What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is the premier professional networking site on the internet. LinkedIn is a searchable database of 380+ million members and continues to grow by 2 new members per second. Billions of people searches are now performed in LinkedIn every year, so you need to have a robust presence on LinkedIn for others to find you. Just as you need a website to be found on the internet, you need your profile to be found on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool that provides access to detailed information about other LinkedIn members; you can utilize this information when initiating contact and trying to build a business relationship with someone you don’t yet know.
In addition, LinkedIn adds a unique networking component to the CRM tool; whereas other directories provide information about a business, LinkedIn identifies your common connections to whom you can make direct referral requests.
The LinkedIn free Basic Account provides many useful features, which are sufficient for most members; various Premium Services provide additional benefits depending on your needs and budget.
How Can You / Your Business Benefit from LinkedIn?
Your LinkedIn profile is a free web presence where you and your business can be found by people who are searching for someone like you. People search directly on LinkedIn or outside search engines (i.e., Google, Yahoo, Bing); the keyword matches and other factors will determine your ranking in the search results. A website often requires you to hire a web expert and request (and wait for) changes; with LinkedIn, you can easily edit your profile whenever and as often as you choose.
You can directly conduct targeted searches to identify potential new clients / customers, strategic referral partners, vendors / service providers, and industry peers to expand your existing network. Each of the profile fields are searchable (keywords, name, title, company, school, industry and location), so if you can identify your search criteria, you can find who you are searching for. You can widen or narrow your search based on your specific needs. You now have a very powerful prospecting and business development tool at your fingertips. And, it is Free – it only costs you in time. (As stated above, LinkedIn does offer Premium Services in addition to the Basic account.)
You can then leverage your existing network to request introductions (referrals) to those whom you find in your searches, converting a “cold call” into a “warm call”. Couple the referral from your contact with the LinkedIn profile information of the prospect. Now you are in a much stronger position to make contact, develop a rapport and start building a mutually beneficial business relationship.
You can request/obtain testimonials (Recommendations) from your LinkedIn connections to enhance your marketability. You can also read the Recommendations of those you find in your searches to gain more insight into their value and expertise.
You can increase your visibility and promote your expertise (and brand) by engaging in Group Discussions, sharing articles and posting blogs (in LinkedIn Pulse). You will gain exposure to LinkedIn members with whom you are not connected. Your direct connections have the ability to Like, Comment on, and Share your content expanding the reach of your information to others outside of your direct network.
You can also support your connections by sharing their content and providing referrals, which is important in developing mutually beneficial business relationships. You can learn from your network, both from the content they post, and the information sharing that occurs from direct communication between you and others via email, phone calls, and in-person get-togethers.
You can use LinkedIn for Free without upgrading to a Premium Services account. There are limitations to the number of Advanced People Searches you can perform in a given month (LinkedIn will not disclose the limit), but you can still accomplish much with this limitation, and there are several other search methods you can utilize to work-around the limit. You can upgrade your LinkedIn account and gain additional benefits if you are performing a high volume of prospecting for recruiting or sales. LinkedIn offers you a free month to “try out” a Premium Service, and you can cancel at any time.
In Summary, LinkedIn is becoming the predominant internet site where business professionals are searching for other professionals with whom to do business. You need to be there, to promote your business and brand, and to use this unique set of networking and marketing tools to expand your reach, find and acquire new clients and referral partners, and grow your business.