LinkedIn inspires love-hate relationships. Users swear by it or swear at it. Those in the middle simply don’t use it.
Jeff Sheehan is a user — a power user. That’s part of his job. He provides social media and strategic marketing strategies and tactics to companies, nonprofits and professionals to increase exposure, lead generation and engagement to help facilitate revenue growth.
Sheehan talked with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Linkedin entrepreneur Carol Stephen about LinkedIn in general, including what to do before becoming active on the platform.
From the start, get a passing acquaintance of what LinkedIn is about, but don’t hold back until you think you know everything. You won’t.
“Like all of social media, LinkedIn can be overwhelming and produce little return on investment unless you approach it correctly,” Sheehan said. “Define what you actually stand for. What is your unique value proposition? What differentiates you, your product or service?
“Put your unique value proposition — what sets you apart or differentiates you from everyone else — in writing, and use it as the foundation for everything you communicate,” he said.
Effective LinkedIn users should not fire a scattergun.
“Define your target audience,” Sheehan said. “With over 600 million people on LinkedIn, there are a lot of potential clients, but few are your real audience.
“What are your goals and objectives in using LinkedIn?” he said. “Write them down so you can hold yourself accountable. What will be your focus regarding messaging? It needs to be targeted.”
Procrastination is a killer. Don’t think too hard about the process. That wastes valuable time on LinkedIn and getting started with engagements.
“Build a brand around your targeting strategy,” Sheehan said. “Have a written plan as to what you’re going to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
“Create an updated stellar LinkedIn profile that informs your target audience of what problems you solve,” he said. “Make it about them, not about you.”
Marketing without borders
Sheehan contends that LinkedIn has “unbound marketing capabilities,” which users should maximize.
“Update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your brand,” he said. “Make sure your profile is ‘keyword rich’ with the words or strings your target audience searches for. Describe the problems you solve for them.”
Grow your LinkedIn network by being active and available to engage in conversations. That alone will distinguish you from a world of broadcasters and robots.
“Again, make sure that you have a stellar LinkedIn profile clearly aligned with your target audience,” Sheehan said. “Then upload your various address books to LinkedIn to quickly broaden your network.
“Personalize every connection request,” he said. “Make sure the message is aligned with your contact. Don’t tell them they’re doing great things in a field they’re not involved in.”
Activity will drive network expansion.
“Like, comment and share people’s posts,” Sheehan said. “They will more than likely reach out to connect. Help facilitate connections between people. Endorse and recommend your connections. Others will see that and reach out to connect.
“View profiles of those in your target audience,” he said. “If they have a premium package, they will see who viewed and will likely reach back to you to connect.”
Network management should be routine. On a regular basis — maybe monthly — do an audit of your LinkedIn profile and connections to help you stay focused and deliver on your intended messages.
“Don’t initially sell,” Sheehan said. “Develop a relationship before doing anything. Ask your audience how you can help them. Get prime prospects off LinkedIn messaging and into a customer relationship management system.”
“Carefully segment your connections and focus on top clients, prospects and the rest,” he said. “It’s the only way to manage a large network.”
Sharing is caring
The more conversational and engaging you can be on LinkedIn, the better. People quickly get tired of stilted, over prepared broadcasters.
“Like, comment on and share content that your connections have posted,” Sheehan said. “Curate and post articles relevant to your target audience.
“Write articles that address problems or issues that your target audience has, or talk about future trends in your area of expertise,” he said. “Always have a ‘What can I do to help someone else?’ mindset. Be genuine about it.”
Video is big on every social media platform, and LinkedIn is no exception for that and other engagements.
“Support your ‘tribe,’” Sheehan said. “If they publish an article, post relevant content or write a book, help promote it. Curate and write articles.
“Continue to expand your network,” he said. “The larger your network, the greater ability for people to find you and for you to find people in your searches.”
Paying attention and reacting are essential.
“Listen to your target audience and what is going on in the environment,” Sheehan said. “Evaluate results and pivot, if necessary.”
All is not rosey on the platform. One of the biggest challenges on LinkedIn is gauging reach. How do you tell how widespread your voice is heard?
“For me, the LinkedIn messaging system is very cumbersome,” Sheehan said.
“Another challenge is thinking that you have to do everything and that everything you do has to be perfect,” he said. “We’re all human with limited bandwidth, and we all make mistakes. Try to minimize them, but don’t let that scare you away.”
Users can monetize LinkedIn, but selling your soul for an endorsement has limited return on investment.
“Be authentic,” Sheehan said. “Don’t over embellish your credentials. Support nonprofits, and talk about them on LinkedIn. Volunteering is one of the best ways to grow your business or to find a job.
“Clearly articulate on how you solve main ‘pain points’ for your target audience,” he said. “Use LinkedIn as a tool to facilitate face-to-face meetings with people.”
This circles back to segmenting connections via customer relationship management, which targets people more readily and effectively.
“Connecting with the right people will lead to new opportunities for you,” Sheehan said. “That can lead to virtual meetings. This was so difficult to do years ago. Twitter and LinkedIn have been great tools to facilitate human-to-human connectivity.”
As good as that sounds, Sheehan relies on “trust but verify.”
“Words of wisdom: Make sure you vet your connections on LinkedIn,” he said. “There are a lot of ‘experts’ who have questionable credentials or experience.”