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Facebook and Twitter often dominate discussions of social media, and Google remains a powerhouse in searching for all things known and unknown. For companies and individuals looking to build their businesses, however, LinkedIn can be a valuable social media tool. The professional network boasts more than 250 million members, as well as 3 million-plus company pages.
LinkedIn members tend to be educated and have relatively high incomes. Research done late in 2013 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project indicates that 22% of adults who are online use LinkedIn. About 38% of those with incomes of $75,000 or more also use it. Similarly, 38% of online adults with a college degree are LinkedIn users.
A few guidelines can help companies and the self-employed build their professional networks and business via LinkedIn. Here are five:
1. Complete your profile
A basic step, but it’s not unusual to find profiles that are missing key information. A profile should let viewers know what the business does, its size and headquarters location, and its website URL. Make sure you include words that clients would likely use in their searches. A marketing firm in Phoenix, for instance, may post: “marketing firm based in Phoenix” or something similar.
For the self-employed, an updated, professional headshot and accurate contact information are key to conveying an image of competence and professionalism.
2. Let others know what you’re up to
Like Facebook members, LinkedIn members can post updates about themselves or their businesses. Status updates are most effective when they’re done regularly and are relevant to the company’s desired audience — typically, current and prospective clients. For instance, a staffing agency might offer advice for job seekers, while a law firm might link to its analysis of a recent court ruling. According to LinkedIn, 60% of its members are interested in industry news and insights.
While the posts should be professional, there’s no reason they can’t also be engaging. For example, you might want to highlight a different employee each week. Along with professional qualifications, the post can include a couple of sentences on his or her background and interests.
3. Look for opportunities to connect
Businesses should make sending invitations to connect via LinkedIn a regular part of their networking efforts. Along with clients, they can invite current and former employees and business partners to join their network. The company’s website also should include an easy way to reach its LinkedIn profile.
4. Join a group
LinkedIn offers more than 2 million groups, geared to everyone from art professionals to zoo administrators. Companies and individuals that participate in a few groups geared to their target markets can demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, engage with customers, and keep tabs on competitors.
Before joining, check the group’s statistics, such as the number of members and their titles. Clicking the “i” on the right hand side of the group’s home page brings up the information page.
5. Assign responsibility
Developing and posting new, engaging and relevant information on a regular basis requires time and attention. Designate one or more employees the responsibility for managing your company’s LinkedIn activity.
It’s similar with any social media initiative: The more effort and attention you put into LinkedIn, the more you’ll likely get out of it.