personnel and sales people have quality, standardized pages as well. “Your employees’ individual profiles are what are really representing your company on LinkedIn,” Mayer said.
To build business relationships for themselves and their companies, individuals should join LinkedIn groups that consist primarily not of competitors, but of people that are business prospects. “If I’m in commercial real estate, and I’m leasing properties in New York, then I need to look for groups with startups and businesses in New York, people who will be making decisions to rent those properties,” Mayer said.
However, once in a group, a person should contribute meaningful information to discussions and “not just sell, sell, sell, and post about yourself all the time,” Mayer added. “You should not say rude things to competitors. You should stay positive and share your knowledge.”
Business development and sales personnel in particular need to be open to accepting lots of connection requests on LinkedIn. “This is a giant Rolodex,” Mayer said.
If someone asks you to connect with them and “you haven’t divorced them, broken up with them, been fired by them or fired them, then [you] should strongly consider [the request],” she added.
As for securing a recommendation on LinkedIn from a customer, Mayer recommends contacting the person and actually presenting him or her with the basic wording of the recommendation you are seeking. “People are busy, and people are sometimes lazy,” she said. “They like to copy and paste a good recommendation.”
I remarked on what a powerful effect a recommendation can have. I told Mayer that when I use LinkedIn to look for vendors, it always means a lot when I see some great recommendations.
Final Words of Wisdom
At the risk of spoiling the ending: I asked my guest for one final tip for LinkedIn users. She replied with this gem:
“Please, please, please put up a [profile] picture that is professional,” she said. “There should be no beer and no babies – and there should be no babies with beer in the picture.”
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