There’s an art to using LinkedIn to promote yourself and your business, and social media strategist Jaime Almond told a record crowd of IABC Professional Independent Communicators and guests all about it.

First, you might be interested to know that LinkedIn has more than 610 90 million members (as of March 2019) in more than 200 countries; 10 million of these are in Canada. Since January 2011, it has counted executives from all 2010 Fortune 500 companies as members. So if you’re looking for potential customers, a new job, even just to make connections with other people, chances are there’s someone of interest on LinkedIn.

Jaime reminded us that networking on social media is all about relationships. She walked us through the stages of building a client relationship on LinkedIn, which could apply to people searching for jobs as well as independents looking to land a new client:

  • Get your name everywhere, so people can find you.
  • Catch their interest with a profile that appeals to your target market. This leads to getting your name into people’s consciousness, and they are more likely to try you.
  • Seeing your name repeated in various places, trying you out in small ways, leads to trust. This in turn leads to buying your services.
  • Once you’ve earned credibility and trust, people are more likely to refer you to others.

Jaime stressed the importance of a “kick-ass profile.” As you fill it out, LinkedIn will show what percent you’ve completed. You want to reach 100%, and to do so, you’ll need to both give and receive three recommendations. Without them, you won’t turn up in searches as often.

Jaime suggested using the buddy system to get recommendations. You call people on your buddy’s behalf and request a testimonial, and vice versa. Suggest you will interview them, write it for them, and send it back for approval. It’s less awkward asking for someone else than for yourself, and the person giving the testimonial hardly has to lift a finger. If you already have a client testimonial for your web site, call the client and say you are updating your LinkedIn profile and would like permission to use it there. Better still, ask if they would mind updating it.

Your profile should also include a headline that’s relevant to your target audience and the pain you can solve or the results you can deliver. (Are you just a “Consultant” or do you provide “Communications training that helps clients stand out”? You have 160 characters to explain.) Use a clear, professional photo that matches your brand, and keywords that match what potential clients would search for. You can also include a video of you with a call to action.

Once you have your profile in place, you want your target audience to come to you:

  • They hit your kick-ass profile.
  • They invite you to connect with them.
  • You send back a message asking to know more about them. Don’t start a sales pitch; wait for them to ask you in return about what you do.

At this point, you want to get permission to email your contacts off LinkedIn, and Jaime suggested offering a free gift that’s only available to your LinkedIn connections. The gift might be a white paper, an e-book, a newsletter, an assessment tool, video training, webinar — you get the idea! You’re allowed three web links in your profile, so make one of them the link to sign up for your free gift. Link it to a landing page and use to track clicks.

Other strategies/things to remember:

  • When inviting someone to connect, always explain why. Remind people if you’ve met and where or what you have in common.
  • Get your name out there by joining or starting a group, asking and answering questions.
  • When someone asks “Do you know a resource for...” and it’s your area of expertise, get a buddy to suggest you.
  • Add value to your network by sharing content, either through your status updates or directly, as appropriate.
  • Even if you aren’t connected to someone directly, you can ask to be connected if you’re part of the same group.
  • Remember, you are building a relationship, not selling something.
  • Use LinkedIn to research companies, but use the telephone to ask to be introduced to someone.

Want to know more about using LinkedIn? Here are some other resources:

How about you? Are you using LinkedIn? Do you have other tips to help make the most of LinkedIn?