LinkedIn is a professional network designed to help like-minded business people connect, share their resumes, and locate work.
By setting up a profile page and logging into LinkedIn regularly, you can increase visibility through member connections, research companies and people you’re interested in doing business with, and check out and stay on top of the competition.
You can also build credibility for your artwork, commission pieces, art licensing service, and overall art business by sharing your expertise and knowledge with professionals who’ll use what you have to offer.
The key, however, is to participate in a way that is mutually beneficial to everyone: don’t just ask questions or promote your art business but get involved in the community by sharing tips on the industry and answering questions.
Joining the LinkedIn network is free, but it as with any new venture, it can be daunting trying to figure out how to use the service. That’s why you will find 12 tips on how you can effectively use LinkedIn to increase business, visibility, and contacts below:
1. Choose your LinkedIn name carefully
The first step in setting up an account is choosing your identity. Whether you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, forums, or your company website, you want uniformity and consistency. You want prospective and current clients to see your avatar image or your screen name and know right away that it’s you so make sure that the name you choose is the name you use across all networks.
According to Candace D. Reese of EnviGlobal.com, something as simple as a middle initial can make it difficult to be found.
“I’m usually the one advising clients on how to use LinkedIn effectively,” says Candace. “I help them update their profiles to promote their businesses, choose professional photos to post, select groups to join, etc. However, one of my mentors emailed me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that when she attempted to forward a profile to me she couldn’t locate me. And that’s because my name was listed as Candace D. Reese. You see, contacts are filed under last names, and it was filed under ‘D’ instead of ‘R’. I immediately updated it but thought. ‘How many people couldn’t locate me prior to that problem?’”
2. Complete your profile page
Joining social networking sites can be tedious. Not only does it take time to register, but you must then spend quite a bit of time filling out profile pages—complete with headshots and/or company logos.
Filling out the profile page is often the last thing people want to do because it requires a bit of strategic thinking; therefore, they’ll jump right into the social networking site and conveniently forget all about their profile pages. That’s not wise. Profile pages tell those you want to connect with who you are and what you have to offer them and they make it easy for you to increase visibility.
According to Lisa Douglas, creator of Crazy Adventures in Parenting, the best tip she ever received was to completely fill out her profile page and offer recommendations to those she’s worked with in the past. “A full profile shows you are detail-oriented, serious about your business, and serious about building real contacts,” says Lisa. “It also says that you aren’t just ‘checking things out’” so you won’t be wasting other people’s time.
3. Get linked with people you meet in real life
As with any social networking site, LinkedIn’s infrastructure can sometimes be confusing; especially when it comes to locating like-minded individuals or building a contact base. One way to combat this is to ask people you meet in your everyday lives—through business meetings, workshops, conferences, associations, etc—if they have a LinkedIn profile and if you can invite them into your network.
That’s just what Laurie Beebe, The Diet Coach, does. “When I meet professionals who I might not have a lot of time to interact with I get a business card from them,” says Laurie. “Once I have the business card in hand, I ask two simple questions: ‘Are you on LinkedIn?’ and ‘May I invite you to join my network?’ To this day, I have not been refused.”
4. Seek help finding contacts on LinkedIn
Aside from connecting with people you already know or have met in person, another way to connect with like-minded individuals on LinkedIn is to ask your contacts for recommendations.
According to Laurie Beebe, asking your contacts for contacts can be very beneficial.
“I have found ways to become connected with people I would not otherwise have had access to by investigating my 2nd or 3rd degrees in LinkedIn. Through investigating my contacts, contacts I have been able to find others to connect with,” says Laurie.
“You just send a note to your connection and ask him/her to send along a note to the connection you want to connect with asking if he/she would like to get in touch with you. This is how I got in touch with an author I heard on a radio show. She messaged me back and asked me to join her network. Since then, one of her connections has contacted me regarding a possible consultant opportunity!”
5. Only add meaningful contacts
With so many ways to connect with people online, networking can become overwhelming and if not used appropriately, an unproductive use of time.
