LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the most important platforms on which to have an established presence. Yet, for so many people, they see it as a platform that’s only for jobseekers or strictly for networking. The truth is that LinkedIn is much more versatile than that, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who understands that as well as Lori Ruff does.

Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva™, as she is known, is a Forbes Top 25 International Social Media Power Influencer, # 3 Woman on LinkedIn, an Author and Blogger. A sassy, saucy, businesswoman, she is a recognized thought leader on executable social networking strategy. She evangelizes Relationship Driven Business Development via LinkedIn and Social Media.

Lori was kind enough to talk to us a bit about LinkedIn and share some tips and best practices. I don’t know about you, but this interview has definitely encouraged me to step up my LinkedIn game!

The Interview

A lot of people believe that LinkedIn is only a place to establish your presence if you’re a job seeker. How do you help people with the mindset that LinkedIn isn’t for them see its value?

I explain that there are many other relationships being formed on LinkedIn. People find more than a job or a candidate. Just as in any other professional environment, people find: business deals, partners, vendors, and customers, even friends (and I name some of the people I’ve met where the relationships are about more than business). There’s a great exchange of knowledge, advice and even mentoring happening on LinkedIn. It’s a vibrant and active community that provides diverse value for millions of people.

When did you really begin to see the value that LinkedIn holds beyond networking? So, for example, when did you begin to realize its potential for things like lead generation and so forth?

As soon as I joined LinkedIn in 2005, I realized how powerful it was as an online resume. It wasn’t until the following year, after life-threatening injuries from a motorcycle accident caused me to be out of the professional community for close to 18 months, that I turned to LinkedIn to help me rediscover who the new players in my region were. That’s when I started to find and engage people in other states, even other countries. I quickly realized that I could expand my horizons, using LinkedIn to turn my regional efforts into national, continental, and even global success. Within weeks, I was booking business from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Waco, Texas, to Monterrey, Mexico and then I set my sights on Denver. That’s when I found Mike O’Neil, the original LinkedIn trainer and my new partner.

At Content Equals Money, we believe that content marketing at the Fortune 500 level is essentially the same for small businesses. The money aspect will differ, but the practices are all the same. Would you say this is also true for LinkedIn? Can small businesses make use of LinkedIn the same way that larger companies can?

More than the money differs. The access to a team often is the tipping point for small businesses that makes them feel unable to take advantage. Still, there are things small business can do more effectively: for example, they can be more responsive and timely in their communications and posts. Where they need to mimic large companies is in the areas of planning, strategy and policy.

A big opportunity for small business is the availability of affordable help. There are a growing number of people who are now, or looking to soon, offer social media marketing and management services for small business. There are even companies such as Splash Media who not only offer those services for SMB companies, but they also offer Splash Media U to offer affordable training to individuals who want to do the same.

Along those same lines, how do you help small businesses think bigger?

A great way to think bigger is to think outside of the box of your own four walls. One fabulous side effect of social media and the related technological improvements is the ability to literally create a virtual team. At Integrated Alliances, we have two people inside our four walls. The remainder of our team, which floats between 8 and 12 depending on our immediate needs, is handled by a virtual team, all independent professionals who work under our direction. When they are not working with us, they have other clients.

A side benefit of that for them is that, as they work for each client, they gain more knowledge and learn more skills that they can use to enhance their work for others. So instead of employees and the traditional expense and management, we have a flexible team of professionals as invested in our success as we are.

Any Dos and Don’ts you can give us when it comes to small business versus large business on LinkedIn?

    • When creating your company page, don’t indicate you are a sole proprietor. That is the only option that adds “(Self-Employed)” beside your company name on your profile. It’s better to indicate 2-10 employees and not lose respect just because you are independent.
    • Don’t tell your employees “you MUST do these things to your profile.” It is better to recommend text or strategies, i.e., provide a template they can work from to improve their profile overall. You can include text that they can copy/paste OR modify as they see fit.
    • Do ask your staff to follow your Company Page and to ask others to follow your Company Page as well. It’s a great idea to remind staff to ask clients for a product or service recommendation
    • We have a video of “Top Ten LinkedIn Fallacies”

One of the things I’ve heard you advise before is that it’s really important to write your LinkedIn profile for the kind of client that you’re hoping to find. This is really good advice that I think people overlook a lot of the time, and it holds true for those seeking employment, as well. Can you give us some insight or tips on how you coach businesses and individuals through this process?

