Let's face it—the social media phenomenon isn't going anywhere. Whether we like it or not, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and the myriad of other social media platforms are here to stay. Like most technological advances, you can either get on the proverbial boat or get left behind.
The same holds true for social media, and while many people believe social media should only be used for personal interactions, there is much to be gained from building a social media presence for your business.
According to The Social Media and Sales Quota Survey, 72.6% of salespeople using social media to sell outperformed those who weren't using social media. Using social media increases sales in business—the proof is in the pudding.
One of the most demonstrable social media platforms for business is LinkedIn. LinkedIn began solely for the purpose of professional networking. With more than 200 million users as of January 2013, there is a plethora of valuable business contacts, literally at your fingertips, just waiting to be untapped.
Like your traditional resume, your LinkedIn profile should be fresh and up-to-date. Think of it as your personal brand. You want to convey to your clients, prospects, colleagues, etc., that you are knowledgeable, experienced, and an expert in your field. The ultimate goal of your LinkedIn profile is to build a network of people that will either become your clients or your source of referrals. Invest some time developing your profile and building your network, and your career will reap many benefits and rewards. To get the most out of your account, follow these five steps:
Step 1: Upload a photo
Upload a photograph of yourself. You don't have to go out and spend tons of money on a professional headshot, but it should be an inviting photo of your smiling face. This is especially important if you have a common name. I did a search for a common name such as Michael Wilson and was given more than 11,000 matches. If you don't have a photo, your potential client may not be able to find you.
Step 2: Complete the summary and background information
As stated above, your LinkedIn profile is like your online resume. You wouldn't leave major holes or gaps in your traditional resume, so don't make that mistake in your profile. Write a short summary covering your roles, expertise, and specialties. Provide your relevant work history with the roles and responsibilities you held in each position.
Step 3: Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When you're building your LinkedIn profile, use specific keywords that you would want to be associated with when people search for something related to your field. For example, if you work in the auto insurance industry, use those words consistently (but naturally) throughout your profile in order to bump your search ranking up.
Step 4: Remember your ABCs: Always Be Connecting!
Anytime you meet someone, whether online or in person, follow-up with a request to connect on LinkedIn. Not only will you gain valuable insights about your new potential client, but you'll also gain access to a new network of prospects through your connection with them.
Step 5: Recommend and endorse others
LinkedIn is a community of professionals that want to succeed and want to see others succeed. By recommending and endorsing your peers, you increase the odds that they will do the same for you. When it comes to building your network and LinkedIn presence, you truly do reap what you sow.