6 tips for using LinkedIn for business (without getting sucked into the social media vortex)

For every person who is addicted to social media, there’s another person who has sworn it off for fear of getting “sucked into the void.” Because of this, there are hundreds of professionals who are missing out on opportunities to use social media outlets, especially LinkedIn, for specific business purposes.

The fear of wasting their effort keeps many people from investing time in engaging with their LinkedIn community. But the fear of just wasting time in general is an equally large obstacle for many people. They recognize that their behavior on Facebook or Pinterest tends to be an addictive response to boredom, and they don’t want to give themselves another platform to waste time on.

When they open LinkedIn, they may see a silly inspirational post that has become controversial for no clear reason, and their instinct is to immediately close the page before they get sucked in. I get it. It takes approximately five seconds to get a bad taste for a media outlet. That’s how I feel about watching TV most of the time.

But when you write off LinkedIn as “another social media time suck,” you miss a huge opportunity to develop new contacts and stay top of mind for your current contacts.

You don’t have to participate in the conversations that you don’t want to.

Last week I met a financial advisor at a conference where I spoke in Boston who shared how he does almost all his business development through LinkedIn. He finds potential clients, researches their background and interests, highlights their accomplishments, and then leaves the platform.

LinkedIn is a communication tool that can be used like email to connect with other professionals and grow your network. You don’t open your email and scroll through it because you’re bored. You open it because you need the communication platform to conduct business. You should approach LinkedIn the same way.

There’s a line between using social with a purpose and defaulting to it because you’re bored and want to be entertained. The key to using social media for business is to set clear intentions, follow a strategy, and stick to strict time limits.

6 tips to making sure you make the most of your efforts on social media:

  1. Set a time limit and stick to it.

I recommend 10 minutes a day, because that should be long enough to do whatever you need and it will motivate you to skip the news feed altogether. Once you’ve made the connection you wanted to make, done the research you needed to do, or posted the content you wanted to share, then get off the platform. Don’t allow yourself to stay and browse.

  1. Focus on your target market.

Whether you’re in sales, you’re searching for a job, or just looking to grow your professional network, you should know who your target market is. You should focus your activity on starting conversations with these targets, whether they’re vice presidents at a company you want to earn as a client or they’re thought leaders in your industry. Before you log in, make a list of the people you want to engage with.

  1. Send personalized connection requests.

Stop scrolling and start searching. Find the connection, and send them a connection request with a concise message explaining why you want to connect. And that reason had better not be, “I want to sell you something,” or any variation of that phrase. Try out something like this: “I was reading your latest blog post and I loved your insight on X.” Or, “I saw this share on Twitter and I really liked it.”

  1. Engage with the content your targets are publishing.

Find their posts and their blogs, like, comment and share them to your network, even if you have to go to another website to find their content (not everyone embraces LinkedIn’s blogging platform yet, so they may share a lot of content elsewhere).

  1. Tag people.

Before you click ‘post’ on a share of someone else’s content or a photo you’re uploading, think about who you can tag in the post. Tagging on LinkedIn works like it does on most platforms: Type an ‘@’ symbol before the person’s name, and LinkedIn will bring up a drop down menu of connections and people you follow to confirm the tag. Click on the correct person, and their name will appear in a blue hyperlink to their profile in your post. The people you tag will receive a notification of the tag and any interaction with your post, and they may even receive an email about the post depending on their LinkedIn profile settings.

But I’ll include a serious caveat with this tip: make sure the posts you tag people in are relevant. We’ve all been subject to someone misusing the tagging feature on Facebook to spread awareness about something we have no interest in. On LinkedIn, your tagging should be a way to give someone a heads up that you’ve said something nice about them and/or their work.

Here’s an example: When I was leaving Boston last weekend, I noticed that Zoom, the video conferencing platform, had a billboard up in Logan International Airport. I thought it was cool to see a tech company investing in analog marketing, so I snapped a photo and tweeted it, making sure to tag the company. The founder of Zoom then retweeted it and my post got a high level of engagement.

  1. Connect with your current customers.

Too many people take their current customers for granted. It’s not cool or sexy to go after your existing customers and show them love. But reactivating your current customers’ loyalty for your brand is equally important as developing awareness in new targets. Start by simply connecting with the people you’ve worked with at all current and former clients. Then find ways to highlight their successes and share content that they will find meaningful.

If you approach LinkedIn with this strategy, you’ll be able to reap demonstrable benefits from the time you invest, and you’ll avoid wasting time on another news feed.

Which of these 6 tips can you see yourself using right away?

Spencer X Smith

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and a columnist for InBusiness.

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