Three LinkedIn strategies to boost business

Susan Varty didn’t plan to publish a short book based on the informative responses she collected on her question posted to LinkedIn, but she’s glad she did.

The principal consultant at Toronto-based Wordtree Consulting hit on a pain point when she asked her connections on the professional network what to do when clients give you too much material to work with as a writer. She’d picked the right forum to ask the question and quickly received 40 valuable responses.

That inspired Varty, who also moonlights as a professor at Seneca College.

“I got permission from them to publish their responses in a little e-book,” she says. The sales of Chopping Copy have gone well “because they all want a copy.”

It wasn’t Varty’s only success using LinkedIn. She also connected with Marc Roginsky, president at Headstart Solutions Inc., and provided some consulting for his recruiting business. Now the pair trains entrepreneurs on using LinkedIn to drive sales and make valuable business connections, including a class at Seneca College this Saturday.

Related Video: Connecting with Jonathan Lister, LinkedIn Canada

But Varty and Roginsky shared some LinkedIn tips with ITBusiness.ca, free of charge.

Know when to pay for LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers its users a free service, and several paid-for services starting at $24.95 a month and going up to $499.95 per month. Paying for the service unlocks access to extra perks such as sending InMails (direct messages to users you are not connected with) or organizing profiles into folders.

Varty uses the free LinkedIn service and finds that is enough for her networking needs. She uses LinkedIn as a research tool and then finds ways to bypass the paid-for features – such as picking up a phone to call someone instead of sending an InMail.

“You should get a paid account when you physically can’t meet someone face to face,” she says. “Maybe they’re across the country, that’s when those InMails become more useful.”

Roginsky appreciates his paid-for account because it saves him time. He doesn’t need to get an introduction from a shared contact to send messages to new connections. Also, he finds that InMails get a higher rate of response than e-mails.

“Maybe it’s the psychology of people when they’re using LinkedIn,” he says. “You don’t get spammed as much as when you use normal e-mail.”

Using folders to keep his contacts organized also helps to target the right audience, he adds.

Don’t be a lurker, or a spammer

After many LinkedIn beginners create their accounts, they often tend to sit back and read what others post without engaging in any forum discussions. But it’s important to reach out and poke someone, Roginsky says. Just make sure they are the right people.

“LinkedIn emulates real life experience but it speeds it up for you in terms of getting to the right people,” he says. Roginsky is connected with 690 people on LinkedIn, but all of them are relevant to his business, either clients or candidates of his recruiting business. You can’t just go and try to connect with strangers for no reason.

“If you go to a conference or a trade show, you can’t just connect with everyone there, you have to choose the people of value to your business,” he says.

Varty has 360 connections and also emphasizes the importance of not spamming potential contacts. The goal of many connections should be to take that conversation to the next level, beyond LinkedIn.

“The power of LinkedIn is with the offline conversation… meeting someone face-to-face or finishing the conversation on e-mail,” she says. “Having thousands of connections is useless if they’re not targeted.”

Brushing up on your writing skills is a good idea if you want to effectively engage others on LinkedIn. The community is based around well-crafted forum posts and succinctly answering questions.

Roginsky appreciates his paid-for account because it saves him time. He doesn’t need to get an introduction from a shared contact to send messages to new connections. Also, he finds that InMails get a higher rate of response than e-mails.

“Maybe it’s the psychology of people when they’re using LinkedIn,” he says. “You don’t get spammed as much as when you use normal e-mail.”

Using folders to keep his contacts organized also helps to target the right audience, he adds.

Don’t be a lurker, or a spammer

After many LinkedIn beginners create their accounts, they often tend to sit back and read what others post without engaging in any forum discussions. But it’s important to reach out and poke someone, Roginsky says. Just make sure they are the right people.

“LinkedIn emulates real life experience but it speeds it up for you in terms of getting to the right people,” he says. Roginsky is connected with 690 people on LinkedIn, but all of them are relevant to his business, either clients or candidates of his recruiting business. You can’t just go and try to connect with strangers for no reason.

“If you go to a conference or a trade show, you can’t just connect with everyone there, you have to choose the people of value to your business,” he says.

Varty has 360 connections and also emphasizes the importance of not spamming potential contacts. The goal of many connections should be to take that conversation to the next level, beyond LinkedIn.

“The power of LinkedIn is with the offline conversation… meeting someone face-to-face or finishing the conversation on e-mail,” she says. “Having thousands of connections is useless if they’re not targeted.”

Brushing up on your writing skills is a good idea if you want to effectively engage others on LinkedIn. The community is based around well-crafted forum posts and succinctly answering questions.

Find new contacts through search, existing contacts

LinkedIn is more than a contacts relationship manager or CRM, Varty says. It’s a Smart CRM that allows you to browse through your contacts’ list of contacts.

“Not only do I have a list of people that I know, but it also list the people my contacts know,” she says. “That gives you a level of insight that just maintaining a database of your own never would.”

Don’t hesitate to ask your contacts to introduce you to someone they know, she says. It’s the way networking is supposed to work. Not every user will share their contacts, as some exercise the option to keep their list private.

Using the search tool can also be a good way to find new contacts, Roginsky says. Users can take advantage of Boolean operators (such as “and”, “or”, “not”) and LinkedIn’s built in search parameters to narrow down the field and identify potential clients or size up the competition.

Connecting with your competitors can be a good way to gather market intelligence, he says. Follow what your competitors are saying in their status updates, forum posts and with LinkedIn’s new feature that allows you to follow companies.

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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