Monday, November 30, 2020
The pandemic has driven more people online, especially to social media platforms like LinkedIn, where networking takes place where it once might have at a trade show or face-to-face meeting. It is a powerful tool but it has to be used correctly. Taking to LinkedIn, or any social media channel, and posting self-serving or uninteresting nonsense is counterproductive.
You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger at an exhibition and show them photos of your dog before proceeding to tell them your products are the best in the world, would you?
Only by posting authentic, educational content—on company and personal pages alike—can activity on LinkedIn really gain traction. Unfortunately, there are many businesses and individuals in all sectors that let themselves and their industries down by abusing the platform. I wanted to take an opportunity to share some of the research we’ve conducted and lessons learnt as we’ve steadily raised our social media profile, focussing here particularly on LinkedIn and the way individuals use it.
I receive dozens of connection requests a day from folks that will never really add value to my working life. Further, many follow up with a swift sales pitch on a product I don’t want or need. But I can see why people get carried away with growing their following. I read somewhere recently that 98% of salespeople with 5,000+ connections on LinkedIn make their targets each month. So there’s an incentive to grow an audience. However, connections should be judged by quality versus quantity. The more irrelevant a following, the more redundancy there’ll be.
Think about the purpose of having a LinkedIn profile and posting content to it: to build a personal brand as a go-to expert in your field. Think about how experts carry themselves in real life and replicate their behaviour. People don’t like cold calls in person, on the telephone, by email, or on social media. So don’t do it. Taking a journey from ‘known’, to ‘liked’, to ‘trusted’ takes time. LinkedIn gurus will tell you that 90% of CEOs on the platform don’t respond to cold calls. Also, once they’ve been approached this way, many will reject or block the culprit.
Put a name to the face
When you’re creating a profile, think about what that page will look like to someone who doesn’t know you. Will they want to connect and do business with you? Just like when a person walks up to you at a trade event, their engagement point is your face. It’s a good idea for a photo to look similar to what that person will look like in a professional situation. I don’t recommend to my staff that they use holiday photos or images of them looking out of the window of their car—unless they’re a delivery driver. I also encourage people to keep the image current. Imagine being the person looking for a 20-year-younger version of yourself at a conference.
A profile cascades down to where users can use keywords and attention-grabbing messages, always with authenticity, relevance and the audience in mind. I try to write so a smart 12 year old could understand, but others adhere to different golden rules. It doesn’t matter, as long as the potential connection understands what a person does and wants to engage in future conversations.
Try to avoid generic terminology. There are thousands of business development managers and directors of operations out there. Stand out. Be different. When it comes to writing a summary, avoid company profiles; make it about you. Be mindful that everyone will say they’re honest, driven, super-duper, etc. What really is it about you that adds value to your colleagues, peers and future connections?
By the time people read further down the profile to the experience section, they would already have concluded if they know a person or want to get to know them. However, it’s worth adding in details of recent roles because the journey might be interesting. Use this section to briefly explain how what you did in the past makes you better at what you do now.
Recommendations are worth coveting too, but be careful who you choose to endorse you. The best ones focus not on years of friendship, but more the projects that led to demonstrable success. Nobody wants to read an endorsement for a sales manager saying they’re great at managing sales. Duh.
What are you like?
We have become a culture obsessed with Likes.
LinkedIn, like other platforms, has recently expanded on that concept and offers users a list of expressions that give people a way to more easily participate in conversations and communicate with their network. Beyond Like, there are Celebrate, Support, Love, Insightful, and Curious. Again, it’s important to match these digital emotions to real life. If someone is posting about getting a new job, ‘congratulations’ might be in order, whereas ‘support’ might be shown for someone sharing details about a particular challenge that they are trying to overcome. LinkedIn members can also choose to ‘love’ posts, highlight content they found particularly ‘insightful’, or express ‘curiosity’.
Think carefully about what reactions say about you as a professional. Each engagement creates a ripple that can be traced back, by algorithms and people alike. The more engagements a post gets, the further it will travel in terms of outreach. Most social media platforms prioritise early interaction, say, within the first hour of posting. If a post attracts a lot of reactions and comments, LinkedIn will deem it of likely interest to others and it’ll appear more widely on timelines and feeds. It’s not cheating to tell key connections that you’ve posted something and invite their feedback. Like many things in life, you get out what you put in, so interacting with other people’s content often leads to engagement in return.
Hashtags help you discover topics and interests most relevant to you, and give you the opportunity to engage with them. All hashtags start with a # sign, followed by a keyword or phrase. Some companies always include their own hashtag—#RopeandSling—as well as those that relate closely to that post: #lifting, #rigging, #construction, #windenergy. Use hashtags with caution, however. Think of them as a tracking tool and label. Avoid the temptation to be too quirky with them; alerting followers to the #bestliftever is not going to have the desired impact and it’ll be quickly disregarded as too commercial. Consider that hashtags are a chance to penetrate end user markets so think about the image you want to present upon arrival. Getting it wrong might result in banishment.
Note: you can also discover and manage hashtags within your settings.
I’ve purposely kept this guidance to individual pages and the basics. As people become more familiar with the LinkedIn platform, they’ll consider articles, commercial opportunities, and more. As with all things, it’s crucial not to try to run before you can walk. If LinkedIn has been identified as a 2021 project, commit to it but make sure it’s sustainable. Posting an abundance of information on January 1st and then disappearing for weeks won’t work.
It’s also folly to try to gain momentum on a multitude of sites—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.—especially if a single, inexperienced person is being charged with the workload. Where company pages are concerned, encourage staff to share photos, but always get permission; many end users don’t appreciate their work being shared, at least not without it going through certain channels.
It’s worth adding that business owners have got to strike a balance when encouraging staff to raise their profile on LinkedIn. These days, most new recruits or employees will have a presence on the platform anyway. People should be encouraged to use social media to their advantage but they also have a duty to their employer. Posting political statements or commentating on industry matters in a way that disagrees with senior representatives won’t go down well. Yet, everyone is entitled to an opinion.
Ownership of relationships is contentious too. I’ve heard of individuals spending years cultivating contacts for one company and then taking them with them to another. There’s not a lot an employer can do about that. Gone are the days where you can ask someone to leave their business cards behind. And people know who their key contacts are; they’ve probably got them on WhatsApp. If it means more businesses treat their employees better in order to keep them (and their contacts), that’s no bad thing.
We’ll certainly be using LinkedIn to raise our profile further as we open our latest depot. Also look out for content on our new partnership with MSA Latchways, a leader in the development, manufacture and supply of safety products that protect people and facility infrastructures, especially at height.
If you think it would be mutually beneficial, please connect with us:
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd