Connecting with prospects using LinkedIn

  1. Paper chain of people
    Ray Newman

    Ray Newman UKBF Regular

    147 31
    3 |

    LinkedIn, the business networking website, isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun time but in times of crisis, it comes into its own.

    That’s because when things are moving quickly – when the Chancellor is giving the equivalent of three Budgets in a fortnight, for example – being able to react and quickly share information with people who need to know it is what really matters.

    The Twitter account @StateOfLinkedIn highlights the worst of the site which it calls ‘a breeding ground for lies and brown-nosing’.

    And it’s true – the non-stop flow of upbeat self-promotion and inspirational quotes can prompt eye-rolling.

    Surely these people who get up at 4am and write business plans while lifting weights and working on their Japanese can’t be real, can they?

    Like many people, I joined LinkedIn a decade or so ago and then avoided logging in unless I absolutely had to. In recent months, however, I’ve begun to see the value and even, tentatively, to put myself out there a little.

    What holds a lot of people back from making the most of LinkedIn, I think, is the fear that someone they know in real life will see them in work mode and snigger.

    A meme that emerged earlier this year via, would you believe, country star Dolly Parton, gets to the crux of it:

    Source: Twitter

    In other words, we contain multitudes. Most of us switch modes depending on the circumstances and the company we’re keeping, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Work-you is no less authentic than parent-you or Saturday-night-out you, and using different social networks to compartmentalise your life makes complete sense.

    That said, there are ways of refining your LinkedIn persona to make the impression you want to make on potential clients, while avoiding cliche or embarrassment.

    What works

    Sincerity and authenticity is by far the best approach to take, and the best way to avoid the kind of post that will make your connections cringe. Generally, the version of yourself you portray on LinkedIn should be you on a good day. Filter out the moaning and grumbling that comes with everyday life, and focus on the positives. But occasionally, a heartfelt confessional will get – ugh! – good engagement.

    Immediacy sells. Be the first with breaking industry news, and put your own spin on it – what do you think? Expressing your opinion will make your post much more interesting than simply dropping the link to the news story, and could even invite debate. Some LinkedIn celebs thrive on being controversial but, for most of us, keeping it professional is usually best.

    People like practical advice, so aim to provide discrete tips that people can take away and act upon. For example, my most successful post in terms of engagement was about how to make your writing more professional by removing superfluous instances of ‘that’.

    Video stands out and gets good engagement, if you can bear to speak to camera rather than relying on the comfort and safety of text.

    Speaking coach and trainer Alexandra Bond Burnett of Speaking Ambition trains professional advisers in how to use video and her clients' faces can be seen all over LinkedIn. She says:

    “There are two reasons why video usage has hit the roof on Linkedin. Firstly, it's a simple case of pleasing the algorithm. Videos are five times more likely to get comments, and Linkedin ranks content likely to get more engagement. Post video and they are already assuming that you are going to get up to three times more engagement than text only posts. Secondly, and most importantly, is to ask why Linkedin assumes this. Simply put we are visual creatures. Seeing a moving image creates a memory and emotional experience faster in our brains than reading or one single image. Our brains seek eye contact and storytelling to help us connect to the information.”

    It doesn’t have to be super-slick – again, immediacy and sincerity is the most important thing. And there’s another upside: if you’re not a confident writer, learning to do the talking head thing can also save you time and stress. And avoid linking to videos hosted on YouTube or Vimeo – upload them directly to LinkedIn for the best results.

    Frequency is important, too. Posting at least once a day is a good idea. That’s partly for obvious reasons – if you don’t post, how can people engage with you? But it’s also because LinkedIn, in common with most social media networks, defaults to feeding users content based on what its algorithm perceives to be ‘good quality’. Infrequent posters are likely to be marked down so that when they do post, people won’t see it.

    Finally, there’s a hierarchy of content, or so most expert users seem to believe: a status update beats a LinkedIn article which beats an off-site blog post. The odd LinkedIn article – a kind of blog post hosted on LinkedIn – is a good idea because those who are viewing your profile to decide if they want to work with you will find them useful. In general, though, aim to make your point in a status update, within a few hundred words at most.

