Some people say that it is not what you know but who you know. Truth is, it is both. If you are an entrepreneur running a business-to-business enterprise, investing time into social networking sites like Facebook (www.facebook.com) can seem like a waste of time because it probably is. There’s little point in delivering your message about photocopiers and courier services to folks discussing dating venues and baby bottles. How can your business posts not seem like spam in that context?
That is why there is LinkedIn.com, a site where business people can talk business to other business people safely. You really can find a large percentage of the business people you know, and those you want to know, on this website. Perhaps more important, there are several tools that let you connect to those open to new business proposals and new networking relationships.
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Using LinkedIn effectively is easy if you do the following:
- To create an account, just go to www.linkedin.com. Provide all the usual data. Linked in has tools that will mine your email box for friends. If that email box happens to be your business email box, allowing LinkedIn to issue invitations is probably appropriate. You can pick and choose contacts if you prefer.
- Once your account is setup, your resume entered, your friends invited, go join some Groups in the business areas that matter most to you. Media, manufacturing, import/export, etc. Groups are for people that actively want to network through LinkedIn. Important: Being in a group with someone means you can contact them for free through LinkedIn messages. Because it means you can search for the people you need to know, based on their job title let’s say, and if you find a contact that’s in a group with you . . . you can send him a well written message and far more often than not he will reply. This means you don’t have to pay for InMail messages.
- You can search for people by company, title, location and other parameters. This is handy. If you need to find potential funders for example, try searching for angel investor, private equity, venture capital, private lender, investment manager or hedge fund manager. You’ll get some useful results.
- Make sure your profile links to your website, and make sure your website has your phone number, email address and Twitter account.
- Ask questions on the Answers forum if you need help. Answering questions for others is a great way to create new networking connects and demonstrate special expertise.
- Post jobs on LinkedIn when you need to hire people. You’ll be surprised how many well qualified people find you here. It is also very useful to see applicant profiles, including connections, when folks respond.
- You can now post ads on LinkedIn, and they offer some useful targeting tools. For best results, purchase a low cost subscription to Linked in and make ads drive customers to your page. Your subscription will allow you to see who has visited your page and you can then email them through LinkedIn to follow up on their interest in whatever you are advertising. You can also have links on your LinkedIn page point to a special offer for LinkedIn customers on your website or offer them a free product or service so you can collect their email address so you can contact them in the future without going through LinkedIn.
- Within Linkedin Groups, you can post links to news articles and start new discussions. If you have the lowest priced LinkedIn paid subscription you can see who has visited your site from these groups.
LinkedIn is not Facebook. So this is not the place to post baby pictures, expose political or religious preferences, or discuss who you are dating. The negative reactions you receive from such a breach are every bit as bad as you get from “spamming” Facebook with a blatant business message.
LinkedIn is, however, an exceptionally good place to make new business connections and to maintain them for long periods of time. It is a great place to market your business and promote all your website has to offer. It really is a fully functional business community, and for business-to-business enterpreneurs it is much better than Facebook. I look forward to seeing you there.
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