That’s why Jeff Pelletier, Owner and Executive Producer of Basetwo Media Inc, says, “As with any social networking website, maintaining 12 meaningful relationships can be much more beneficial than simply adding 1,200 strangers. That’s why I only add meaningful contacts—those with which I have a real relationship, or with whom I would like to nurture a real relationship with.”
Chris Selland, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development with Easy Lobby agrees. “Only link to those you actually know,” says Chris. “In other words, don’t link for the sake of linking as it does nothing for you, your business, or your contacts. Linking for the sake of linking is detrimental to the value of the system because when you have a real connection to make, either on your own or on someone else’s behalf, those ‘unknowns’ get in the way. You want to link to those you know are on target with your business goals.”
6. Engage In Q&A’s
Whenever you read business marketing books, one of the first things they always suggest—when growing one’s business—is to “become the expert” in your field.
Today, with so many “experts” it can often be difficult to weed out the professionals with true experience from the wannabes who lack experience but talk a good game. That’s why it’s important to let others know that you don’t just “talk the talk” but you also “walk the talk”. And you can do that by joining LinkedIn’s “Question and Answer” section.
Jeff Pelletier says, “I spend quite a bit of time answering questions in the ‘Answers’ section of LinkedIn in an attempt to establish myself as an expert and to make new contacts. In doing so, I’ve actually managed to generate a couple of direct leads. This has also been a great resource for my own questions.”
But it is Jean-Baptiste Perrin of Lunatech Research, that brings the point home when he says, “The best tip I ever received was to join Groups and answer questions inside those groups.”
“I had noticed that open questions (outside groups) rarely got read by anyone other than their authors. And even when they were answered, the questions were not specifically by people who correspond to our target group. This is completely different within Groups,” says Jean-Baptiste.
“I followed this advice and it led to two major leads, which for our type of business is a lot. More importantly, the ratio between the effort and costs to reach this result and the number of leads generated is excellent. Only trade shows give better results and that’s only because of the power of face-to-face relationships.”
“Another benefit of Groups is that you can follow up with the latest comments which is very useful to either post questions there yourself or to simply track questions and answers,” says Jean-Baptiste. ”You save a lot of time, you don’t spam anyone, and you reach only targeted audiences, which is priceless in and of itself.”
“There is also a side benefit to posing questions on LinkedIn,” says Ross Felix, Founder and CEO of Dating Revolution. “Unless you pay (or are the recipient has some sort of special account), you can’t email people who are not connected to you or share a group with you. However, you are able to reply privately to anyone who answers your question.”
“That’s why on more than one occasion, I have posed a question in the hopes of connecting with the experts who might answer the question” says Ross. “An example was posting a question that asked, ‘What’s something you’ve read in a business plan that would make you more likely to shred your money instead of giving it to the entrepreneur?’ The information received was valuable and I ended up getting a few new contacts—from both entrepreneurs and finance guys.”
7. Be specific with your questions
Asking questions on LinkedIn is a great way to build name recognition, expert status, and connections, but it’s useless if you don’t know how to do it right. That’s why Ken Hall, Marketing Director, of Shapiro And Company offers these quick and simple tips:
Find the right group. Posting questions is only productive if you find the right topic group to post in, although there are times you may want to pose the same question in more than one group– say, graphics design and public relations and non-profit management.
Be specific. The more specific the question you post, the better the answer you’ll get. You are talking to strangers who do not know you or your skill level. Strangers who cannot read your body language or hear the inflection in your voice. If you want a helpful answer, make the written words as clear as possible.
Use keywords during searches. Searching for people within LinkedIn is sometimes best done by using keywords about an industry, job title, or geographic area, and not by a name.
Connect Often. The more connections you have, the more fruitful your search. You can garner more information from a second or third-degree connection than from a profile to which you have no connection at all.
8. Use the Groups “news” areas
For many professionals, the hardest part of getting recognized as an expert is proving one’s expertise. Using Groups within LinkedIn has lessened the gap tremendously but it’s not all about answering questions within the group, either.
According to Karen S. Sieczka, Founder of Growing Great Ideas Training, answering questions is only part of what makes the groups feature a success.
