As I've built my business, two digital tools have been invaluable: my blog and LinkedIn. In terms of the latter, everyone asks me the same question: Have I actually gotten business directly from LinkedIn?
The short answer: Yes. My participation on LinkedIn does bring in queries and the revenue from it is small but growing.
The longer answer: Yes, but your active involvement on LinkedIn is equally important in building your brand and making connections that can improve your business. Do those things, and the revenue will follow. My targets are B2B companies, an audience where LinkedIn shines: B2B companies favor LinkedIn over Facebook and Twitter, according to a recent study (though the gap is closing).
A recent American Express OPEN Forum blog, Why Millions of Small Businesses Are Using LinkedIn, explained why you should be on LinkedIn. But simply tossing up a profile and a bare-bones resume isn't going to do it. You've got to be actively making connections.
Here's how I've done so.
I belong to more than 40 groups. Depending on the topic, I share my blog posts with the appropriate groups to spark conversations and to help drive traffic to my site, Write Speak Sell.
When I started my blog, LinkedIn was my greatest source of traffic. Over time, I've risen in Google rankings so search now drives most of my traffic, but I still receive hundreds of visits a month from LinkedIn users, and some have become subscribers. A business colleague read one of my blog posts on LinkedIn, and we've scheduled a meeting to discuss my setting her up on social media networks. I know her well, and she likes what she saw, so I'm feeling confident that this meeting will turning into a paying project.
And it works both ways. I'm an active member of the WordPress Group and I've benefited from the generous advice of its members when I've been stuck. One techie was so helpful that I eventually hired him as my webmaster—what a terrific find.
So don't think of LinkedIn as simply a source of business. You can also use it to find great consultants and vendors for your business—and in turn, they can refer business to you.
I'm also an editor of The Blogger's Bulletin, a subgroup of The Blog Zone. When I write a post, it sends visitors to my site.
Bloggers Helping Bloggers, yet another subgroup, is a community of bloggers. We share tips and comment on one another's blogs (which is good for SEO). Through this group I met Pat Weber, and we collaborated on a series of posts that appeared on both of our blogs about refining the elevator pitch. We've turned it into an e-book, which I use as an incentive for my subscribers, and we're preparing to sell it on Amazon's Kindle. (Pat also told me about how to sell a subscription on Kindle to your blog.)
OK, $1.99 isn't going to make me rich. But it's more exposure—and it's great fun to be a listed author on Amazon.
Want to read more about LinkedIn? Check these out:
Start and comment on discussions. I innocently started a discussion about how companies terminate employees in the largest human-resources group on LinkedIn and it generated an explosion of comments—which got me ranked the group's Top Influencer for four weeks.
Even posting comments is extraordinarily helpful to build your visibility and brand. Because then what happens? Bingo: new business inquiries.
LinkedIn sends you updates from your connections. I check these regularly. When I find that someone has been promoted or taken a new job, I send a note. I even comment when connections post new images in their profiles. That always gets a happy response: You loved my new photo?! Each new contact is an opportunity to exchange ideas, set up dates for coffee, and talk business.
Give to get
Many LinkedIn users abandon their accounts because there isn't an immediate payoff in business. That's a mistake. You've got to give first. Join a group and become part of the conversations. Start making friends. I've referred members to my connections, and I've even referred my webmaster to several colleagues, who have become his clients. I know he'll do the same for me.
Another member of my Bloggers Helping Bloggers group gave me a free tutorial on how to use video in my blog. She offered without my asking. Now I know how good she is, and I'll be sending business her way whenever I can.
I honestly think of my LinkedIn connections—many of whom I didn't know before I joined—as my business family. If we all pitch in to help each other, it's like planting seeds in a garden: eventually they'll grow into new business.
OPEN Cardmember Jeannette Paladino is writer-in-chief of Write Speak Sell. She is passionate about helping organizations leverage social media to burnish their brands, increase their revenues, and engage employees as brand advocates.