4 Steps to LinkedIn success: Getting the Best From the Professional Platform?

“You must know Dan, right?”

“Dan is an HR consultant, great at what he does… and SO helpful!”

“We connected on LinkedIn. I was looking for some help with a problem we were having – just a couple of comments… Yeah, I’ll introduce you to Dan.”

Keeping Visible and Being You

How do you use LinkedIn?

If the answer is “randomly”, “er….”, or perhaps hiding your head in your hands, I hope this post will help.

Because (as I’ve said before and will, no doubt – annoyingly – say again) LinkedIn can be incredibly useful for small business owners, service providers, subject matter experts, consultants… you.

I’m going to tell you the story of Dan and how he made LinkedIn work for him.

Meet Dan

Dan has enjoyed a corporate career in a huge HR department. Having spent over 20 years working in different areas he has a good idea of what he enjoys, what he is good at and – of course – the bits he really hates. Dan has risen to a senior position, with a great team and is earning well when the company announces they are restructuring.

All this happens at a time when Dan has additional pressure from family too.

When the opportunity for redundancies is announced Dan, looks at his options and makes a choice. He’s seen specialists leave the company and create great businesses working for themselves, he’ll have more flexibility and is sure he’ll get some insights from friends to help. Dan decides to take redundancy and set up as a consultant.

1. Show Yourself

Starting up a business requires investing time and money – a website, networking, business cards (some of us still use them!) and more. But Dan’s first step is simple and doesn’t cost a thing; he updates his LinkedIn profile.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of your profile (my post here might help – Your Best LinkedIn Profile).

First, you need to make sure you know who you want to work with and the kind of work you want to do then:

Be You – Your profile needs to reflect you, so people checking you out know whether or not you can help and if they should connect with you.
Dan uploads a picture he’s happy with and creates a profile that tells his story, his broad experience and what he’s offering now.

Be Helpful – Don’t be scared to pick out those areas you want to focus on and explain to your reader how you can help, this will give them confidence you know what they are looking for.
Dan is clear on the narrow area he’d like to work in so he focuses on why his experience makes this the area in which he can be invaluable.

Be Consistent – Your business may be on a number of platforms, so ensure they present you with a consistent style and voice; a voice that reflects who you really are or people won’t recognise you.
LinkedIn is Dan’s first step. Doing research on LinkedIn to create a clear profile helps him understand what people are looking for and how he wants to be seen. He then uses this knowledge to guide him on other platforms, online groups, and even his website. Having done the preparation helps him present himself consistently everywhere online.

2. Post Your Thoughts

Dan already has a network on LinkedIn, people who have connected with him over years – from family, through university and friends – but because most of them have known Dan through his corporate career, he isn’t sure how many will be interested in this next step. He checks out what other people in his position have done, starts following some useful people and posts his thoughts – telling his story, sharing things of interest and commenting where he can help.

LinkedIn is clearly a social media platform, a profile will only do you any good if people see you.

Be You – Share your story and things of interest to you, even if it’s not always relevant to your role it will help people get to know you as a person.
Dan has connections through his golf club and the football team he used to volunteer with. Sharing why he is starting something new has prompted some interesting conversations Dan didn’t expect.

Be Helpful – You know things other people need to know, and often they don’t even know it. Sharing your knowledge helps build confidence in your audience as well as show people how you can help.
Dan is following some companies and profiles which share HR news and reports – it helps him keep up to date and by sharing these, and adding his own thoughts, Dan can help his network stay informed, prompting a conversation when they need to know more.

Be Consistent – LinkedIn is a great platform on which to put yourself in front of people regularly – and regularly doesn’t need to mean 3 times a day, 7 days a week, it might mean 3 times a week.
While the business is just starting out, Dan has a bit of time on his hands. He uses that time to plan his communication, thinking about what he’d like to share with his network and how he wants to be seen. Making sure he knows what to share in advance so posting regularly is much easier than when he was trying to make things up as he went along.

