While it is true everyone is atwitter about Twitter, it is equally true that for many small business owners, LinkedIn is an equally, if not more, powerful social media tool. There are a few reasons for this, but the main is this: Whereas it takes a while to get the hang of Twitter, the power, value, and ease of use of LinkedIn is obvious. Networking is in the DNA of most entrepreneurs.
Example: I have a pal who does not tweet at all, rarely updates his Facebook status, yet gets almost all of his business through LinkedIn. When he is ready to sell a new product or find partners for a new project, he goes to LinkedIn, does some research, finds who he needs to know, sees how they may be connected, gets some introductions, and makes a deal. “For me,” he says, “it is fast, efficient, powerful, and far less time consuming than Twitter.”
The problem with LinkedIn (if there is one) is that it seems more static than Twitter or Facebook – not a few LinkedIn members, to quote Ron Popeil, “set it and forget it.” They create a LinkedIn account, create a profile, and then never bother to maximize this amazing tool.
Here then, are some little known ways to get more out of LinkedIn:
1. Tap into the power of the “advanced search” function: Using this tool, you can do a lot more than search for people – you can search industries, professions, businesses, and much more. Let’s say you want to discover people who have done PR for Microsoft. Search “Microsoft” and “public relations.” Your results will yield people both inside and outside your network. Using quotation marks and “and” in your search will yield even more specific results. Then search your shared connections to those people, and away you go.
Similarly, if you are looking for people with a specific job title, use advanced search for that title, or company name, school, zip code, etc.
And here is another cool trick: Save the search results for later use. To the far right of your search result is a link that says “save this search.” You can save up to three searches.
2. Really use the groups tool: Yes, you may be a passive member of a few groups, but you may not realize how useful that tool may be.
I recently heard the story of a woman starting a new business. She joined several LinkedIn groups related to her new industry and got actively involved in group discussions. Three months later, when she put out a request for people to join her new board of advisors, she was inundated with 40 offers from highly qualified people willing to give her their time for free.
3. Get found: If a main purpose of LinkedIn is to create a vast network (and it is) it makes sense then that you want to be able to be found by people interested in what you do. Here’s a great trick: List as many specialties and keywords as legitimately possible in your profile. Think SEO. What key words and key phrases would people in your industry use? For instance, our PR person, instead of just listing public relations, might use “public relations, PR, media, media strategies, media relations, publicity, advertising, communications, PR campaign, publicist.” The likelihood that they will be found is much higher the more keywords they use.
Not sure what key words to use? Try using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It’s the same idea. No need to guess – this will tell you what terms people search.
4. Make it viral: These days, anytime you tweet or update your Facebook status, it can automatically update your LinkedIn profile if you install the apps linked in this sentence.
5. Ask and answer questions: Yes, the questions and answers are good for getting and sharing information, but maybe even more importantly you can follow discussions that are pertinent to you. Using an RSS feed, you could, for example, get all LinkedIn answers that relate to Microsoft public relations.
6. Build buzz by sharing your answers: After you answer a question, look to the far right and you will see a link that says “share this.” You can email it out to your contacts or share it using Delicious. The permalink function allows you to link your blog or site to your answer.
7. Learn more about your contacts. What are they reading? Reading List by Amazon lets you see. Where are they going? This app tells you.
8. Discover important events: Undoubtedly there are events in your industry of which you are not aware. That is true for all of us. LinkedIn easily helps you discover important events. Google results with 95% useless links be gone!
9. Find out what people are saying about you, and about your business: Of course Twitter is great for this, but you may not know that LinkedIn also has a cool tool that allows you to monitor the buzz about your business, called, natch, Company Buzz.
10. Create a poll: Your LinkedIn homepage need not be static. The polls application is a great way to interact, make your page more interesting, get feedback, and learn what people are thinking. Maybe even more useful though is that you can create a poll that reaches millions of LinkedIn users and the results become a form of shoestring market research.
So don’t think that Twitter is the only game in town. It’s not.
LinkedIn: Steve Strauss
(and yes Twitter: @SteveStrauss)
(Originally published at American Express OPEN Forum)