With more than 200 million registered users in over 200 countries, it’s easy to see why LinkedIn is the top social network both for business to business (B2B) marketing and for making professional connections. If you sell products or provide services to businesses, LinkedIn is where you should focus your social media lead gen efforts.
A good LinkedIn lead generation strategy focuses on several components. Your profile and activity on the site need to demonstrate your expertise, offer insight into your business, and build your “know, like, and trust” factor. It’s also important that you leverage the tools and features of the site to get the maximum value out of your network. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get networking on LinkedIn wrong. Here are the top 7 mistakes that users make with LinkedIn, and how to avoid them.
1. Approaching LinkedIn like a series of transactions, rather than building relationships
LinkedIn is about creating relationships. If those relationships lead to business opportunities, potential jobs, or other leads for you, that’s terrific. But it’s important to remember that LinkedIn is a network – not a marketplace driven by transactions. This has direct implications for how you need to behave and cultivate connections there.
People using LinkedIn have what the team at Social Media Examiner have called a networking mindset. “People typically visit LinkedIn with a purpose to make connections, gain insights about their industry and anything that can help them get smarter.” As a marketer working to develop leads, this is the best potential customer mindset for you to tap into and get real results.
Yet making the most of this opportunity requires that you enter relationships on LinkedIn focused on the long-term. You want to create a connection that lasts for years, and that starts with you creating genuine value for people now. Have you taken the time to introduce yourself properly? Do you ask contacts smart questions? How frequently do you go out of your way to introduce contacts that could help each other out or share valuable information? The more you invest in a relationship without asking for anything in return, the more likely your network will yield the results you want.
Tip: With every LinkedIn interaction you have, ask yourself “how can I create value and improve my relationship with this person” before you ask for anything in return.
2. Treating your profile like a dead resume
At its inception, LinkedIn might have functioned a lot like a resume site. But its capabilities, intentions, and reality have evolved far beyond that. Not only is treating LinkedIn like a resume leaving valuable potential on the table, it also makes you look bad.
Let me give you some examples. In the worst-case scenario if your LinkedIn profile is out of date, your entire network is stuck in the past in their knowledge of what you’re working on. If your contact info, skills, and jobs aren’t current, people can’t send you referrals, hire you, or get in touch.
Another common mistake is failing to bring your entire professional network online. The more people you’re connected to, the bigger your reach. Getting all your contacts in is as simple as uploading your email list and sending them invites (more on that in a minute). It doesn’t have to be an intensive process. Make sure that your colleagues, clients, and friends are connected to you via LinkedIn. It’s also a great way to keep track of leads and contacts you make at networking events. Instead of throwing business cards you collect into a folder, consider sitting down immediately after events and sending follow up and invites through LinkedIn. It’s a great way to get the most value from each connection you make.
Does your profile have a pulse? Much like Twitter and Facebook, it’s now possible to give status updates your LinkedIn profile regularly and with ease. One of the simplest ways to do this is to connect it with your posting software (for example, Hootsuite). Another is to simply share a link to something interesting you’ve read or a relevant bit of your work, such as video footage of presentations you’ve given. Keep people engaged with what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be every day, but make sure you’re checking in weekly.
Finally, explore some of the more up to date features of LinkedIn. Are you participating in social sections like Q&A or LinkedIn Answers? Have you added video to your profile? Look into using one of the apps to showcase your portfolio or videos of you speaking. LinkedIn is offering a number of tools that allow you to differentiate your presence and really highlight what makes you unique.
Tip: Spend 30 minutes a week updating your LinkedIn profile, adding content, sharing status updates, and finding new contacts.
3. Not optimizing your profile for target keywords
If you’re using LinkedIn to connect with new business, you want to ensure that your profile is the first one that pops up when people search for your name or for a target keyword. The principles of good SEO on the web also apply on LinkedIn. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the steps you need to take to make sure that your profile ranks well in LinkedIn’s search results:
- Personalize your URL: Your public profile is housed at a default URL that LinkedIn assigns. Take the time to claim your URL. Ideally, this should be http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. If you’re unable to get that, consider modifying it with your industry, job title, or location. For example, /johnsmithwriter or johnsmithsandiego. To adjust your URL, go to your profile in edit mode and then select “edit” next to the public profile link.
- Link to your company site from your profile with custom anchor text: LinkedIn allows you to create up to three links to outside sites on your profile. When you’re entering the URL, selecting “other” allows you to customize your anchor text. For example, instead of the link appearing as “My Company” it will appear as “Starbucks.” This professionalizes your profile, reinforces if people are searching for your company name, and gives additional link power to your external sites.
- Target and add your keywords: It’s also important to add target keywords into your profile. For example, if you’re a WordPress designer it’s key that you work those terms into critical places in your profile. You want to avoid “keyword stuffing” but make sure that the terms flow naturally in your profile. Ideally your target terms will be present in your headline, summary, job experience/job titles, and skills.
- Avoid keyword series headlines: The best headlines integrate your target keywords in a way that makes sense to a reader by answering the question “what do you do and for whom?” In the WordPress designer example above, a good headline might be “Experienced WordPress Designer for Lawyers in Seattle and Portland.” A less effective headline might read “Web Design – WordPress Designer – Small Business Design – Graphic Design.” Think about whether you’d want to click on your own headline before hitting publish.
