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Most people treat their LinkedIn profile as an online CV/resume and, consequently, most companies think of the site as little more than a recruitment tool (or a handy indicator of when staff are thinking of leaving). But, used smartly, LinkedIn can be a powerful B2B communications tool.
Target stakeholders, not employers
People tend to write their profiles in the same way as they write a CV, focusing on their past experience and achievements as though they were trying to impress an employer. Try to encourage your employees (particularly senior execs and key subject matter experts) to write their profiles so that they address the needs of clients, partners, journalists and other stakeholders.
Rather than simply listing experience, use the summary section to talk about what makes you special, what you are an expert in, what problems you can solve and how you help your clients. Whether a journalist is trawling LinkedIn for an expert spokesperson in your industry, or potential clients are looking for people to help them solve problems, your employees’ profiles should not say “I’m looking for a new job” but “I love my work and I’m great at it!”
Write a concise but descriptive summary, and in the specialities section list all of your skills; think about the kind of keywords people might use if they were looking for somebody like you. Leave all detail about your professional history for the experience section – most people are only going to read your summary, so it needs to be punchy.
Join the right groups
There are LinkedIn groups for almost every industry and sector imaginable. Most people make the mistake of joining groups that focus only on their own industry which, again, is only really useful if you’re looking to get hired. Instead, think about the kind of groups where you might find potential clients discussing their problems.
For example, if your company sells office furniture, there’s little point joining a group for office furniture suppliers, but it makes a lot of sense to look at groups covering topics such as facilities management or office fitting.
Find the right groups and participate intelligently; listen to people’s problems and get involved in the discussion rather than barging in with a hard sell, and you’ll quickly start to make the right connections.
Keep your network updated
LinkedIn lets members post status updates, just like Facebook and Twitter. These provide a great way of staying visible to your contact network, because every time you make a status update it shows up on their LinkedIn home page as well as the regular email updates it sends out. Post links to relevant industry news, share updates about what your business is doing and work that you are personally involved in. This will keep your brand at the top of people’s minds and show them that your company is a place where people have their finger on the industry’s pulse.
Clearly it’s not always possible to prescribe how your employees should use their personal LinkedIn profiles, but with training programmes and incentives, you can encourage them to think of the site as more than just an online CV. Even if just a small percentage of your employees begin to use LinkedIn in this way, that still represents a significant step forward for your online PR and marketing efforts.