As Social media goes, no platform is as Professional as LinkedIn. We sit down and have a casual conversation with Inbound Marketing and LinkedIn expert George Zeidan about how this professional networking tool can empower both B2B and B2C sales.
10 minutes required reading time
With George Zeidan – SEO Account Manager
As a tool how is LinkedIn unique over other social media platforms?
All businesses are built on relationships. Especially small business. LinkedIn provides relationship building in a way never before available in terms of accessibility. People can now network digitally to their peers, in a wholly professional forum.
This also has other benefits allowing for corporate and personal branding. When you are offline you do a lot of branding activities, from business cards to flyers to etc and LinkedIn marketing allows you to do the same in a cheaper format using text and video, the shares and likes and comments are effectively your Word-Of-Mouth marketing & Branding.
…and this is different from facebook?…
It’s a different mindset than FB for example where what you share is professional and reflects on you. People on [LinkedIn] don’t expect you to do jokes that are not work-related, for example, and they expect you to share relevant industry content. -To be professional.
What Potential can LinkedIn unlock for business?
For individuals: [It] allows individuals to showcase their experience, connect with other like-minded professionals, check out competitor activities, research what other companies are doing, identify employer of choice, build up their professional network and personal branding.
For businesses: create brand awareness, share success, target and attract the right clients and employees (inbound marketing and inbound recruiting), share industry and company news, educate clients, position themselves as the thought leaders or specialists, create business opportunities, attract investors and create collaboration opportunities
For sales & marketing, it helps sales leads, extend geographical reach, extend reach capacity (i.e. how many they can reach per day/month etc), empowers product positioning, product promotion and inbound marketing.
…You mentioned that already…
I like inbound marketing [laughs].
For recruiters and companies looking for candidates, LinkedIn allows access to talents and skills locally, nationally and internationally. A platform for access to candidates skills and networks that allows them to find talents that they are connected to rather than the company or the recruiter is connected to.
Overall it is fantastic for networking. All businesses large and small network.
Some use networking groups such as Referrals Hub, Casey Cardinia Business Group, BNI (Business Network International), Bob (Business over Breakfast), Rotary, Meetups, etc.
Others network in seminars, industry events, government lobbying groups, Golf, political party gatherings, Summits, Expos.
Regardless of where you are, you are networking at some level or another.
Digitally you can network in Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups or many other digital platforms.
However, LinkedIn provides a really different flavour to networking that many have not utilised properly. Adding someone on LinkedIn to your network is step 1 in networking, sending them messages and having a conversation is step 2, sharing content on LinkedIn that has comments from YOU, is step 3, participating in LinkedIn Groups is step 4, sharing info on LinkedIn company pages is step 5.
What are some bad habits of poor LinkedIn management?
Sending a connection request to someone and then never start the conversation. The first thing that sprung to mind [laughs while counting on his fingers].
Other bad habits… sending a non-customised connection request. It just shows that you have not made any effort to tell them why you want to connect.
Even worse, not replying to message. Oh my god, this kills me, as you can tell if they have read it or not.
Sharing posts on LinkedIn without any comments from you showing that you actually understand what you have posted or why you have posted it or what interests you in posting it.
Having a non-professional photo on your LinkedIn profile.
Having a LinkedIn profile that does not provide the right information about you or [is] not updated.
Giving endearments to people left right and centre without really knowing who they are or if they truly have those skills.
Ignoring what their connection profile is stating about their connection and hence they might be trying to sell to someone who would never be interested in their work at all.
Explain 1st, 2nd and 3rd connections, and how to interact with each of them
A 1st connection is one connected to you directly while the 2nd connection is one connected to the 1st connection of yours so 1 degree of separation and the 3rd connection may have 2 or more degrees of separation.
When dealing with 1st connection you need to nurture the relationship, build trust, position yourself as the expert in your filed, NEVER hard sell but generate interest in what you do so your connections request your services or when after a while you request a sales meeting they are preceptive and eager to know what you have to offer them and willing to listen.
When dealing with a 2nd and 3rd connections all that you can do is send a connection request or an InMail. The 2nd connection tends to be warmer as it is 1 degree of separation, while the 3rd one tends to be very cold. Hence customised connection requests and InMails are very important in this case as it would either set the relationship right or wrong from the very first message.
On that note, let’s talk about finding target demographics. How do you find them?
Define who your target market is by defining the personas that you want to engage with. Demographics, objections to your services, their needs, their pain points etc
Find out where these personas hang out in LinkedIn, i.e. what groups and join these groups, comment, share and like posts in these groups and be active in showing that you are an expert -building your own brand. Solidify the relationship with the group members and connect to them as well.