Tip: Choose your most critical keyword and make sure that it’s in your headline, summary, and job experience at least once. This will take less than five minutes and go a long way toward optimizing your profile.
4. Failing to personalize your networking requests
When you reach out to a potential contact on LinkedIn, the system gives you a default message. It’s the dreaded “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” In an informal study of pet peeves on LinkedIn, generic invites rank in the top three. Here’s why:
If you met a potential customer at a conference and then later met them at another event, how would you introduce yourself? Chances are good you’d go up, shake hands, and remind them of how you met. “Hi, I’m Helen, we met last year through John Smith at BlogWorld in New York.” If your connection wasn’t as clear, you might opt for something like “Hi, I’m Helen, a financial blogger. I love what your company is doing. Do you have a few minutes to chat?”
The basics of good behavior for networking are the same in the world of LinkedIn invitations. If it’s someone you’ve met before, include a polite greeting and remind them of where you met. Have some specific follow up, such as someone asking you to get in touch? Here’s a great place to remind them. If you are trying to connect with someone you don’t know or don’t know well, at a minimum introduce yourself, what you do, and why you’d like to connect.
Tip: Always take the time to personalize your invites. Many people will treat unpersonalized invitations as spam, and it can hurt your carefully crafted professional image.
5. Not using the Get Introduced feature to warm up your cold calls
LinkedIn recently upgrade its Get Introduced feature. This may be your most powerful tool for getting introductions to warm leads that are already in your network.
For example, let’s say you sell a software product for marketing professionals. With the Get Introduced feature, it’s possible to search your network and see which first and second degree connections (your direct connections as well as their networks) fit the bill. You can search by company, title, industry and more. Once you find a person you want to connect with, click on their profile. LinkedIn will show you what contacts you have in common and you can use the “Get Introduced” featured to request an intro. It’s easy and efficient.
It’s also possible to search more broadly by turning off filters. While ideally you would be able to get an intro to someone through your network, sometimes the information gleaned from a LinkedIn search is enough to warm up your prospecting. For example, are you trying to get the name of a VP of Sales at a company that’s cagey with staff names? A LinkedIn search can help you quickly identify the right person to contact.
Tip: Spend 15 minutes during your next prospecting exercise to explore LinkedIn’s Advanced Search and Get Introduced features. See how much information you can gather on a priority target – from background data to common networks – and determine if it’s helpful to your outreach campaigns.
6. Spamming your network with email blasts
In 2013, basic social media etiquette dictates that we should know not to spam our entire contacts list on the most valuable business social network out there. And yet, it’s worked its way onto my list.
Think about it like this: you’ve worked hard to develop your contacts, create a great profile, and be active on the network to demonstrate your knowledge. So treat those connections with the care that they deserve.
Bluntly, LinkedIn should never be used for mass emails. It’s a violation of the site’s Terms of Service and it’s also just a bad idea. If you have a message that you want to reach your contacts with, get in touch individually. And remember: don’t just email to blind pitch your services. Always customize every communication you send through LinkedIn.
Tip: If you’re ever tempted to send a mass mailing via LinkedIn – don’t. Instead, find one to three individuals that are uniquely qualified to connect with over whatever you’re working on and send them an individualized message. Your chances of a positive response just increased dramatically.
7. Selling yourself in all the wrong places
One of the best ways to make connections on LinkedIn is to raise your visibility through some of the site’s more interactive features. For example, LinkedIn Questions and Answers (Q&A) allows people to ask questions and gives anyone the chance to respond.
Typically these questions are related to a specific issue or industry and are a great way to show your expertise. A colleague or potential client might ask about the best way to have a case study developed or how case studies have been effectively used in their industry.
If you’re a case study writer, this can be a great way to engage. Consider sharing your expertise by providing a thoughtful answer on case study best practices. If you’re familiar with case studies in their industry, this is a great time to share those as well. Interactions get awkward when users respond to questions with a one line answer that you’re a case study writer and that they should contact you for more info.
Remember, these interactive sections are highly visible. This is where you want to demonstrate your expertise, not shill. If you think it’s truly appropriate, follow up with a potential contact by inMail after you create some value.
A similar set of rules governs interactions on the LinkedIn Groups you join. How do you resolve this with the ever-constant call to have a call to action, always follow up, and sell sell sell? It’s a fair question. The best advice is that you have to strike that balance. Present yourself powerfully, create a ton of value for your contacts, and you’ll start the kinds of conversations that will sell.
Tip: Find a group in your industry or in your clients’ industry that’s relevant to you and join. Observe the flow of the group and find ways to contribute by asking good questions or answering when other people do. Try this for a month and see if you find it valuable. If you do, it’s easy to scale from there.
LinkedIn is the critical network to be active on when you’re in B2B sales or just looking to broaden your own professional network. It’s important that you have a sound strategy, treat the network with respect, focus on creating value for others, and take advantage of the tools LinkedIn has to offer. If you engage with others on LinkedIn this way, it can be your best source of lead generation in the social media space.