chapter 2

Network on LinkedIn

Think of LinkedIn as your professional Facebook profile.  Depending on what you’re selling, you may find yourself spending as much time on LinkedIn developing your business as Facebook.

Now the advantage of LinkedIn isn't necessarily just making direct sales. It’s also about expanding your network and creating a wide array of opportunities. 

Hopefully, you already have a LinkedIn profile and have been managing it over the years. If not, no worries, go ahead and sign up for one now.

How to Make Connections on LinkedIn

Like Facebook, LinkedIn is a social network, but instead of “friending” people, you simply “make a connection”.  Obviously, the more connections you have, the larger audience you can broadcast to. Ecommerce merchants should expand their network as much as possible. Here are some ways you can increase the number of connections:

  1. Use LinkedIn’s “Add Connections” feature – When you are logged into your LinkedIn account, you can click on “Contacts” and then “Add Connections”. This feature will scour your email contacts and make suggestions of people you may want to connect with on LinkedIn.
  2. Go through your old business cards – If you’re like us, you probably have collected hundreds (if not thousands) of business cards over the years. LinkedIn is a great place to put those business cards to use.
  3. Add your friends and family members from Facebook – Doubling up on people from multiple networks may seem counterintuitive. But when you’re marketing your product or service, it’s the number of “touches” that count before someone decides to do business with you. By having some of your Facebook friends as LinkedIn connections, the familiarity of your message will become more prominent with them.
  4. Every time you meet someone new add them to LinkedIn – In your day to day operations, you’ll likely be emailing people that you do business with. If you have established a good rapport with them, search for them on LinkedIn and try to make a connection.  If you feel comfortable doing this with certain customers, you may want to add them as well. Having them see your accolades, awards and credibility may strengthen their trust in you and your business.

It’s really important to only make connections with people you know or have met in the past. Don’t add people you don’t know or have no connection to at all. Not only does LinkedIn frown upon adding people you don’t know, it also lessens the effect for when you broadcast your messages.

How to Complete Your Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is basically an online resume. You’re going to want to fill out your past job experiences and of course, what you are up to now.

A lot of people will read your “summary”. So spend time crafting something engaging about your new business venture. Here are some things you can do to spice it up:

  • Tell a story – Stories are much more fun to read than your typical resume jargon. Humans have evolved to remember things via story telling.
  • Clearly express your unique selling proposition – It's vitally important to clearly convey to people why your online business is different and stands out from the rest. 
  • Tell people how they can help you – At first this advice may sound a little self-serving. But in a networking environment it’s perfectly acceptable to let know people know what kind of customers you’re looking for. Doing this actually increases the power for other people to conduct effective networking with you. They will know who to send your way, and you’ll likely want to know who to send their way. For example, if you ran an online skateboard store you could say “The ideal customers for me are teenagers looking for their first skateboard setup”.

A Quick Note About Posting Updates

The one thing that differentiates LinkedIn updates from Facebook updates is that they are seen as professional messages. On Facebook, people post whatever is on their mind, so an update doesn’t always hold much weight. When someone sees your update on LinkedIn, generally your network will take it much more seriously.

The Three Things You Should Post on LinkedIn:

  1. Links to your product web pages – Since you’re in the business of selling something, feel free to post links to your products. It’s totally acceptable to do this because this is business and that’s what LinkedIn is all about. Like Facebook, you probably want to keep your updating to some sort of a minimum. Don’t get into the habit of spamming your network.
  2. Content that your network will find valuable – LinkedIn is a great place to share useful content that your network will like. This can be from any online website or blog. Spend some time collecting good articles, infographics and videos that your network will appreciate.
  3. Your own content – As you build your online presence, a smart thing to do is to create digital guides to inform and educate online visitors. Buyer’s guides, infographics and instructional videos are forms of marketing material that you can share on LinkedIn.

Finally, when you're posting updates be sure to write a description in addition to including links to your website. Conversional blurbs tend to get more engagement from your network than sales pitches or boring product descriptions. 

How to Get Started with Linkedin Groups

Browse LinkedIn’s suggestions for “Groups You May Like” and join groups that are very active. If you’re like us, as soon as you join a group and peer through the latest discussion, you’ll be eager to put in a couple of words. And that’s exactly what you’re going to do here. You’re going to educate people as unbiasedly as possible.

Here are a couple tips to make LinkedIn Groups go the extra mile for you:

  • Don’t Spam – To remain a long standing member of a group, you’re going to have to fit in. Generally groups don’t like people who come in and overly promote their business. Over time, your group will bring and refer business to you (that’s the point of networking).
  • Join Discussions Frequently – Spend time every day adding your thoughts to a current discussion. Show that you are the expert in your area and always remain unbiased.

Depending on the groups you join and the nature of your products – you might unearth gold mines of future customers or at the very least your first one. For example, if you run an online shop that sells kayaking equipment, find a few kayak enthusiast groups and share some knowledge. It’s really that easy. Treat these groups and connections with the utmost respect to yield years of return in the form of customers and referrals, out of which you might just get your first sale.  

Networking On LinkedIn 101

You’ve probably heard that networking is an important thing to do at some point in your life. While of course that's true, there are a few things you need to know about networking to make it effective. Here are 4 tips to help you network on LinkedIn: 

  1. Find the best groups that work for you and stick with them. As you go out and interact with groups in real life or online – some groups are going to create synergy and some aren’t. Figure out what groups work for you and ditch the ones that get you nowhere.
  2. Continuously meet with the same people so they remember you. The more people see you on a repeated basis and know what it is you do, the easier you come to mind if the opportunity for them to refer you arises. It may sound incredibly obvious – but we can’t stress how important and powerful familiarity is when it comes to networking.
  3. Don’t network sporadically. It’s easy for people who are beginning to network to go out and try a gazillion different groups. Don’t do this. Find a few groups and stick to them. This will conserve your energy and again help out with the familiarity factor mentioned above. And above all, ask other long-time networkers what groups work well for them.
  4. For networking to become effective, it takes time. After your first couple weeks of networking, you may feel that it’s not worth it. You need to stick with it for at least a few months. Be sure to follow up with people and continue to meet with your groups.  Professional networkers will tell you that networking is the only form of advertising or marketing they ever do.

These rules apply for both the offline and online world. The important thing to remember is that you should only network with online groups that are active online. Don't waste your time with people who have just joined up once and haven’t visited in months.

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