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Over the last few weeks there has been a real shift from articles about ‘how to make the most from LinkedIn’ to ‘what to do when it’s not working’.

When it first became popular (about eight years after it was launched) there were many schools of thought that cited LinkedIn as a ‘captive audience of potential leads’. Some went as far as to suggest that, as long as your profile was easy to find and had lots of information in it then the new business would drop from the sky like manna from heaven. Not so… so it transpires. Perhaps people have realised that it isn’t just as simple as filling in their profile… Perhaps people need to think a bit harder about how to make social networking work for them? Many previously devoted LinkedIn-ers are finding that it isn’t the answer to their every business development problem.

Hubspot, the World authority on all things social networking posted a fascinating article the other day. In it they listed the nine worst ways to use LinkedIn:-

1. Don’t Answer Questions

2. Be Overly Self-Promotional when Answering Questions

3. Don’t Join or Participate in Groups

4. Leave Your Profile Blank

5. Leave Your Company Page Blank

6. Don’t Optimize Your Profile for SEO

7. Don’t Promote Your LinkedIn Page on Your Websit

8. Ignore Connection Invitations

9. Don’t Post Status Updates

As you can see, it is actually little more than an inverted list of ‘things to do’ but the choice of wording poses an interesting point. What should you do if you aren’t getting any work through LinkedIn?

Having read a number of discussion threads on LinkedIn about just this, I have come to realise that much of the problem may lie in our thinking that it is going to change the World. How many people have you heard describe social networking as ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’? Whereas once I may have pitched in to fight its corner, I have begun to see things as they are after the first flush of enthusiasm.

Social networking is just one tool in the box. It is most effective when used in a collaborative and strategic way with other forms of marketing. This may mean using it to support other (off-line) activity, or vice versa.

The success lies within the strategic planning.  Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to talk to?
  • About what?
  • Why?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • How are you going to reach them?
  • What are you going to say when you do?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How will you measure success?

The elements listed in the Hubspot article are indeed correct. If you haven’t ticked those boxes then you are unlikely to get real results from LinkedIn. But it goes further than that. You can have the most optimised and complete profile in the Universe but if you haven’t got a plan for what you want to do with it then it is likely to be ineffective. The same applies to the answers you give and your activity within groups.

So, let’s think about those nice points strategically. What questions should you be asking in relation to each? Here are some to get you started…

1. Don’t Answer Questions

  • What subject expertise do you want to showcase?
  • Are you trying to target certain people who might be using ‘Questions’?

2. Be Overly Self-Promotional when Answering Questions

  • Have you got a clear idea of how you’d like to answer questions?
  • Have you found some examples of people that do it well?

3. Don’t Join or Participate in Groups

  • What groups are you targeting? Are you looking by location or subject area?
  • Are you targeting certain people? What groups are they in?
  • How do you want to be represented? Do you want to just comment or post? How, why and about what?

4. Leave Your Profile Blank

  • Are you thinking about how people will find you and providing details accordingly?
  • Are you thinking about the information that people might want to read, rather than what you want to tell them?

5. Leave Your Company Page Blank

  • Do you have a company page?
  • If so, what information do you want to include?
  • Have you thought about how people will find it?

6. Don’t Optimize Your Profile for SEO

  • Does your website say your company name?
  • Have you included your blog?
  • Have you included your twitter?

7. Don’t Promote Your LinkedIn Page on Your Website

  • How are you promoting it on your website?
  • Have you thought about your emails and business cards too

8. Ignore Connection Invitations

  • Do you try to treat everyone as you would like to be treated? If you receive an invitation then do you reply – even if you don’t know them?
  • Do you have some rules to work out who you will accept invitations from and who you wont?

9. Don’t Post Status Updates

  • Do you have a strategy for what you want to say and how?
  • Have you linked your twitter and/or Facebook streams?
  • Are you responding to other connections’ status updates?

In summary, getting work from LinkedIn is much the same as getting work through other channels… if you head into it without thinking about how you want to do it, and how it will fit into your complete marketing plan, then you won’t get the best from your efforts. If you take some time at the start, however, then the potential for business and success could be huge.

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