December 13, 2012 / by DannyS

What Is LinkedIn

With more than 61 million users in the US, LinkedIn is the 4th most popular social network in the country. It’s also the 1st most popular business focused social network in the US. Understanding these points can help you to leverage LinkedIn (LI) to the best of your capabilities.

Who Uses It

Data shows that the majority of users are between 25 and 54, as we know, these are your prime ages for your typical professional and trade workers. However, the most popular industries are typically professional careers. More males use it than females, but not by much (30M vs. 26.7M). In terms of internet traffic it’s growing, business/tech blog Business Insider reports:

“LinkedIn now has 175 million members, worldwide and is seeing two new signups every second. There are over 600 million white-collar workers worldwide, so it still has a way to grow.”

Using LinkedIn As A Business Tool

At the end of the summer, LinkedIn restructured somethings including business profiles. Among these changes were, aesthetics, update targeting, and more prominent display of subsections. I feel the biggest change comes with the ability to view the business pages on iOS and Android mobile/tablet applications. That’s big news, as the average user migrates from desktop to mobile device, you are now able to communicate on the business professionals favorite business related social network. In fact, platform engagement is up with 23% of the unique visitors accessing LinkedIn via a mobile app. (Last year, it was 10%.)  So how does a business go about making LinkedIn connections and making their message work for them?

How to Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn has a structure that works, a meeting place for professionals. It’s set in motion that this isn’t Facebook, you won’t get the real-time response of Twitter and it surely isn’t the best video viewing platform. However, it’s clearly carved out it’s niche in the business world.

First, know your audience. There’s an ability to succeed if you are a toy store or if you are a software developing company, but you have to understand the value of your communications. Consider Intel, with Facebook it’s general awareness where they have done some incredible pushes such as the Museum of Me, but with LinkedIn, it’s  very focused on positioning itself as business related tools. Such as webinars (which most Facebook users aren’t going to be interested in) and careers, other such tools that engage your typical professional audience.

Consider the aforementioned toy store, your voice has been positioned as “bringing out the child in all of us.” Where a focus in this message may work with Facebook, you have to consider your LI audience. I don’t have the answer off the top of my head, but test it. I can’t repeat this more, test, test, test. See what pulls in a serious amount of quantifiable engagement.

What works could be under $20 toys to pick up after a long trip before you head home. Or it could be, “The best toys to dress up the stale office.”

But you won’t know until you take a chance. But I promise, success on this platform won’t be the same way you measure success on Facebook, after all they are two unique audiences that bring out unique personalities, even in the same person.

Aside from establishing content pushes, consider the next employee you are looking for. Maybe that next employee you hire needs to have marketing, writing, communications, web or data skills. Where do you want to look? Craigslist? Where you can get anyone applying. Or maybe it’s the local paper, that most. don’t. read.

SEO Implications of LinkedIn

As with other social media platforms, you want to optimize for search engines. There are two very important boxes, description and services, FILL THEM OUT! But don’t fill them out randomly, if you are a CPA Firm in Seattle, you wouldn’t say you are a spreadsheet ninjas on Puget Sound, very few users would actually use those terms. But you can find success in using terms that users actually prefer to use, I recommend using Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool to get a better understanding of what people search.

After getting your services lined up, be sure to add some of the more prominent services throughout the description, that way you are discoverable on every front possible. One other tip, fill out your address, geo based SEO is very important since most customers actually prefer to do business with someone local.

“Ninety-three percent of respondents believe that it’s important to support local small businesses. And on average, they spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at these stores.” (Reuters)

Building Better Relations

Where many professionals connect, doors are opened for business relations. Including, business to business (B2B). This is LinkedIn’s bread and butter right here. Go to a convention… connect on LinkedIn. Sales calls… LinkedIn it is, follow up with the buyer in a less intrusive way.  It has allowed professionals to stay connected and to maintain the connectivity. Even better is the fact that you can find little details about people to humanize the relationships. Favorites sports teams, wife, kids, dogs, cats, cars… find what makes them tick and use the data to make the relationship work for all.

I highly recommend adding Rapportive to your Gmail as well. You’ll never miss a connection, while you’re at it, follow them on Twitter (Rapportive will tell you if they are there). Get to know them using LinkedIn and Twitter together, and find your success rate increasing substantially while your competitors are lost wondering what this social interwebs thing is.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Think about the message you want to deliver with LinkedIn. There’s always a time and a place, and LinkedIn is no different. Use this as a professional tool, or a tool to build professional relationships. Don’t think of this in the same fashion as Facebook, because LinkedIn has certainly pivoted itself as the digital business card.

If you’re a brand, consider your already established voice, follow through, test some things out, see what sticks and rework.

Most of all, enjoy the fact that you can stay on top of those important connections whether they be B2B, B2C, customer relations, communications or team building.

Danny Schotthoefer is the digital strategist/community manager at an advertising agency in Bozeman, Montana. He is also a TEDx event organizer and an avid Oregon Ducks and Portland Trailblazers fan. You can also find him running via Nike+ and cycling via Strava – he is highly social. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn. Forewarning: He Talks A LOT!

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