“I link articles I’ve written via the news area of the groups,” says Karen. “Whenever I do this, the notices get posted to the home page of all group members, which is a tremendous amount of ‘free’ exposure. And since some of the articles I post are excerpts, or adaptations, from a book I am working on, I begin to build name recognition and demand for the book.”
9. Use the “Working On” feature
“Another feature that is often overlooked and underutilized,” according to Liz Goodgold, Branding Expert, “is the ‘What are you working on feature’.”
“It’s an easy way to broadcast late-breaking news to others,” says Liz. “I post about TV and media appearances as well as upcoming travel plans. I frequently announce which cities I’ll be speaking in and sure enough, I am always able to reconnect (or connect) with someone from that city.”
10. Create a win-win situation
When it comes to social networking, it’s easy to fall into the “It’s all about me” trap and easy to use the sites as announcement boards, but doing so could cost you contacts and opportunities.
For social networking to be successful, you need to give as much as you get. In other words, you need to create a win-win situation and you do that by reaching out to your contacts and offering them something of real value—information. Information is based upon years of experience, research, and contacts.
According to Matt Wielgos of American Catholic, “It’s important to embrace the new technology of networking without preconceived ideas based upon old networking principles. In the past, one sought to answer one’s own questions and meet one’s own needs but with LinkedIn and other services, a more effective approach is to seek to meet the needs of others; to solve their problems. And in doing so, you open the door to communication. And those connections result in mutually beneficial relationships—whether it’s now or in the future.”
“In the end,” says Matt, “This type of relationship, both on a business and a personal level, affords a greater understanding of my colleagues (and friends) which translates into a mutual win-win scenario.”
11. Don’t be afraid to connect other people
In the past, you never introduced someone you didn’t know personally to a business contact. It just wasn’t done. What if that person you only knew through word-of-mouth did something that left a bad taste in the mouths of your business contacts. . . how would that ultimately reflect upon you?
In today’s social networking arena, however, very few people meet face-to-face and many business relationships are nurtured via online venues like LinkedIn.
“It has been said that you can’t fake personality in social networking, and I’ve seen that borne out of my experiences,” says Kevin W. Davidson of Davidson Law Office LLP. Kevin is just one of the many professionals who believe that it’s time to stop hoarding our contact lists and start connecting the right people with each other.
“By becoming a conduit for getting the right people together, more and more people and businesses become aware of your own areas of expertise,” says Kevin. “And in the end, you end up with a great network of great people. A network that is ever expanding and that naturally results in increased business.”
Kevin goes on to say that “nurturing LinkedIn relationships as you would any other friendship or business relationship—i.e. to be courteous, responsive, supportive and willing to help as needed, follow-up and stay involved–is just good business sense.”
12. Give recommendations
An extremely underutilized feature on LinkedIn is the recommendations area. Perhaps it’s because it feels like you’re giving a “seal of approval” for someone else’s work ethics and abilities without fully knowing how that seal will be interpreted or reflected upon you. And yet, ignoring this feature could be detrimental to the whole system.
Lisa Douglas believes strongly in the power of LinkedIn’s recommendations feature. “By writing recommendations, you’re letting people you’ve worked with in the past know you appreciate them and their hard work,” says Lisa. “Everyone wants a team player to stand with or behind them” and recommendations show others that you aren’t afraid to be a team player or share the limelight.
To use the recommendations feature successfully, however, you must only write true, honest, and in-depth testimonies. Don’t write fluff and don’t be too generalized as it offers no real value to the person you’re recommending or the person reading the recommendation.
And never, ever write a recommendation for someone you’ve never worked with before—even if you’ve seen the person’s work in action via a third party or have a good relationship with them on a personal level.
By using the advice above and just interacting more with your LinkedIn community daily, you can easily increase awareness about your art business. It’s not spamming or bothering people—as one of the experts above mentioned, it’s all about creating a win-win situation.
That’s the point of mutually beneficial relationships. And it’s why LinkedIn is still a very powerful way to promote your business online.
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