LinkedIn is a great tool to help you grow your company, find job candidates, attract key employees, even find a buyer for your business. Whatever your objective, LinkedIn can be a remarkably effective tool, yet is misunderstood and underutilized by most CEOs/entrepreneurs I talk with. Like any other tool, it becomes more effective the more you use it. But even a minimal effort with LinkedIn can position you to reap real-world results.
You do not need to know anything about “social media” to use LinkedIn. You do not have to tweet while waiting at the airport or post photos of your board meeting or family vacation. There is no doubt, the more effort you put into this business communication tool, the better results you will get. My objective here is to give you the very basics required so others can identify you as a potential partner, seller, employer, buyer, etc.
LinkedIn is my number-one tool when helping clients identify potential buyers (or sellers) for their company. It is also very effective when trying to identify potential partners for shared revenue deals. If you want these types of opportunities to find you online, here are 4 easy, yet very effective, steps to follow. No time? You can even delegate these to your admin or someone in business development. I’ll create a future post about how to find opportunities using LinkedIn (that requires more effort by you). For now, let’s keep things simple to get you in the game.
As mentioned, the key is to be “findable,” and that will be accomplished when you establish your profile. In our increasingly crowded online world (LinkedIn had 85 million users on 12/15/10) , you are relevant if you have a presence online, and out of touch if you do not. Here are a few simple steps that are almost guaranteed to help a business opportunity find you in the next six to 12 months.
1. Your title
Your title needs to accomplish two things. First, tell others you are the person who can make a decision about acquisition, JV, licensing, etc. Additionally, describe your core service capability.
LinkedIn allows people to search their entire database based on keywords and assigns greater relevance for certain areas of the profile. Your title is one of the most heavily weighted areas on your profile, so use it effectively and you will rank higher in search results for those looking for your service.
So, being the CEO of “a franchise development firm: The Franchise Builders” may sound redundant, but it is a very effective way to improve your rank when anyone is searching for the term franchise. Being the COO at Dimension Solutions does not help searchers looking for a program management company.
In 2010 we completed an acquisition for a client who was selling their company in the “program management” space ($14 million revenue). The acquiring company’s press release stated it was the most important acquisition of their fiscal year. This deal happened because I found their VP of sales while searching LinkedIn’s database.
Personal recommendations are not necessary at a C-level and may even work against you. Leave that to your business development people. If you are going to have them, however, be sure to have at least 5 percent of your connections as recommendations until you have over 20. To have 500+ recommendations and only 4 or 5 recommendations does not enhance your profile. (Additional thoughts by Chris Brogan on a good recommendation).
When I find a potential candidate with fewer than 50 connections, I seldom make contact. LinkedIn only has clout with those who recognize its capabilities and engage it as real business tool. If you have fewer than 100 connections, you probably do not use or value this form of interaction, so I’ll move on to others who do.
Christian Faulconer is the CEO of Franchise Foundry, a franchise development and investment firm. They are constantly looking for business ideas that could become the next great national franchise. Since locating him last year, they have signed deals and are developing two new franchise concepts they are very excited about. Those deals found him, because his profile was “findable.”
If you (or your admin) spend a few minutes each day finding those you are connected to in the real world, you will very quickly have 100+ connections.
4. Professional Photo
A search result will often provide dozens (or hundreds) of results. As an active user, when I scan for quality a match, my eye is naturally attracted to those profiles with photos (I seldom consider those without one at this stage). Your photo indicates how seriously you regard LinkedIn as a business tool. If it is a serious tool for you, I’m more excited to make contact and pursue business with you through this network.
Take a look at this search for Security Consultant. Which results will you click on to take a closer look?
Remember, LinkedIn is a social media tool, and social media is about connecting to others you don’t know yet and deepening the relationships you already have. A photo will help you accomplish that connection on a deeper level much more quickly. Keep it simple and professional and save the fishing, skiing and family photos for your Facebook account. (Additional photo tips here).
Your title and photo will take about 10 minutes to add to your profile. Building connections a bit longer, but just one successful business deal will provide a great return on time invested. I’m confident these steps will produce results and hope you will share your experience so we can all learn to be more effective with LinkedIn.
(For additional tips see the Slideshare presentation).