3. Share Your Expertise

Dan now has a website and is networking with other local businesses. He has kept his site fairly small but wants to make sure people know the kind of situations he can help with. He’s heard about blogging; writing simple posts about his expertise is a great way of getting things on his website – and he can put them on LinkedIn too.

By writing articles and sharing them on LinkedIn, you’re reaching out to your network (and their network) with information people need. You’re then bringing those people back to your website too. I touched on some steps I use to help plan a blog in this post – Show Them What You Know.

Be You – Share things from your experience, projects you have worked on or questions you have been asked, this is generally easier than a topic you need to research. Also, make sure you write in a way your contacts will recognise, helping people get to know you.
Dan has years of expertise to share. Although he won’t share details of specific projects he worked on with his previous organisation, he can write about the topics in ways which don’t give away any secrets. He doesn’t always enjoy the writing process and sometimes dictates his thoughts straight into the word processor, tidying things up once he has finished.

Be Helpful – Showing your audience what you know is a great way to build trust. Once your potential client has seen you understand their problem and how to handle it, they’ll be far more likely to talk to you.
One of Dan’s ex-colleagues has asked why he keeps giving away his secrets for free; Jessica is also an HR consultant now and has suggested people won’t pay Dan if he tells them how to help themselves. Dan hasn’t found this though, he finds that sometimes people can do things themselves but often a conversation shows people why they need more help.

Be Consistent – Regularly posting content on your website is helping build your library and providing articles you can reuse in the future, as well as being good for your search engine optimisation.
Having blogs to share on LinkedIn also gives Dan short snippets he can use in standalone posts to prompt conversations and ask questions; he even plans other posts around the theme of his article knowing people need to see something more than 5 times before it really goes in.

4. Engage With Your Network

Dan has been meeting new people and has old contacts responding to things he is posting; he has received connection requests and had people he doesn’t know engaging with his posts. Dan checks these people out, starts conversations and sometimes connects – his network is growing.

Who you engage and connect with will come down to how you want to build your network, but LinkedIn – particularly for solo professionals and small business owners – is about reaching out to more people and being seen.

Be You – Respond to what interests you, connect with people who resonate with you and if people take the time to engage with your posts, respond to them as you would if you were having a conversation (that’s essentially what this is).
Dan doesn’t like spending all his time on social media but does feel it’s important that he supports the people who are supporting him. He picks a couple of time slots every day when he can spend some time on LinkedIn making sure he engages with other people’s posts and any comments he’s had on his own.

Be Helpful – Taking time to engage with others people’s posts, answering their questions and introducing people within your network will help you build essential relationships and trust.
Dan finds that, while it helps to answer relevant HR questions – particularly if he’s tagged by someone who knows him as “the helpful HR guy” – he also gets involved in conversations about other aspects of setting up in business or the contacts he has made. He likes being able to support his network as he appreciates how good it feels when someone makes the effort for him.

Be Consistent – Again, consistency needs to fit your plan and this can change over time. Just because once you were able to join all of Helen’s Live videos, you may not be able to do that now. Think about what you can do to make LinkedIn work for you and do that!
Recognising he’s got busier and been less engaged on LinkedIn, Dan makes a plan. Whenever he’s waiting for the kettle to boil, he’ll spend a couple of minutes seeing what’s happening for his connections on the platform. When he has more time he’ll spend a little longer checking out new connections, but for now, he’ll just make sure he’s there.

Be More Dan

Setting up his consultancy business hasn’t always been easy, but Dan has found LinkedIn a useful platform. He’s being seen, meeting new people and having the kind of conversations which are good for his business.

As I said at the start of this post, LinkedIn can be incredibly useful and will work best if you have a plan and know what you want from it.

I hope you’re comfortable with these four steps of your LinkedIn journey – setting up your profile, posting your thought, sharing your informative blogs and engaging with other people.

I also feel it’s important to recognise, however, that throughout this are the constants – Be Yourself, Be Helpful and Be Consistent. Things which should, actually, be constant throughout all your business communications.

If you’re finding not getting what you need from LinkedIn, I’d be happy to talk to you about how you’re using the platform. Why not, get in touch