For any social media platform, its relevance should always be questioned. After all, as a business owner or marketing manager, you only have so much time to dedicate to marketing. It’s worth it to ask strategic questions before committing hours and money to a social platform: for example, can people have a meaningful conversation in 140 characters on Twitter? Is Facebook’s feed so cluttered with sponsored content and targeted ads that the whole point of it—to connect with people we know or once knew in real life—has become buried under a deluge of clickbait?
Those two platforms alone host hundreds of millions of users a day with billions of interactions, despite their critics. So it’s nearly a celebration of sorts for LinkedIn to also be facing the scrutiny of its relevance.
Is LinkedIn worth it? We answer with a bold and convincing yes.
Between its inception in 2003 and the end of the year numbers for 2015, LinkedIn has boasted a 37% average revenue growth. In its final quarter as an independent entity before being acquired by Microsoft in late 2016, LinkedIn reported an 18% increase in membership, to a very relevant 467 million users. Those numbers are hard to sneeze at.
And with the Microsoft acquisition, LinkedIn has rolled out some impressive improvements to the site’s interface by streamlining navigation, adopting smarter messaging, as well as updating their analytics which help both in search features and the suggestions they make to optimize your profile. Microsoft sees LinkedIn as the smart way for businesses to interact, elevating the platform from the swap meet networking mentality to a true conduit for meaningful connections with people relevant to your industry.
So how do you make LinkedIn work for you to form these connections?
One of the most critical ingredients to forging business connections is showing your passion. For your product, your service, your employees, your clients, and beyond, maybe even including some things that aren’t business related. Without passion, you’re another grouping of pixels in a sea of smiley faced profile pictures. Business owners are some of the most passionate people around, or we wouldn’t sacrifice the things we do for our businesses.
But how do you stand out? By making the human connection.
If you’re passionate about running your business in an environmentally sustainable way, say so. If you have a deep love of the arts, which then helps you with your interior design business, let us see it. If your influences can make a potential client stop and say, “Hey, I love 1980s sitcoms, too!” and they click from your profile to your website to see what else you might have in common, you’re winning.
If you’re just skimming the surface with who you are and what you stand for, your potential connections will do the same, and skim right on by. Don’t let them. Be more than just your business by being interesting.
Share your perspective
Clients are looking for the best possible solution to fill a gap in their businesses. If you’re the best landscape architect in town, let people know it by showing off a little. Big accomplishments turn heads, but so do the little ones. While your team’s installation of that new office park’s landscaping looks fantastic, perhaps the little mom-and-pop’s storefront zips with the homey facelift you’ve given it now that they’ve got some nice potted plants to invite guests inside. Showcasing your expertise is important, but so is displaying your compassion for your clients’ needs. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your versatility. Bigger isn’t always better. Expertise and diversity can definitely compete.
Network, network, network
One last piece of the networking puzzle is strategically placed content. Using LinkedIn for business only goes so far if you’re speaking to the same group of people all the time. Reach outside your bubble (and your blog posts) by writing manual articles for LinkedIn’s Pulse app. The personalization options of Pulse means people in your industry are already opted in to seeing what you have to say. This way, you can establish thought leadership without the awkward sales pitch—use the Pulse feature to provide education-based marketing content to your feed.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and after its sale to Microsoft, has the potential to become so much more than a recruiter’s or job seeker’s tool. It’s ripe for opportunity between businesses, just waiting to be harvested.