How to Position Yourself as an Expert on LinkedIn

May 1, 2017 / admin  / 


Recently I gave a talk on how to position yourself as an expert on LinkedIn to a business audience in the lovely City of Bath. I started by asking how many people in the audience considered themselves experts? Three lonely hands went up. I then reworded the question and asked, “Who here considers they have expertise that their customers value?” Almost everyone in the room put their hand up.

Maybe it’s a British thing. Most of us feel uncomfortable calling ourselves experts but that is precisely the reason customers come to us because we have knowledge and expertise that they don’t. Whether or not you feel comfortable with the word, positioning yourself as an expert is an incredibly effective way of marketing yourself and your business. And if you sell to other businesses then LinkedIn is the place to “be known for what you know”.

Consider the benefits for your business:

  • Higher profile in your chosen markets
  • More and better opportunities
  • Lower marketing costs
  • Lower cost of sale
  • Better margins

Positioning yourself as an expert is probably the single best marketing investment you can make.

When you build a reputation as the got to person for your particular skills then instead of chasing business people start to seek you out.

5 Practical steps to promote yourself as an expert

One of the first ports of call a buyer will make to check out your expertise is LinkedIn. Let’s look at the steps that will help you to position yourself and your business as a source of expertise on LinkedIn.

  1. Create a strong personal brand

There are several ways a potential buyer may come to your profile – as a result of a search, a recommendation, seeing your content, or just a casual visit. When they arrive your aim is to convince them you are the go to person for this product or service.

Pay particular attention to the top of your profile. Your photo is the initial visual hook. Do you look professional and approachable? Have you added a custom image which makes you stand out and reinforces your brand? Underneath your name is the professional headline, this defaults to your job title but is a great opportunity to position yourself and your expertise. It is your written hook.

The other key feature is the summary. This is where you can expand on your expertise, give examples of what you do, describe the type of customer you are looking for, add a testimonial. We want the viewer to recognise themselves and feel comfortable taking the next step to contact you.

On the mobile and desktop, the summary field has now been collapsed into two lines. It’s very important therefore to think about how to start your summary – only the first 200 characters (on the desktop) and 60 characters (on mobile) are visible to the viewer.

LinkedIn has two social proof features –  endorsements and recommendations. Customers will expect to be able to read glowing references for an expert. 

Recommendations are important evidence of expertise (click to enlarge)

 

  1. Build a broad AND relevant network

Experts achieve recognition by writing books or talking at conferences but also by NETWORKING.  A broad and relevant network is a crucial tool for building your reputation. The bigger your network the bigger your reach. One of the best ways to expose your expertise is to share valuable content, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to build a custom audience to consume and share this.

  1. Expose your expertise with original content

As an expert, you have valuable knowledge that your customers want. Giving this knowledge away in small chunks through articles and posts is one of the best ways to build your reputation. At first, this seems counter-intuitive, why will people use you if they can glean your expertise for free? Strangely the opposite is true.

Ask people who have written successful books about how to do stuff. Of course, there will be some people who just read the book but there will be plenty of others who get in touch because of the author’s superior knowledge. As a business coach, Peter Quintana, said to me recently no-one wants to pay for someone who is “simply competent”.

 My advice, therefore, is to publish and be damned.

  1. Build and nurture a support network

You can be one of the most knowledgeable people ever in your field but if no-one knows about you there are never going to be queues outside your door. One of the most effective ways to spread the word is to build a network of people who like and share your content. Usually, this happens organically. You start to notice people who are regularly liking, commenting on, or sharing your posts. Say thank you show appreciation, where appropriate share their content too.

It’s likely that some of this network will be your peers. For example, I am linked to an informal network of LinkedIn coaches all around the world. We regularly share each other’s content.

By creating this supporter network or fanbase, your content gets far greater exposure than you could achieve through your own efforts alone.

  1. Engage with your audience

If your content is good it will attract potential customers. LinkedIn notifies us when someone is engaging with our posts, be alert and ready to get involved, without delay. One of my connections, Felix Spender, a conflict management specialists, published an article on LinkedIn about Brexit which attracted thousands of views and over a hundred comments.  He quickly engaged with the people who were commenting, responding thoughtfully and respectfully to all the comments. As a result, he was invited to London to meet with the cabinet office, he won a major new contract, and crucially his personal authority received a massive boost.