Look at what your personas are interested in and what are the following, e.g. hashtags and influencers, decide on what are they really liking about that influencer, share your own thoughts, interact with comments on that influencer’s posts and share.
Use the hashtags that are most relevant to your audience, so they can find your posts easily.
Define what job titles your target market may have, what industries, what companies, size of the company, revenue, number of employees, location and so on.
Search using these parameters and send personalised connection requests to those who are both connecting to expanding your network. Share with them your thoughts, etc and build up your brand.
Is LinkedIn potentially a gateway B2C?
Although LinkedIn is seen as B2B platform, I truly believe that is not entirely right:
For a few reasons. One, Recruiters and companies are there looking for the right talents to join their organisations. Another, companies are sharing brand stories and build up their Triple bottom line reputation.
Companies are also sharing consumer product stories and events.
For example, look at LG Signature and LG Electronics. When LG shares its signature products on LinkedIn this does not affect Businesses and purchase and procurement offices only -it also affects consumers. At the end of the day we are all consumers of some white goods or another for example and what we see will affect our buying decision when it comes to decision time.
A physiotherapist that shares his/her nuggets about their industry positions themselves as an expert and affects not only Businesses who care about the well-being of their employees but also us consumer/individuals.
So, although LinkedIn is seen as a B2B platform and is used to generating sales leads and networking it is for sure generating and affecting consumer buying decisions whether directly or indirectly.
What’s does good management of LinkedIn look like?
An optimised profile both text and photos.
A profile that tells the visitor who you help and who you do it, they might not be the ones who need help but for sure they may refer you to those who do.
Share your thoughts and industry related material.
Join groups and be active. Reply to your messages, comments on your posts and connection requests in a timely manner.
Respect others online and give them credit for their good work.
Request recommendations every time you can.
Request endorsements for your skills, get rid of those sills that don’t mean anything and were generated automatically using the LinkedIn auto tools when they first started this imitative.
Add links to your projects and people who were on that project with you, show you are a team player if you are that is.
Share your success stories and link back to your site.
Let’s get to the good stuff. What are some tips, tricks and tools you can use to optimise LinkedIn Performance?
There are many LinkedIn tools out there such as LinkedIn Helper, Leonard, etc they help in mass connection requests and templated messages. Having said that there is not one LinkedIn CRM but there are LinkedIn and HubSpot connectors such as LinkedHub that syncs your contacts and logs your messages.
Having such tools may help you reach out quickly to many people but also may flag you as a spammer if you abuse LinkedIn rules.
For example, at the time of writing this blog, a free LinkedIn account may send up to 25 connection requests per day while a sales navigator one may send up to 200 connection requests per day. If one uses automation tools then they need to keep within the commercial limits of LinkedIn otherwise they are in breach of their LinkedIn account terms and conditions.
Automation is great and helps a lot but it could be detrimental to the business as well.
If one automates connection requests without knowing who they are connecting to and why then they may look like fools and if they send sales connection requests, then they will be labelled as spammers and pushy salespeople.
Use automation tools wisely and do not abuse the terms and conditions of LinkedIn or really do not abuse human nature terms and conditions at the end of the day people connect to people, not robots.
Should medium and large companies encourage their staff to use LinkedIn for business?
Medium and large companies need to get their staff to utilise LinkedIn more often, share company news and events etc.
This will help in company branding and humanising the company. At the end of the day, the human element of a brand is extremely important especially when we are talking B2B sales and deal signing. When it comes to B2C the human element also plays an important role as people tend to support brands that support their cause, family, etc.
When it comes to employment people look for that company that will connect to them and treat them as a human, not as a number.
When it comes to being seen as ethical and as caring etc. employees sharing news, events etc will help influence their networks as humans listen to humans.
Who is the ideal manager of LinkedIn within a business structure?
In mid and large organisations: the communications manager in the marketing team / social media manager.
In micro and small businesses: the business owner as the brand is inseparable most of the time from the owner.
Let’s talk LinkedIn blogs. What is there potential, advantages and disadvantages?
It’s a great tool that allows to build your followers and influence and inbound. For small business owners, it’s another time consumer that they need to deal with and puts a burden on them.
For mid and large business who should post and be the face of the company is the issue, if they leave then who is the new face.
The main problem is it is another platform that they need to write for!!
A final question. When people connect with you, what’s the tone of conversation you aim for?
I always aim for helping others and getting to know them as giving is receiving. After a relationship has been built, I let people know what I can do for them as a service.
Always educate and add value.
Help steer in the right direction if the opportunity allows for it.
For example, if you are being approved to be sold to or collaborate with and you are not the right decision maker for that topic, help people approach the right person so maybe they manage to secure a sale.