Don’t rule out LinkedIn to grow your business and build relationships

The impact of social media today cannot be overstated. Just look at the ‘Internet’ revolutions occurring in the Middle East, driven in large part by social media. As entrepreneurs, we have seen the power of Facebook as a marketing tool to create a fan base and pull potential customers from a social network to our businesses and blogs. A social networking tool that is still underutilized though is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a business-oriented networking site that seems scaled down at first glance, but actually has the potential to be even more effective than Facebook.

The networking model for LinkedIn creates tiers of relationships from direct to second and third degree connections. The intent is to create an online Rolodex filled with trusted business contacts to help all business people connect with whomever they need at any given time. For us, this strategy creates a specific, targeted audience to which our marketing can be tailored for maximum impact. It also paves the road for an introduction to a key decision maker via a friend of a friend of a friend. Remember all the business deals struck on the golf course in the 80’s? LinkedIn is the virtual golf course.

Utilizing LinkedIn groups (alumni, industry, fraternity, etc) can further  target the people with whom you want to do business. This is especially true if you are adept at blogging (remember to utilize keywords to optimize search engines), and you like to post pertinent (sometimes witty) posts to the group site. Within these groups, it will serve you well to help others make contacts for their own business ventures – it creates good LinkedIn karma, and you and your business will reap the rewards.

Need to reach an audience of relevant customers quickly? Want to increase traffic to your blog? There’s a LinkedIn app for that. LinkedIn has an applications platform that can enable you to directly post your blog and Twitter feed to your profile. You can add multimedia elements to your profile such as videos, and you can create an online portfolio of your artwork or writing. If you seek out apps that will make your profile stand out in a professional yet intriguing way, people will notice.

There is one app in particular that is highly effective in drawing business your way. LinkedIn has a free question and answer forum for its members called “LinkedIn Answers”, and what better way to market yourself than to show off your expertise publicly? You can ask a question and receive exceptionally insightful and helpful answers from the industry’s top experts. Perhaps more importantly, you can answer a question and show your stuff to the community at large. Others have brought in significant business with a thorough and relevant answer to a question. Answer a lot of questions and quickly become known as a top expert yourself.

Creating and maintaining another profile on a social networking site may sound wearisome, but the benefits of making connections with key decision makers, receiving invaluable feedback and answers, and marketing yourself to a relevant audience makes the effort more than worthwhile. Try it, and I think you will find yourself stimulated and inspired by the quality of the interactions on LinkedIn.




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