Some people will respond to your content by sending you a connection request. This is another great opportunity to open a conversation. I always thanks people for their invitation then ask if there was anything that prompted them to reach out to me.  This regularly results in a sales opportunity as people explain how they would like to learn to use LinkedIn more effectively.  

Buyers want YOUR expertise now

No business has all the expertise it needs to make it thrive. Every business from time to time needs to consult or buy in knowledge from suppliers be that an accountant, an IT consultant, or an office cleaning company. Businesses use outside expertise to:

  • Make better decisions
  • Save time and money
  • Avoid costly mistakes
  • Innovate and stay ahead of the competition
  • Be more efficient and profitable

If you can offer your customers one or more of these benefits then I would suggest this is based on knowledge that you have that the customer does not. It’s time to start exposing this expertise on LinkedIn to be known for what you know more widely.

 

User Reaction Prompts LinkedIn to Rethink Desktop Design

March 14, 2017 / admin  /  Uncategorized
LinkedIn update storm

It’s fair to say LinkedIn’s new desktop design has not been universally welcomed. A petition by a Bristol recruitment manager Mark Jury,  to restore lost features, attracted widespread international support. Numerous articles have been published, on and off LinkedIn, decrying the changes.  LinkedIn themselves created a forum post for feedback on the design which to date has received nearly 3,000 comments, almost all of them negative. Feel free to add your two-penny worth.

Good idea, bad execution

The rationale for the design changes is sound i.e. to create a more consistent user experience across all devices, it should make for an easier and more intuitive user experience. The problem as I see it is that LinkedIn management, perhaps under pressure from new owner Microsoft to improve profitability, has rushed through the changes with too little user consultation and insufficient testing. The result is that the new design has been full of bugs. In addition, ill-thought-through changes to the pricing policy have angered users who are being forced into a premium upgrade to keep their favourite features.

Change needs user consent

Currently, less than 1% of users pay for using LinkedIn. You can’t blame them for wanting to increase this percentage. In some cases, however, users are being expected to pay more (in the case of Business Plus users up to 50% more) to keep features they already have. These users are not impressed when they complain to LinkedIn and receive stock responses like this:

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the LinkedIn experience for our members. This sometimes means removing features that aren’t heavily used to invest in others that offer greater value”.

It creates the impression of an organisation that simply isn’t listening to its users. Many users have canceled their premium accounts. The risk for LinkedIn is that revenue lost by these cancellations could outweigh revenue generated from new premium users. LinkedIn urgently needs to reconnect with and listen to their users.

Is LinkedIn in listening mode?

There are some promising signs. Along with several recruiter and training colleagues I recently had the opportunity to speak directly to the Director of User Experience Research in San Francisco. As a result of these conversations, changes were made. On February 24th, David Flink, LinkedIn Product Director, Search and Discovery published a post entitled “We heard you we are making some changes to LinkedIn Search”  in which he announced several changes including the restoration of some of the previous functionality including additional text field searches, and the return of saved searches.

What’s next?

Is there life beyond the controversial desktop update? Right now LinkedIn is being battered by a deluge of user complaints. Clearly, there is some work to do to repair the situation. However, LinkedIn remains the dominant player in this space and despite the missteps with the desktop update, it is still the most credible and widely used online business venue. 

The good news for LinkedIn and its users is that just around the corner there is a raft of new functionality on its way as the Microsoft product set is gradually integrated. I predict these additional features and extra connectivity will be widely welcomed by users. The storm around the desktop upgrade will gradually die down but Linkedin must learn the lessons.

Thank you for reading this, if you enjoyed the post please like and share it so others can too. Love to hear your comments.

Try this Advanced Search Hack for the New LinkedIn Desktop

February 13, 2017 / admin  / 
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the disappearance of advanced search in the new version. I have also been guilty of that, however on the weekend conversations with colleagues forced me to take a fresh look at the free search feature.  

It’s not so much a case that advanced search has been removed from the free desktop version as that it has been replaced. In its place, there is a multi-layered search which always begins in the keyword search box rather in multiple text fields as the original advanced search did.  

Crucially the new desktop version supports Boolean search in key fields. You might have heard people refer to AND, OR, NOT searches, these are some of the most commonly used Boolean phrases.

