With over 200 social media channels out there right now LinkedIn is widely recognised as being the best business channel and yet it is still the most misunderstood.
LinkedIn currently has over 750 million members globally, over 29 million in the UK and 54 million companies have profiles and it continues to grow at over 1 million new users per week globally. To put that number into context, Instagram currently has 1 billion users, and Facebook has 2.74 billion.
Whist LinkedIn is not the largest of the social platforms, it has a unique and specific business focus, is widely trusted (more than twice that of Twitter), has over 4.3 million Chief Executives globally (189,000 CEO’s in the UK) and 80% of LinkedIn users drive business decisions.
LinkedIn is used predominantly for validation, research, awareness raising, due diligence, sales, lead generation and recruitment – although it is worth noting that recruitment is the 60th largest industry on LinkedIn globally and just 6% of posts relate to jobs.
Unlike most social channels, LinkedIn is all about the users, and what individuals post on LinkedIn has 10 times the impact of a company post.
Company pages are the supporting role and give everyone awareness, brand support and content for everyone to leverage with 30% of a company page engagement driven through employees of the business using LinkedIn, so it is great for you to engage with your company page too.
It is important that your own LinkedIn profile reflects you, your expertise, the impact you make, who and how you help – LinkedIn is used to validate you and your expertise so it is important your profile and LinkedIn use is as good as you are in real life.
Focus on Swindon and Wiltshire
For example, if we look locally across Wiltshire and Swindon we find over 200,000 users with over 30,000 holding a job title of director or higher - a rich source of knowledge, insight, mentorship and business potential if you start to look at LinkedIn differently.
The range of industries locally might also surprise you with the top 5 currently being:
1. Information Technology
4. Financial Services
Focus on the UK
Interestingly, looking at the UK, six of the top 10 industries remain in the same place as last year – but there are some changes. We’ve highlighted the top ten below:
The statistics continue to bust the myth that LinkedIn is full of recruiters. Staffing and Recruitment comes in 60th place globally, only up one place from last year, whilst in the UK it has dropped from 26th place to 30th this year.
Social Selling - Helping Small Business
Where LinkedIn can really help small businesses is by using it differently to open up new conversations, find interesting potential clients and drive referrals – sometimes called social selling.
There has always been some confusion in peoples’ heads about social selling versus social media and I often refer to one as a conversation with someone you know in your home whereas social media is much more like shouting into the street or wearing an A frame on the High Street and seeing who looks at you.
LinkedIn can be used as a broadcast platform, but its effectiveness is very limited by doing so. Hence, we have those people who want to ‘connect’ for no apparent reason other than to be ‘connected’ as they are choosing to use it as a megaphone to share content and hoping you might see or read their update.
Used well, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to use for elegantly selling, using a more networked, more relational, lead and consultative approach without “selling” in the traditional way – much more comfortable for most people.
The first stage has to be having a real network, by that I mean having people you are really connected to, people who you trust and know well enough that you can easily pick up the phone or message them to ask about someone you think you want to meet, or if they could introduce you to somebody you would really like to know or meet up with over a coffee (my preferred method).
This is often enabled or supported by some evidence through profiles, shared connections (who people can ask about you) and your own activities on LinkedIn demonstrating your perspective and expertise.
Whilst we can all get referrals when people remember us and our preferred types of clients, we are all busy and hence we often forget to join the dots where we should. LinkedIn gives you a way to find the people you want to meet that your network already knows and simply ask for a referral – as we all like to help the nice people we know
Once someone introduces you, it puts an additional layer of credibility over you as they are saying you’re a nice person, but you can enhance this in a number of ways. Being a nice person is a given, but some proof about your impact within your profile, recent recommendations for your work and having the right skills can really help to expose your full value.
Nothing will ever replace meeting someone and I am often told that “once I get in front of someone for a chat it is easy to explain, the problem is getting in front of people.” Well, if you think about the steps above that will identify and prove you are a nice person and give you the map to ask the person for the referral, then all you need to do is ask!
Don’t send a message, a connection or an email! Meet them over a coffee or pick up the telephone and call them and ask them for the referral or introduction or perhaps even whether you should meet them in the first place.
Interestingly, the research supports this highlighting 24 interactions from a cold start before someone will commit to buy from you versus 2 to 3 if you are referred or introduced through social selling or networking.
The purpose of this article is not to say the traditional ways such as mailshots, cold calling and more don’t work – they do but just not as efficiently or effectively as social selling when it is done well.
James will be sharing more of his insights and top-tips with you during two webinars delivered for the Growth Hub. Having worked with large international companies such as IBM and Unilever, he also works with smaller businesses and knows exactly how to use LinkedIn for the advantage of you and your business.