Education Industry – How to gain Business Connections on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has 145 million members worldwide. 39% of these users are managers, directors, owners, chief officers or vice presidents – the sort of contacts you are most likely to want to make. But how do you take the first step and start some direct communication?
It’s easy to do, but users treating their LinkedIn profile as just their online CV, cramming it full of previous job titles and responsibilities, are using a small percentage of the power and value of LinkedIn as a business marketing tool. It’s actually a fantastic (and free) business marketing tool which could form a key part of your employer engagement strategy. Think about why you are on the platform as an individual and brand and let it act as a powerful and professional way of showcasing your great work – without reproducing your job description.
So, how can you use LinkedIn to its full potential, what should you actually include on your profile and – most importantly – where do you start? Here is the Net Natives guide to leveraging business contacts on this social media platform for professionals:
Step 1: The Profile
- Firstly, be consistent – why are you there as a brand? What do you offer? Make sure everyone adheres to the same overall message and plays a part in reinforcing a coherent and cohesive brand image.
- Your profile acts as your shop window. Sell your expertise and explain why you are on the platform – and make that clear for all advocates of your brand on LinkedIn
- Think carefully about the way you articulate your brand and company statement. Make sure you include top keywords for your industry and position within your profile; you will appear much higher in search results
- Recommendations do work! They appear in your profile and place you as a figure of authority in your field. It is also extremely important to get company or organisation recommendations – if you’ve provided a great service for others, ask them to publicise this fact (see next section for more information)
- Don’t be afraid to get creative with your profile. Not many people know that you can integrate applications. Add your WordPress blog and SlideShare presentations. Show that your knowledge and talent go beyond your remit
Step 2: The Company/Organisation Page
- Explain why you are there in the platform, NOT just who you are as an organisation
- Ensure everyone is assigned to the correct company and go through your social media policy during new starters’ “on boarding” process. The policy should detail how employees use social media during their time with you – and what happens to their accounts when they leave
- Update your profile with your products and services. For example, what sort of help and support do you provide to international students? Include this in your company information
- Get recommendations from local businesses about your services – have you provided apprentices to companies in your local area?
Step 3: Groups
- Identify and join useful groups within the industry and geographical areas you are focusing on.
If you’re the marketing director of Birmingham University you may want to join a group like this: West Midlands Business Owners. Then take a look at the “similar groups” field and join other relevant groups. Or, indeed, our own Education Futurology…
- Look at your key influencers (e.g. local business owners) and see which groups they belong to
- Want to get chatting to an industry expert but unable to “connect”? Join a group they are involved in – it allows you to sidestep that initial barrier and start a conversation based on mutual interests.
- Contribute to discussions to begin or maintain relationships with clients
- Create your own group for alumni – ex students are great brand advocates
Step 4: Company Pages
- Follow any companies that you or your institution would want to work with. It’s a great way of familiarising yourself with the organisation and what they do
- News, such as recent hires and promotions, new job opportunities and company profile updates, is all available when you connect to the company
- You’ll be able to effortlessly stay on top of new developments in your target companies. It also makes it apparent who is best to connect with in the company to talk further
Step 5: Profile Organizer
- This is an advanced function of LinkedIn, but you can have a 30-day free trial. Use it to organise your contacts and those you want to get to know
- Set up folders for the key clients you are looking to liaise with
- Make a folder for each category of industry so that every time you come across a potentially useful contact, you can file them accordingly
- The system allows you to make notes during this process so you can remind yourself why you wanted to contact them
Step 6: Promoting into LinkedIn
- If contacts are viewing your organisation through your website and want to know more you need to tie up all your online platforms
- This can be done with a LinkedIn plug-in on your website or blog. You are able to have different types of plugins such as a ‘recommend’ or ‘follow us’ button
- Always have alongside these buttons a ‘Call to Action’ on your website and in marketing materials
Step 7: Contacts/Networking
- Add everyone you speak to or come across as potential links to the commercial world. LinkedIn is about building your network
- Join up your contacts with your other marketing strategies. If you have an email marketing strategy export to email, add these to an informal email marketing update list to notify recipients of relevant updates (but not to spam)
Step 8: Advertising
- Use profile-based advertising on LinkedIn to reach your targets
- You can target against demographic, titles and location to reach the business contacts you need
LinkedIn is your connection to the corporate world. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions.