Diversity Casual People Communication Technology ConceptWhile many B2B marketers continue to question the effectiveness of most social media platforms, LinkedIn stands apart. In Content Marketing Institute’s “Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America,” CMI notes that 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform used most ; 63% rate it as the “most effective” platform

There are LinkedIn successes – and then you have people like Lewis Howes, who started a seven-figure business by leveraging LinkedIn in multiple ways.

But it’s more likely that you (like many others) find yourself spending hours upon hours on LinkedIn – but you don’t get the results you want (and maybe none at all).

What’s wrong? Why aren’t you getting results?

Here are seven best practices for getting the most out of LinkedIn. They worked for me, and I think one or more of these tips will help you too.

1. Pick the Right Groups

groupsMission number one is to figure out which groups hold your target audience. Don’t go for the largest groups – remember, business is always about finding your niche.

Once you’ve reviewed several and made a few choices, join the groups. Some let you join immediately, while you have to wait for approval for others.

After you’re in, examine the most recent discussions. If the front page is loaded with multiple irrelevant posts and special offers, leave immediately. This means that the admin doesn’t pay attention to the group (and unfortunately this happens frequently with LinkedIn groups). You’ll have a hard time starting any serious discussions with qualified prospects in a low-quality group.

2. Stick to a System

How much time is too much? There’s no definitive answer to this question. In fact, if you even ask yourself this, you’re going about things the wrong way from the get-go.

What’s most important is to have a system for prospecting in place, stick to it consistently, pay attention to your results, and then continue to refine and revise your approach. Whatever tactics you decide to use (publishing posts, status updates, spending time in groups etc.) are fine, as long as they’re part of a system you can implement and use regularly. After a certain period of time, you might consider restricting your participation to just the groups that are producing leads consistently.

3. Improve Your Profile

ghostHow many LinkedIn profiles have you read? Ever notice how so many of them sound exactly the same – like a resume? Do any of them ever get you so excited that you can’t wait to do business with those people?

Profiles are important. You should list your work experience on there. But your “Professional Headline” and the “Summary” sections are your opportunities to speak directly to your target market.

Your headline captures their attention, and then the summary details your prospect’s problem in excruciating detail. This should have them nodding their heads and feeling like someone understands them. Then, you can discuss the benefits (solutions to client problems) of working with you.

The rest of your profile boosts your credibility and helps you sell yourself, but it’s not nearly as important as these first two sections. When you show your prospects how well you get them and their problem, they can get excited enough to connect with you or give you a call.

4. Use Blogging to Drive More Business

LinkedIn follow iconPublishing blog posts on LinkedIn is a great way to build up your audience. Few have done better research on this than the testing and analytics experts at Crazy Egg. But it takes work to get measurable results. Just like you do with your professional profile, you have to write awesome headlines that get attention.

The content itself must be specific and actionable for your audience. If you follow the idea of “showing” versus “telling” your audience what works, you’ll do well.

For example, yes, you should write great headlines, everyone knows that. But what makes for a great headline? It’s actually pretty complex, but here are some headline-writing tips that can help.

Make sure each post ends with a call to action telling your readers what to do next. Don’t necessarily ask them to buy something; it’s too early in the relationship to do that. Do recommend other posts, or offer them a valuable freebie (perhaps an eBook or webinar) in exchange for giving you their email.

One caution: make sure you keep copies of the content you post on LinkedIn. LinkedIn sometimes “retires” features, as it did with LinkedIn Answers, and you want to be able to revisit or reuse the content you put that time and effort into.

5. Build Relationships with Prospects

Just like the Lewis Howes’ success story noted earlier, you always hear about people that get thousands of contacts and leads from this platform.

Why do some get so many, while others struggle to make just a few?

It’s not because those well-connected users spend hours more per day clicking “Connect.” Those hyper-successful individuals have figured out what potential prospects value, and they give them a piece of it first.

6. Share Good Content

content-is-kingIn groups, post useful content (not yours) about once a week or so. Post only from the most reputable resources in your industry – that way people in your group see that you know what has value, and so they are more likely to think everything you say is worth listening to. Once a week is frequent enough to stay relevant, but not so frequent that people see you as spamming.

Some of your posts will hit, while others will miss. When you get comments, that’s the time to take things to a deeper level with that person. Respond immediately! Give them a compliment, ask them a question, or ask for an introduction.

You’ll also notice questions related to what you do from time to time. That’s your opportunity to shine by giving the most insightful answer possible. Make it more about the other person than about you, and see if you can help solve their problem. Those types of answers often earn you more business.

7. Take Advantage of Endorsements

What else matters in your LinkedIn profile? Anything that’s not from you! Endorsements and recommendations are essential for your profile.

Endorsements are comparatively easy to get. To start earning them, just provide a good service at whatever it is you do and then request endorsements from happy clients.

People may also look you up on LinkedIn and endorse you too because it’s easy to do. You can also proactively earn more of them by endorsing others yourself.

Recommendations are harder to get. You can ask your clients if they’d be willing to give you one, should you recommend them first. Many also happily do it if you offer to write one for them.

Also make sure you share samples of your work in the “Add Media” area of your “Summary” section. This can serve as an online portfolio and, depending on your business, an excellent example of what you can do for your clients.

8. Post Status Updates

When posting status updates, always follow the 80/20 rule. It’s okay to promote your products and services, but only 20% of your posts should do that. If you push the ratio any higher, you risk turning your network off and being seen as a spammer. It’s not about you.

Since the people using LinkedIn are professionals, it makes sense that the times when you get the most clicks and shares are 8:00 and 10:00 Monday through Friday. Stick to about one or two posts per day.

What should you post? Basically, anything you think your target market finds valuable. According to social media powerhouse Buffer, posts containing industry insights are the most popular and interest six out of 10 LinkedIn users. You can also ask questions to increase engagement, offer inspiring quotes, and make sure you say “thank you” to everyone who likes or comments on any of your updates.

Does This Sound Like Too Much?

Even if you are a remarkably efficient person and follow a systematic process for marketing on LinkedIn, it may still take too much of your time. Or maybe you just don’t want to do it. Some marketing agencies do offer services that manage your LinkedIn profile and help you get more leads from it, doing it under your name so you and your company get the credit. (By the way, Prospectr can do this for you. Just sayin’.)

A Few Things Not to do on LinkedIn…

You can make devastating mistakes in any marketing channel and on any social network; LinkedIn is no exception. These are some of the deal-breakers you must avoid:

  • Don’t spam the same content to all your groups. Some members will be in multiple groups with you, and your reputation will take a hit. Plus, LinkedIn itself asks you not to do this.
  • Don’t ask without providing value first. So many requests come from people with a loose, or no connection at all, to the person they request something from. These almost always get deleted or ignored. If you want someone to help you, make sure you do something for them first.
  • Never use an unprofessional photo. As astounding as it sounds, many professionals don’t have an appropriate picture on their profile. If you want to attract clients, you have to look like their expectation of a successful business professional. Hire a professional photographer to take a number of headshots and post the best one. If you have an unusual or highly visual business, you might use a photo that illustrates some aspect of your company. If you lease jets, for example, a photo of you in front of a jet tells the right story.
  • Don’t use default LinkedIn messages. I’m talking about the default connection requests and congratulations messages here. Take a moment to make the request personal, and if you have something in common, mention it. Sometimes it makes sense to let the person know why you are reaching out.
  • Don’t use recommendations from family and friends. Nobody views these as credible because they come from people who – of course – think you’re wonderful. Better to have no recommendations at all than ones that people don’t trust.

While we’re at it, with recommendations, you want to have them describe the results and outcomes you have produced for that client (if possible). It’s much more convincing that simply saying how wonderful you are to work with. Numbers (“raised our conversion numbers by 20%”) are especially convincing.

And that’s a wrap! If you do all those things, you’ll be well on your way to successfully networking on LinkedIn.

What’s worked for you (or not) on LinkedIn? Which of these best practices will you try first? Share your experiences in the comments. And be sure to read this eBook to get even more strategies for turning social media followers into customers.