Maybe you have thought to yourself, “Self, I should really be doing more on LinkedIn, but I have no clue how I can get more business using it.” If so, you’re not alone! I frequently talk to business owners and salespeople who have heard about other people having success on LinkedIn, but don’t know how to get started themselves.
We’ll dive into a system to use LinkedIn for business development here in a moment, but first let’s answer this question: Should you even be using LinkedIn?
Well, “answer” is probably a strong word. But over the years I have come up with four elements you need to look at when considering any social media platform, LinkedIn included. Ask yourself these questions:
Element 1 – Audience
How well does the audience of LinkedIn match your target audience or ideal prospect?
Element 2 – Capabilities
How well do the capabilities of LinkedIn match the capabilities that would best fit your organization?
Element 3 – Culture Fit
How well does LinkedIn’s overall culture match your organization’s internal culture? If you’re a single-person business or nonprofit, this may just be your own personality.
Element 4 – Comfort Level
How comfortable are you using LinkedIn?
Of course, you should consider all four elements, not just one or two individual elements. But if the only thing holding you back is your comfort level, I would encourage you to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
So how do you actually use LinkedIn to develop your business? How can you use it to make sales?
More and better sales start with more and better conversations. So let’s take a look at a specific system you can use to start those conversations through LinkedIn.
Step 1: Work on your profile
On LinkedIn, a huge part of how professional and good you look has to do with your profile. Take a look at your own profile. Now take a look at your top ten competitors’ profiles. Do you like what you see? How does your profile compare to theirs?
We all have room for improvement, even if our profile is better than our competition’s profile. Several years back, I put together an ebook, Take charge of your LinkedIn profile in 25 steps. and my team and I update it on a regular basis to keep it current. But if you’re looking for something even quicker, you should be able to make it through these five steps in 30 minutes or less and quickly improve your LinkedIn profile:
- Update your profile with a current photo
- Add a background image
- Add at least three skills
- Fill out your experience with at least three positions, including your current job
- With whatever time you have left, fill out any other sections you can add to quickly
Once you get more comfortable working with your profile, you should invest time in improving it on a regular basis. Before too long, you’ll look better than all your competition!
Step 2: Post quality content regularly
There are two primary reasons to post quality content regularly on LinkedIn:
- The algorithm
Remember, our entire goal is to start more and better conversations. Posting regularly means that as soon as you start connecting with others, they will start being reminded of who you are and what you help with on a regular basis.
You also have to satisfy LinkedIn’s algorithm. That algorithm looks at the frequency of your posts and whether or not anyone is engaging with you. Then it uses that information to determine how often it will show your posts to people and how and where you show up in LinkedIn search results.
You should post a mixture of your own content and links back to your site, as well as links to other people’s content that your ideal prospect will find valuable. So how do you actually come up with ideas for what to post? Here are some resources that will help:
- 102 Tweets (download a sample or buy this book I wrote)
- 20 Social Media Content Ideas for 2020
- 20 Social Media Ideas to Keep Your Brand’s Feed Fresh
- 30 Social Media Content Ideas and Examples for Brands
Finally, you may be wondering how often you should post. It is safe to assume people will only be shown about 10% of what you share on LinkedIn. Then balance that assumption with how often people actually think about your organization or the problems you solve.
For example, people typically only think about their roof when they buy or sell a house or when there has just been a storm. So a residential roofer can get away with only posting once every two to three days on social media.
On the other hand, if you’re a sales trainer, your ideal prospect is likely thinking about sales on an ongoing basis. In that case, even a couple times a day could be beneficial, depending on the resources you have available to invest in LinkedIn.
Step 3: Connect with others consistently
They only way you can really utilize any social media platform to start conversations is by being connected with other people. On LinkedIn, you create those connections primarily through sending connection requests on a regular basis.
Before you get started, decide what your connection strategy is. Once you’ve decided that, you’ll need to set a goal of how many people you want to send connection requests to each week.
The number and frequency of your requests will vary based on your connection strategy and how many connections you already have.
For example, a L.I.O.N.—LinkedIn Open Networker—is someone who will connect with just about anyone online because they want to build up the biggest network possible. If that’s the strategy you decide to go with, you might want to send connection requests to 10 – 25 people a day. That’s even more true if you have not yet reached that magic number of 500 where your profile changes to say “500+ connections”
If your connection strategy is much more focused than that, 2-5 connection requests a week may be more appropriate and sustainable over time.
At the beginning, I recommend shooting for that 500+ connections before you move on to the next step.
Step 4: Message connections regularly
This is the final step in this system. All the previous steps will make it more likely that this step will work, but if you don’t do this final step then you’re robbing yourself of most of the benefit of this system.
Send direct, private messages to your connections on a regular basis. This does not mean you message all 500+ connections on a monthly basis. It does mean that you send messages to batches of your connections on a regular basis and end up messaging each of them 1-4 times a year or so.
Start by exporting your LinkedIn connections. You can then use that spreadsheet to track who you’re messaging, how often, and what you’ve messaged them about. Be sure to update it each time you start a new round of messages.
What should your messages be about? They should be a mixture of promotional and helpful messages. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Invite them to a luncheon, webinar, class, or workshop you’re attending or even putting on
- Send them a helpful article
- Share an ebook you found or wrote
- Make a helpful introduction
- Let them know about a new product or service you’re offering and ask if it’s worth a conversation
You may notice I didn’t say, “Congratulate them on a new job,” or “Wish them a happy birthday.” Those are both okay to do, but keep in mind that tons of other people will be also sending them messages on those days. They’ll have far less time to engage with you then and have a meaningful conversation. You’re far more likely to start a conversation if you message them when they aren’t overwhelmed with people reaching out.
Be sure not to send too many messages on a single day, or LinkedIn will think you’re spamming people. That can land you in “LinkedIn jail,” which will seriously damage your ability to use the platform to start conversations, at least for a limited amount of time.
I recommend limiting yourself to messaging no more than 50 connections a day. If you have just 500 connections and send messages on weekdays, it will take you a couple weeks to make it through all your contacts. If you have closer to 2,000 connections like I do, you’re looking at a couple months to get through them all.
Does that sound like a lot of work? It is! You have to invest time and resources to make this system work! And you may want to invest some money as well to get help with certain steps in this system.
LinkedIn won’t work for your business if you don’t work on LinkedIn. But if you follow the steps in this system, the end result will be more and better conversations, which is how you end up developing your business.