I was working with a client today, and he asked me… I’m not sure really what to do with my LinkedIn account now I have it set up.

Good question – and one which many of us are probably secretly wondering how to gain business via LinkedIn. I originally wrote this article in 2011. I have rewritten it based on the new functionality LinkedIn has introduced since then.

1) Increase your number of connections

The first thing you need to do on LinkedIn – after getting a great profile written about you – is to start increasing your number of connections. I’m a great believer in quality connections rather than connections for connections sake. (LinkedIn tends to frown upon people who use LinkedIn as an extension of their mailing list) However, you need a certain number of connections on LinkedIn to extend your reach to find the people who matter to you.

My client was using a great marketing person to help him find good potential connections. She knew his practice strategy and had already found and linked up with some cracking connections for him. However, that’s where it had stopped. If your LinkedIn connections are just sitting there, and you are not doing anything with them, then you are missing a massive trick.

2) Spend time regularly reviewing your important LinkedIn connections

So, what should you be doing? Firstly allocate some time every month to look through your LinkedIn connections. Tag any potential A-listers as you review your list of connections. Who haven’t you spoken to in a while? Who is due an e-mail? Who do you need to move from a level 1/2 relationship connection to a level 3 relationship connection?

When I talk about a level 3 relationship connection, what I mean is someone who is no longer just a name, but someone who you trust and who you have had a real time conversation with on a one-to-one basis.

The challenge you now face is how to ‘tempt’ your LinkedIn connection to do more than just swap e-mails with you but actually pick up the phone and start having a dialogue. For example, my client found a LinkedIn connection who would have had a fantastic network into the people he needed introductions to. He could also reciprocate with his network of clients and suppliers. It was what I call a ‘slam dunk’ moment. So, he was duely despatched to put together a compelling e-mail to the LinkedIn connection in question, suggesting why it would be very beneficial for them both to talk.

3) Start sharing content within LinkedIn

Not any old content, but the good stuff. You know, the stuff that your target market or ideal client wants to read. This can be content that you have personally helped create, content your firm has created, or content created by other people. The golden rule is it needs to be highly relevant and valuable to the people you want to attract on LinkedIn.

You can share this content in the following places:

  • Your newsfeed
  • LinkedIn publisher
  • Groups
  • Within your profile

4) Turn LinkedIn into your personal CRM

LinkedIn gives you the option to sync your calendar and email with it. This then turns your LinkedIn account into your own CRM. If you do this, LinkedIn will add to all your contacts a record of when you last emailed them or met with them. (Of course, you need to have put any meetings into your diary for this to happen.)

Make sure the really important people in your LinkedIn network are tagged as ‘really important’ or something that means something to you. Then go into the keeping in touch function and filter the recent conversation by this tag. Then you will have a record of how well are you actually staying in touch with these important people. I would recommend doing this keeping in touch exercise for an hour once a week.

5)  Integrate your usage of LinkedIn into your daily business development routine

Yes, I did say a daily business development routine. LinkedIn is a relationship management and networking tool. It is not the answer to all your business development woes. However, the more it becomes part of how you do business development, the more value you will get from it. For example, you could:

  • use the search function to identify prospects or people you want to talk too
  • follow companies which you want to recruit people from or have as clients
  • plan discussions within LinkedIn groups to heighten awareness around issues and articles you have written

In summary:

LinkedIn is best used in an active way. There is nothing wrong with just using it as a glorified on-line address book. However, the real richness with LinkedIn comes from using it on a regular basis as a planned part of your business development, networking or job hunting strategy.