LinkedIn is the business professionals platform is not always the first choice when we think about growing a business. Growing a business in social media we immediately think of Twitter and Facebook as they have the power of engagement. People interact more on Twitter and Facebook as we can send a @tweet or post on a wall whereas with LinkedIn the direct contact is still via email. The immediacy and also the deeper relationships that exist with Twitter and Facebook do not always lead to business opportunities.

LinkedIn is structured to be a comprehensive professional background platform where users leave behind the husband, kids and pets and concentrate on themselves and their career. This career focus is why creating a profile that is a true representative of your work history and present accomplishments is so crucial. Recently I covered how to give your LinkedIn profile a facelift and also how to pack a powerful punch with your summary. Now that you have updated your profile and summary, what do you do with it? You generate business!

10 Tips to Generate Business with LinkedIn

1. Build your Network. As a permission based platform, we are still able to accept or reject connections. As you start to build your network, there are the obvious places to start.

a. People you know. Your friends, colleagues, people you have worked with, people you have done business with. The key here is to connect with people you trust and will treat LinkedIn as a professional platform and not a personal let’s have a play date with the kids.

b. Outlook Contacts. Do your contacts in Outlook have profiles on LinkedIn? Do you even remember who is in your Outlook contact list? To cross check to see who in your contacts could be a connection on LinkedIn, you can either install the LinkedIn Outlook toolbar or integrate LinkedIn with Outlook via the social connector.

c. People you want to get to know. Are your friends connected to someone that you want to get to know? Is there a 2nd or 3rd connection to you that is connected to someone at a company you want to start connecting with? Ask them for a introduction or see if the person you want to connect with is part of a group that makes sense for you to join and be a part of.

Once you are connected, you remain connected if the person changes jobs. This shows the importance of having more than one connection in a company that you have been eye-balling for a while and also opens the door to connect with some new people when your connection is at the new job. Recently LinkedIn has added a new feature via email where they alert you to how many of your connections have changed jobs. In 2010, 290 of my connections changed jobs. That is a whole lot of new connections that I can take advantage of and grow my network.

2. Join Groups. Groups on LinkedIn are one of the easiest way to to build your network, be active and also learn. Searching for groups via industry or specific keywords is quite advanced. Unfortunately you cannot preview the group on LinkedIn to see if it is the right fit for you by gauging the interaction however the new feature of LinkedIn open groups does give an opportunity to search the group on Google to gain some insight into the members and how they interact. Closed groups does make you have to join the blindly. The larger groups are inviting as once you are a member, you can connect easily with people within the group as a member by asking for a connection through the drop down “how do you know”.

3. Sharing. Sharing an article that you learned from, enjoyed, commented upon, etc through your status updates and within the groups you are a member of is an indicator of your commitment to your industry and also how you network. Sharing articles that you read with others not only showing them who you read and why you read, it also gets you in front of them again.

4. Recommendations. Recommendations are great and show connections that you are trusted and well respected. How do we get them? I am not a fan of asking for them as it can make someone uncomfortable. However ,if you know the person well enough or when it is client, they may just need a bit of push.

5. Blog Linking. Linking your blog to your profile is another way to interact with your connections. While this is somewhat self promotional it gives them a reason to interact through commenting and sharing your post while at the same time learning more about you. Do not stop at blog linking; link your presentations, ebooks and webinars,

6. Status Updates. Updating your status on LinkedIn seems one way as you post and there is not a way for connections to respond as they do on other platforms but this should not deter you from updating your status. A profile that has not been updated sends a message to would be connections that you are not really there.

7. Direct Ads. Ads on LinkedIn are very targeted if you want them to be. They are the traditional pay per click or impression where you set a bid for the keyword and also the maximum for the day. LinkedIn advertising is effective through the targeting and the ability to have multiple ads to see what performs best.

8. Referrals. Referrals are golden. How many businesses on LinkedIn are you using? Is there area within your business that you outsource or will be outsourcing that you could look to your community on LinkedIn? Part of building your network is to create a team behind you that you can easily refer to and receive referrals from. If you are not looking at LinkedIn to build your network for referrals, how could you expect others to do so?

9. Answer Questions. Answering questions on LinkedIn we hear a lot about. Answering questions helps the person asking by showcasing your area of expertise which for them is very useful. Your name is now in front of them again and also everyone else who is reading and answering the question. By subscribing to the RSS of a few categories allows you to take a quick look at the questions posted and jump in to answer them.

10. Ask Questions/Create Polls. Asking questions once again gets your name in front of people and helps you get the answers that you need. The new enhancements to the polls has made this tool more purposeful and useful however be sure that you are promoting the poll or the sample size can be very low.

The common theme here is to build your network on LinkedIn and get in front of them as much as possible – and not spamming or self promoting. If you are answering questions in your industry, promoting articles that helped you, participating in group discussions you are getting a lot of exposure for being helpful. The more we see someone or even with products, the more we see it or hear about it, we are going to go and check it out. Your network will start to grow as people will want to connect with you and build a relationship to either hire you or refer you. The key is to be active to increase your visibility. You cannot expect to answer a question once a month and people will be lining up to hire you. You have to be committed to being there and really useful to the platform and your connections.

Have you had success with generating business on LinkedIn? Is there any additional ways you would like to add?

photo credit: Coletivo Mambembe