How Boolean Search works

Using Boolean logic you can construct searches on LinkedIn to look for:
  1. an exact phrase e.g. “Marketing Director”
  2. to exclude a particular term e.g. NOT “Marketing Director”
  3. to include one or more terms in a list e.g. “Marketing Director” OR “Sales Director”
  4. or to get results that include two or more terms in a list e.g. “Marketing Director” AND “Sales Director”
It is also possible to build more complex searches by combining terms in brackets. For example, this search will find people who have Marketing or Director and Division in their profiles. 

“Marketing OR (director AND division)”

Note, that phrases have to be entered in quotes, and the Boolean operator must always be uppercase.

LinkedIn supports Boolean searches in the first name, last name, title, company, and school (college) fields. See LinkedIn’s official help explanation here

Let’s have a look at an example, a search for people with sales or marketing in their titles at computer giant SAP.


LinkedIn Boolean search in new desktop design

Fig 1: LinkedIn Boolean search for sales and marketing people


This is a global search which gives 35,000+ results. I could now refine this with the filters on the right-hand side of the page. 

1. Relationship
2. Locations
3. Current companies
4. Past companies
5. Industries
6. Profile language 
7. Non-profit interests
8. Schools

Now I will try a different search and look for multiple titles, Fig 2.  


Boolean search on LinkedIn

Fig 2: A Boolean search for multiple titles


This search brings up 452 results. I am searching profiles with SAP in the company field, however,  that could be a previous position, so if I now select “SAP” in the current companies filter in right-hand panel that brings my result down to 373.

LinkedIn search filters help to refine search

Fig 3: Using company filter highlights people in current positions at SAP


I could also use any of the other seven filters mentioned above e.g. connections, location etc. to further refine my search.  

Here is one more example of a Boolean expression just to make sure you have understood how to build these. I am looking for people who are in a finance role who work at Ecotricity or Scottish Power but aren’t called Green. 
  
Boolean AND, OR and NOT search on LInkedIn

Fig 4: Example of an OR and NOT search


Pretty powerful stuff eh. I hope you can begin to see now that the advanced search hasn’t so much gone away as morphed into a different type of search. 

There is one temporary problem which you may have noticed. There is no longer an option to save the search, however, I am assured that LinkedIn does plan to restore this in the immediate future. 

Extra Filters on Premium

So now that you have seen what the new search feature can do, and how powerful it is, is there any need to upgrade? Well, the answer is it depends on what you need. The Sales Navigator account has 12 extra filters, these are:
  • Function
  • Years of Experience
  • Company size (employees)
  • Seniority level
  • Postal code (and postal code radius)
  • Groups
  • Years in current position
  • Years at current company
  • Company type (e.g. public v private)
  • Interest in
  • Member since
  • Posted content keywords
If any of these filters are business critical to you then you probably should upgrade. Premium accounts also have access to 15 or more saved searches.

The decision to upgrade is not just about extra filters, it’s also about whether Sales Navigator (or Recruiter Lite) will help you t0 do your job more effectively. If you are thinking of upgrading then you might find this article helpful: “Should I upgrade to LinkedIn Sales Navigator“.  

Conclusion

The new desktop version is evolving, we are all still learning how to get the best from it, including LinkedIn.  I hope this article has been helpful and given you a fresh perspective on LinkedIn’s new desktop search. All is not lost. In fact, very little has been lost, it’s just different. Love to hear your comments below.

Thanks to Mark Williams, Brynne Tillman, and Samantha Bailey who prompted me to look again at LinkedIn’s new desktop search. 

If you enjoyed AND/OR found the article useful please share it so others can too. Thank you. Greg

Ten Things You Can Do This Week to Get New Business from LinkedIn

February 10, 2017 / admin  / 
The secret to finding new business on LinkedIn is simple. Create a credible profile (shop window) then find ways to engage with the sort of people you want to do business with. That’s it, you say? Well, pretty much. Don’t believe me? In that case, I am going to share with you ten practical actions that you can do this week that will help you to get business from LinkedIn.

Now just so you don’t cheat and you get a sense of your own progress I want you to look up your LinkedIn SSI score. This is a score that measures how effectively you are using LinkedIn. I want you to compare your score at the beginning and the end of the week and let me know the difference. 

Get Your Personal LinkedIn Score

To get your LinkedIn score go to this link, scroll down until you come to a yellow button that says “Get your score free”. Click on this and you will see a screen like the one below: 



Fig. 1: Your LinkedIn SSI Score

You will see your personal score out of 100. The score measures things like what percentage of your invitations have been accepted, how often people like and interact with your posts, how well your profile is completed. Don’t worry too much about the details it’s just a useful way of giving you a before and after measure. 

