The world’s largest professional social network, LinkedIn, is no longer solely a tool for recruiters – it has matured into a powerful marketing platform. In fact, odds are you are part of the 70% of advisors that already have a LinkedIn profile and view it as an important business tool. But do you know how to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile and connections? Do you have a process for strengthening existing client relationships and growing your business using LinkedIn’s native capabilities?
As you may know, first impressions are typically formed within seven seconds of meeting someone. Just as putting your best foot forward can make the difference when meeting prospective clients for the first time, your LinkedIn profile often plays a critical role in making a lasting impression with online contacts.
Here are some tips to ensure it’s a good one.
Create a Quality Profile
Before you start sending invites to connect with friends and colleagues, the first step is to create a complete and quality profile. This means ensuring your profile has a professional photograph, writing a summary that hones in on your areas of expertise and sets the tone for who you are, creating an updated bio highlighting relevant expertise and linking to work-related websites and your contact information. Don’t forget to also include your education and any professional or charitable groups you are a part of — this is a chance to share causes that are important to you and also serves as a key way other members can find commonality with you. In addition, listing groups and organizations provides an opportunity for you to show specialized knowledge or understanding of a particular issue/area and can help your profile show up in more searches. Millions of LinkedIn users sign in and simply search for key words (i.e. Alzheimer charities). Remember, your LinkedIn profile is not just your online resume, it’s a chance to communicate your expertise and can be the foundation to accelerating relationships.
Build Your Network
With your profile complete, you’re ready to start building your social network on LinkedIn via invites to connect with friends and colleagues. To save time and ensure your LinkedIn connections mirror your “real-world” network, I suggest starting by granting LinkedIn permission to access your email address book to automatically find people you already know. You can do this from LinkedIn’s ‘Network’ tab by selecting ‘Add Connections.’ This will allow you to connect the social network to your email provider.
As you start to build connections, you get visibility into their connections. If there is a person you are interested in meeting, see if you have any common connections and ask for an introduction. Immediately you will see your professional network — and your list of potential prospects—expand.
Join Groups and Follow Companies to Stay Informed
Next, take a moment to look for LinkedIn groups to join and companies to follow. Following groups and companies of interest to you will not only help keep you informed of industry news and updates, it can also open additional avenues to connect with other LinkedIn users who have similar interests. Keep in mind there are more than 2 million groups and 3 million business pages to peruse – I recommend taking a few minutes to search for groups that have a strong following and active members within your network. Each group’s ‘Members’ tab includes a great snapshot not only of total membership but also who from your network is subscribed.
It’s important to note that growing your visibility within groups often requires a commitment to consistently participate over time. Start by using your network ‘data’ to choose a small number of groups where you can maximize exposure with prospects and existing clients.
Listen and Interact
Now comes the all-important step where you stop and “listen” to what your connections have to say. When your connections make status updates on LinkedIn, you get visibility into their interests, hobbies and important events that are occurring in their lives. Just as with real world relationships, our ability to relate to others and communicate authentically is the most effective way to touch and stay top of mind with friends, colleagues and clients – past and present. If someone posts about a new job, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to reach out and congratulate them. And perhaps provide advice about rolling over a 401(k).
Sharing content is key, too. You’ll want to check with your firm’s guidelines and social media policy before you begin sharing statistics, news and other updates of your own. Due to compliance requirements, many financial services organizations require advisors to select from pre-approved content libraries. In these cases, consider how you can personalize content or add context to make it relevant to your audience before posting. If personalizing content isn’t an option at your firm, think about which topics are most relevant to your target audience and choose to share those resources.
Prospect and Research
LinkedIn provides a wealth of information on the people you want to reach. Before meeting a potential client in person, try looking them up on LinkedIn to see if you know someone in common, get a feel for their personal interests based on the groups they follow or even view their work history and educational background. You may find similarities that allow for a faster connection.
As you can see from the chart below, there is no wrong way to use LinkedIn. Due to time constraints or your organization’s social media policy, your usage may become more passive – perhaps an opportunity to learn more about your network than to actively publish new content. That’s OK. Remember, simply building an engaging profile and networking with your existing clients substantially increases your ‘discoverability’ online.
Image Credit: LinkedIn Financial Advisors Research 2012
If you follow the simple steps above, you’ll be building your network in no time. Happy networking!