    Making connections

    Connecting is LinkedIn’s answer to ‘friending’ on Facebook, or a mutual follow on Twitter.

    On the one hand, LinkedIn is a place where hustling and self-promotion are welcome, so there’s no need to be coy. People know that you’re connecting with them, in most cases, because you might want to do business at some point, or at least that there’s something mutually beneficial in the relationship.

    So there’s no shame in finding people in the sector you’re selling into and connecting with them.

    On the other hand, the one thing I see most complaints about is people making a connection and then immediately turning it into a hard sell by direct message: “Hi, we’ve just connected – want to buy quality widgets at knock-down prices?”

    LinkedIn, like real-world networking, is more of a long game. You want people to know you and your business exist; you have an opportunity to sell your expertise and experience; and being connected makes it easy for them to get in touch when the time comes.

  2. Clinton

    Clinton UKBF Legend

    5,245 2,413
    That's not what I see.

    If that's what you're getting in LinkedIn, you've got a serious problem with your connection list. You've probably been connecting with all kinds of nut cases.

    Be very discriminating in who you connect with. I have 3,000 connections but would have 30,000 if I didn't delete 9 out of 10 connection requests.

    Don't connect with people simply to build your list of connections. And be ruthless in deleting those who post Facebook type nonsense or who have some automated system to make regular posts of inspirational quotes.

    You need to seriously work on improving your feed! And you do that by deleting the people who are corrupting it. Have no mercy with them.

    They are the worst people. I don't accept such connection requests. These are generally sales people or "business development executives" who are collecting connections so they can get your email address and pitch whatever junk they happen to be selling, or add you to their email list.

    They sometimes pretend to be interested in me. "I'd like to arrange a chat so I can learn more about your business". They are lying b*stards. If they wanted to learn about me they'd have read my profile (and they'd have known that my target customers are the owners of large businesses).

    Their only real interest in you is in selling you stuff. Would you buy from a sales person who is a demonstrated liar?

    Delete them.

    Oh, one more thing, about that video you mention. I know, I know, everyone says "use video", but it depends on your audience. It seems to be the smart thing to say. For every platform. Use video!

    I'll add a word of caution.

    Busy executives don't have much time for watching. They want to browse and move on! The FB type bored mums will watch videos. Be aware that not everybody has the patience or time to watch your videos! I certainly don't.
    Posted: Apr 2, 2020 By: Clinton Member since: Jan 17, 2010
    Aleksander_Gramm likes this.
  3. FranIrish

    FranIrish UKBF Newcomer

    8 1
    It would be nice if they did what most sites are doing in these hard times and give 3 months free so you could actually contact the decision maker and not the receptionist.
    Posted: May 1, 2020 By: FranIrish Member since: Jul 31, 2018
  4. Tony Radford

    Tony Radford UKBF Newcomer

    1 0
    Thanks for this post.

    I have a similar relationship to LinkedIn as yours, as I imagine many people do. I got into is some years ago and then gave up and post now and then. I would, however, like to use it as a place to build brand and reputation as I think LinkedIn is potentially a great platform and the only way that can happen is through content.

    The s******ing colleagues thing is a barrier. I like Gary Vaynerchuk's view on this which is along the lines of don't give a sh1t and get posting. This might upset @Clinton though.

    Clinton's response was a fun read. I do take his point about culling the connections - I might do this. His point about sneaky sales people hmmm... it's a business platform, we're all consenting adults, there is a reporting system and we mustn't forget that the platform, which offers incredible reach, is (currently) free to use. I'd be interested to know how and for what Clinton uses LinkedIn.

    Clinton's point about videos - not so sure. However, given that mobile users might have their sound off, and some people won't watch video, perhaps adding a transcription with the video would be a good idea?
    Posted: May 11, 2020 By: Tony Radford Member since: Aug 21, 2019