Ten Actions to Do This Week

And so to the actions.

1. Review and refresh your profile.

Your profile is your professional window. It’s a good idea to review your profile at least every three months. Check all sections have been completed fully, including – most important – the summary section. As a minimum, you should aim for an All-Star profile strength. This rating is normally shown on the right-hand side of your profile page, if it is missing (a temporary glitch on the new version) you can also see it on your profile page on the mobile app.

Ask a customer or colleague for feedback on your profile. It’s surprising how easy it is to leave off something that is really important.



Fig 1: Does your LinkedIn photo convey the right impression?







2. Review the keywords on your profile.

Your Linkedin information can be searched from within LinkedIn and externally by search engines like Google, and Bing. Your LinkedIn profile will invariably be the first result that surfaces when people Google you.

LinkedIn’s inbuilt search engine is not as sophisticated as the commercial search engines, it relies heavily on keywords. It is very important therefore that you identify the keywords and phrases that you want to be found for and include these in your profile. In particular, make sure that you use these keywords in the following fields:
  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Experience
  • Skills

    Tip: Rather than cramming in keywords into the main text on the summary and experience fields include a paragraph entitled specialties and stuff them in there, as in this example:
    Specialities
    LinkedIn training; LinkedIn trainer; LinkedIn coach; Social Selling; Profile writing; Profile optimisation; LinkedIn for sales; etc

3.  Follow up people who view your profile.

This is an easy win. If someone has looked at your profile they have expressed an interest in you. This is one of my top sources of new business. I don’t mean that you should follow up everyone, be selective.  I have a premium account so I will use a LinkedIn Inmail to send a short message like this:

“Hi, John, I noticed you dropped by my profile recently. It was probably a casual visit but I just thought I would ask, is there anything I can help you with at the moment”. 

If you have a free account, and the new desktop, LinkedIn have made it much easier to send personalised connection requests.

This week’s action: Monitor people who view your profile every day and follow up selectively. 

4. Actively build your network

Most people on LinkedIn spend more time accepting invitations than sending them.  Think about this for a minute. What it means is you are allowing someone else, often strangers, to shape your network. It’s OK to accept invitations (selectively) but you also need to be actively sending invitations to the people you really want to connect to.  

 Tip: Always send a customised invitation. It’s a better way to start the relationship and is more likely to be accepted.

This week’s action:
Send at least one, ideally two invitations every day.

5. Follow up people who send you invitations

Having accepted an invitation from someone you feel could be relevant now is the time to build on that with a follow-up message. Here is an example:

“Thanks for the invitation. A pleasure to connect. I notice (mention something you have in common). I was wondering was there anything in particular that prompted you to reach out to me?”

Easy peasy. I regularly get business from this.

Tip: To save typing out a message every time, create a templated message in word and tweak it to fit individual circumstances

This week’s action: Follow up everyone whose invitations you accept, even if it is just a simple thank you.

6. Endorse your connections and thank those that endorse you

This one is really easy as LinkedIn regularly prompts us to do this, but do it with integrity only endorse connections for things that you know they know about. 

Take the opportunity to say thank you and add a little personal message when someone endorses you.

This week’s action: Be generous with your endorsements and say thanks when you are endorsed.

7. Post one update every day

Updates are the lifeblood of LinkedIn and one of the best ways of staying front of mind with your network. Here are some ideas of things you might post about:

  • Organisation news
  • Achievements or awards
  • Industry news, research, and reports
  • Product launch or review
  • Topical stories
  • Request feedback, advice or opinions
  • Tips and how to guides
  • Examples of excellent practice
  • Case studies

    Tip: It doesn’t always have to be original content, as long as you are sharing something that is relevant to your audience

This week’s action: Post one (at least) update every day

8. Write an article

If you feel comfortable with writing, then publishing an article on Linkedin is one of the best ways to position yourself as an expert on Linkedin. If you are new to writing on LinkedIn you might find this article useful: Be Known for What You Know.

As a guide, I find it usually takes me about 2 hours to write an article; most articles are 500-1,000 words.

This week’s action: If you are comfortable with writing, publish one article.

