LinkedIn for business

LinkedIn is a social networking site for business, enabling professionals and business owners to connect with colleagues and partners across the globe. It is also a powerful business reputation tool. As of August 2010, LinkedIn claims to have the world’s largest professional network with over 75 million members. LinkedIn is a powerful social media website for business with wide adoption across Australia.  According to ISP Media, in 2010 Australian membership reached the one million mark, making Australia one of LinkedIn’s fastest growing regions.

What are the benefits of using LinkedIn?

As part of the wide network of LinkedIn, professionals and businesses are able to establish their profiles, stay connected with past and present colleagues and find experts who would otherwise be out of reach without social media. Business owners can use LinkedIn as a tool to interact, establish their professional reputations, connect with existing clients and reach out to new potential clients.

How to use LinkedIn?

If you are new to LinkedIn, we recommend that you take the following steps:

Step 1 – Create your profile

Sign-up to LinkedIn, complete your profile, and add a professional business photo. Your LinkedIn profile is like an online resume so make sure that it has sufficient and up-to-date content. Include information on your past positions, education and specialisations. Link your profile to your business website. To set up your LinkedIn profile, go to www.linkedin.com

Step 2 – Connect with others

As an initial step, connect with people who are part of your real-world business network. These may include colleagues, partners, clients and friends. Request existing clients on LinkedIn to give you a recommendation, which is then displayed on your profile. Recommendations are only visible to those who are logged in to the site. Recommendations are extremely valuable, as they can be considered as testimonials or endorsements, which can help you market your professional reputation to LinkedIn members.

Step 3 – Create a company profile

It is now possible to have your company’s profile on LinkedIn. In fact, you’ll find over 160,000 company profiles on LinkedIn, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to smaller businesses and non-profit organisations. Before creating a company profile, make sure that you have your personal profile already set up, as only LinkedIn members can create a company profile.

When you create your company profile, LinkedIn’s wizard enables you to add a logo, locations, and a feed to your company blog. You may also post job vacancies that your company needs to fill. It is advisable to delegate a particular person to maintain your company profile so that information and job postings are kept up-to-date.

Apart from informational detail, a company profile can feature a list of employees who are using LinkedIn and also a list of companies that partner with your business. A link to your company profile will be visible on your own profile under your work history, next to the corresponding company name. To create your company profile, go to: http://www.linkedin.com/companies?trk=hb_tab_compy

Step 4 – Create or join a group

To establish new business relationships, LinkedIn allows you to create a professional group relevant to your business interests, or you can join an existing group. You can interact with professionals from your industry by joining in on discussions. You are also able to follow influential people in your group and get updates about their group activities. To create a group on LinkedIn, go to: >http://www.linkedin.com/createGroup?displayCreate

It is also advisable for you to start a group that will benefit the LinkedIn community, not to simply sell your products and services. Invite your colleagues and customers to become part of your group. Discuss topics and problems that concern your target market without the hard sell. With this approach, you may soon find LinkedIn to be a powerful lead generator for your business.

Step 5 – Participate in LinkedIn events

You can sign-up to receive conferences and professional event recommendations from LinkedIn that match your specific industry needs. You may also search for events based on industry, date and geography. You may indicate your event status such as attending, presenting, or exhibiting. Your status as attending is announced to your network and is also visible on your profile. LinkedIn events also allow you to see the attendees of a particular event, so you’ll know if an event you’re interested in will also be attended by particular users you would like to meet. LinkedIn events are available from your LinkedIn Home tab.

Step 6 – Use LinkedIn to develop new business

Given LinkedIn’s wide network and the large amount of professional information that is available on a user’s personal profile, it is an effective tool for business owners who are searching for potential consultants, employees or partners. You can use LinkedIn to research a consultant or prospect’s profile before deciding to engage. LinkedIn can give you the insight and background you need on who to best get in touch with. In the corporate world, LinkedIn is a very widely used tool for research on prospective job candidates, consultants and potential clients.

LinkedIn also offers an option to upgrade to a paid premium account. There are three different types of premium account available. To see the three types, go to the Upgrade Account option on your home page.

Upgrading your account gives you improved LinkedIn access and search capabilities. Through premium accounts, you may send messages directly without waiting for an introduction from one of your contacts. You will also have the Profile Organiser feature, which allows you to assign profiles of your prospects into folders. A premium account also enables you to view more profiles when you do an advanced search on the network. Free accounts are limited to only 100 search results. Finally, your premium account gives you more specifics on people who have viewed your profile.

Final Words on LinkedIn

With so many social media sites available today, it is difficult to determine which to focus your attention on. With the growth that LinkedIn has shown in Australia over the last few years, LinkedIn has proven itself as an effective avenue for business and professional networking. You may be surprised by how many of your colleagues are already setup on LinkedIn, so give it a try - you may find it very worthwhile for your business.

About the Author

Since 2006, Nick Jerrat has been blazing a trail across the Internet, working with hundreds of clients to build and market their websites online. Nick is the managing director of Publish My Web, an integrated website design and marketing firm. Click here to view more of his articles.