I start with this question: If your perfect client or employer or partner were standing in front of you right now reaching out to shake your hand, what would you say to them? How would the conversation go? What would they ask… for example, “What are you passionate about?” or “What led you to what you are doing now?”

When you ignore the rest of the universe and focus on one person—it is so much easier to introduce yourself to that one person—you’ll find that more people than you ever imagined will read your profile and respond. So, write your profile in the first person, in a conversational tone, and invite the person reading to reach out… end with a call to action and include the reason and best way to contact you.

When you compare it to sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest, LinkedIn has been around longer than any of those sites, having been launched in 2003. Where do you think is the future of LinkedIn? How do you see the site growing and evolving over the next few years?

I think it has been around longer and will sustain its growth and importance because LinkedIn was built to be a professional networking site. It has always been a place where people could share their strategic relationships and find support from their peers. LinkedIn continues to expand, understanding that businesses are made up of individuals who group themselves together into organizations, but who never lose sight of their own individualism.

So, they need to cater to individuals, yet they need to and are providing a voice and a platform for companies as well. More importantly, LinkedIn provides ways for professionals to connect on a human level. Sure, in business we care about business; but we also care about working with people we know, like and trust. People who share common interests and causes and accomplishments are able to share professional life stories as human beings who have a need greater than just to find a job or make a sale. We also love the cars we drive, the music we listen to, the hobbies and sports and past times we enjoy.

We care about the latest news and keeping abreast of trends. LinkedIn is doing a great job of giving us points of connection to create and strengthen relationships, to enrich our daily experience, and enhance professional opportunities. I believe that is why the IPO went so well and why the company and the platform continue to do well. I see more engagement, education and development being fostered through new products and resources via LinkedIn, whether it is a growth of their platform or user generated.

There are so many people who go on LinkedIn, fill out a profile, join groups, and add people to their networks, but they don’t really engage or interact. They often cite a lack of time for this. What do you suggest to those who believe they don’t have time for another social media site?

If you are in business, any business, it’s a good idea to make a little time for LinkedIn. I read recently that 39% of the business that happened because of LinkedIn was B2C. We all tend to think of LinkedIn as a site for job seekers, or for B2B or for… fill in the blank. It really is a platform that empowers business; any business.

We’ve interviewed musicians on our radio show “Rock The World with LinkedIn” ( as well as start-up tycoons and everyday professionals making a splash with social media and particularly with LinkedIn. One gentleman sourced his entire album – from musicians to producers to studio – through LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the platform of movers and shakers. If you’re out there and doing nothing, that is a reflection (whether you like it or not) or how seriously you take your work. It’s better to not be on LinkedIn than to be there bare.

In our training lesson “Setting a Daily Routine” we recommend sales professionals spend 15-20 minutes each day on routine tasks like checking their inbox, accepting invitations and sending thank you’s, engaging in a couple of groups, scanning their homepage (to like or comment on updates from their network) and connecting to a couple of people that they know. Even if someone does 15-20 minutes two or three times a week, they’ll see a difference. For active lead generation campaigns, we recommend a process that takes 30-60 minutes a day but results in a fuller funnel than any other single activity.

What are a few practical tips that you would suggest to help any business owner who is just starting out with LinkedIn?

Our time-tested methodology says: Plan, build your profile, build your network, use the tools (search and engage), and get down to business. It’s the most important wisdom we can impart; it is even on the welcome page of our complimentary training and resource site

The next thing I would say it on that build you profile part, you really want to spend the effort to get your profile spiffin’ up front. You don’t go to a networking event half-dressed and without business cards. Don’t do it on LinkedIn. As soon as you start to build your network and engage, people will naturally look at your profile. First impressions… you can’t get them back.

Did I miss anything? What do you want people to know about LinkedIn that we maybe didn’t cover here?

You hear people talk about authenticity. It really does make a difference. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself and put your best foot forward. You take a chance when you represent yourself as who you are that someone might not like you. But there are plenty of others who will love you instead. There are almost 190 million people on LinkedIn now. There are surely a few who will be interested in working with you.

The cool thing is that you can do this before you hang out your shingle on LinkedIn. Write your profile in a word processor and ask trusted friends and peers for honest critique. Don’t you wish you could live real life in an environment where you get to proofread your words and backspace if you didn’t get it right the first time?

This is, for the most part, a safe environment. People are here to get business done. They understand the environment. Don’t try to sell. Rather provide value first and the people who want what you have will ask you to buy.

Thank you, Lori!

To connect with Lori Ruff, visit LoriIsOnline.