I recently spoke to our sales group on the importance and benefits of social media for professionals. Keep in mind, I was speaking to a group of very busy individuals not yet convinced about the power of social media. So, I started with the social media outlet I believe is a necessity for any professional wanting to network and be found — LinkedIn.

When I asked how many were on LinkedIn, I was surprised. About 90% of them already had an account. Then, I asked how often they visited and engaged with the account — blank stares looked back at me. Most everyone in the room only visited when they received a connection request via email.

I continued to layout my reasons for using LinkedIn. Many people realize social media has changed communication, networking, and selling. We are no longer just telling the customer why they should buy from us; we are engaging the customer and offering useful information to make informed decisions about purchases.

For some, the adoption of social media has been slow, but this change is vital. Get on-board, people! Customer demand is driving the adoption of social media in business. SM is the way customers are choosing to communicate. Customers expect to find you on social media. As a professional, it is an exciting time, you now have the power to increase your visibility and be a leader in your industry.

“Social media doesn’t replace the need for white papers or sales interaction. I think it helps accelerate and shorten the sales cycle. There are studies out there that people who are involved in communities and engaged with the brand are likely to spend up to 50% more than those who are not…”—LaSandra Brill, senior manager, global social media – Cisco

So, Who’s On LinkedIn?

Simply put — your customers and prospects. According to LinkedIn, they operate the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 150 million members in over 200 countries and territories. As of February 9, 2012, LinkedIn counted executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies as members. LinkedIn members are sharing insights and knowledge in more than one million LinkedIn Groups.

Now it was time for the ultimate, “light bulb moment.” I clicked the slide projector button, and there they were on the big screen — many of our largest existing customers. Plus, several key people identified as prospects. It only took me 15 minutes of research to pull this list of names from LinkedIn. Faces lit up, and it was the moment they realized its power.

How Can YOU Use LinkedIn’s Power?

Find People & Add Connections
Connect with your current customers, colleagues, and even friends & neighbors. Once you have connected, you can look at their background, work experience, and interests. This is the best way to keep current with customers. For example, if they change jobs, you will be notified when they change their status. Oh, and when you invite someone to connect, personalize the message, and never use the LinkedIn default message, “I’d like to add you to my professional…”

Ever heard of the six degrees of separation? Well, this same concept is one of the fascinating ideas behind LinkedIn. Once connected, you can view their connections. You never know who might pop up. This can give you great insight into future business introductions.

Increase Your Visibility & Be Found
As I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is a great tool for people to find you. Have you ever Googled someone’s name? Well, they’ve Googled yours, too, as people want to know whom they are dealing with. The bonus of having a LI profile – it’s a professional representation of you, which creates a great first impression, and frequent activity within your LI profile will rank well on Google for your name. Plus, if you have a common name (i.e.-Smith), having a LI account makes you easier to find in the sea of 2,760,209 people with the last name, “Smith.”

Look Who’s Lookin’ at You?
You have the ability to see who has looked at your profile. Okay, I think this borders a little on paranoia, but useful! I feel it would be even more helpful to job seekers.

Join Groups
Join Groups to engage in a smaller group format. Groups are the best way to get started with networking. Simply search for a topic or your profession in groups. You can also look at your connection’s groups to see what they are involved in. The next step is to join, and start posting comments on discussions, or start a discussion of your own.

Give Back
A great way to give back to customers, vendors, or anyone you do business with is to write a recommendation for them. Most likely, they will reciprocate the gesture.

Why LinkedIn?
In the first paragraph, I said LinkedIn is a necessity for any professional wanting to network and be found. It’s a place to add connections, find groups, join discussions, and interact with prospects and customers. Are you “linked-in?” Welcome to modern marketing.

Case Studies

Online postcard marketing company used LinkedIn as one of their
top lead generators.

PJA, Advertising Agency, Boston:
Used LinkedIn to target prospective customers.

Glenn Burris, TKO Graphix:
Glenn obtained a project from his LinkedIn Group about car wraps. Glenn noted, “I noticed someone was looking for an installer. I let them know we are in Central Indiana and he asked if we could send an installer to his location for a few weeks. We also die cut a large project for them. The sale was just shy of $20,000 for both projects.”