9. Reactivate existing contacts

I guarantee that sitting in your LinkedIn network are some great opportunities that you have overlooked. One of the quickest ways of spotting these is simply to export your connections to an excel file and visually scan through them. Your brain will make the links and spot the opportunities. 

Here is a link to the export your contacts option. 

This week’s action: Export your contacts, review and re-engage with selected contacts.

10. Be Active in Groups

You can join up to 100 groups but it would be impossible to be active in all but a few. I suggest choose two or three where you know that your target audience is to be found in some numbers and stick with these. Regularly join in conversations. Consistency is more important than frequency. This is a great way to raise your profile in your chosen niche or location.

This week’s action: Join in at least two group conversations

Summary of Actions

I appreciate you are busy and I am asking you to fit something else into an already busy week, that’s why I have deliberately set some modest targets. With the exception of writing an article, if you choose to do that, everything else will take just a few minutes a day. 

Remember to get your LinkedIn SSI Score first so we have a before and after comparison, and I am also expecting to hear some concrete examples of new business won and opportunities uncovered.

Here is a summary of the week’s actions:

1.   Review and refresh your profile
2.   Review the keywords on your profile
3.   Monitor people who view your profile every day and follow up selectively
4.   Send at least one, ideally two invitations every day
5.   Follow up everyone whose invitations you accept, even if it is just a simple thank you
6.   Be generous with your endorsements and say thanks when you are endorsed
7.   Post one update every day
8.   If you are comfortable with writing, publish one article
9.   Export your contacts, review and re-engage withs elected contacts
10. Join in at least two group conversations

And finally, update your LinkedIn SSI Score and share this in the comments below, along with news of business opportunities that you have uncovered. 

Thanks for participating. If you enjoyed this article and found it useful please like and share it.

Why you absolutely must have a LinkedIn company page

January 24, 2014 / admin  / 

blog imageAlmost half of businesses do not have a LinkedIn company page and of those that do seventy per cent don’t have any products or services listed. This is a massive missed opportunity.

Here are 9 reasons why any B2B business must have a company page.

1. Being found

Both LinkedIn personal profiles and company pages rank highly in Google searches.

Google will also display a preview of the company page which includes up to 159 characters from your last post.

2. A company page gives you more selling space

Whilst an individual LinkedIn profile allows you to highlight key products and services the main focus is on your experience and expertise. The company page allows you to tell a broader story about the business and list multiple products and services in detail.

You can feature promotions, offers, industry and company news, white papers, and videos which might be out of place on a personal page.

For larger businesses, the new Showcase feature allows individual brands or business units to have their own dedicated page.

3. To bolster credibility

Not having a company page or having an underdeveloped page suggests your company is very small or behind the times. For example until relatively recently one of the High Street banks did not have a company page.

4. Because people are lazy

Have you noticed that your business website link does not appear on your LinkedIn profile front page? If a buyer is checking out your profile it’s often easier for them to click on the business name which will take them through to your company page without leaving the LinkedIn environment.

5. To stop inadvertently promoting your competitors

If you do not have a company page and someone clicks on your business name on your profile the result will be a list of people with you on top, underneath will be other people with potentially similar skills. In other words you may be advertising your competition.

6. As a platform to build a business following

The big brands like Hewlett Packard and IBM realised quickly the potential of the company page and built large followings with whom they can engage at minimum cost. Hewlett Packard was the first company to acquire 1m followers.

Of course, they had the advantage of large workforces who could act as brand ambassadors and promote the page. It’s a little harder for smaller businesses but nevertheless worth the effort. LinkedIn themselves say that you will see page engagement start to take off once you get 100-200 followers.

Like the other social networks, LinkedIn now provides detailed analytics which show you exactly which posts are popular so you can fine tune what you are sharing.

7. You can share updates with a targeted audience

Once you have acquired 100 followers you can then select which followers to share an update with. For businesses with a larger following this can be extremely useful as a marketing tool. Targeting options include company size, industry, function, seniority and geography.

When you enter your status update click on the drop down menu, select “targeted audience”.

Bonus Tip: Talking of targeting did you know you can select which pages are shown to which audiences based on one or two of the following criteria: viewer’s geography, company size, seniority, job function, or industry. How cool is that!

8. Access to sponsored updates

Business with a company page can pay for specific updates to be promoted into the newsfeed of their target audience. A promotion into someone’s newsfeed performs much better than a standard advert. For a start, it does not look like a promotion.

Sponsored updates can be targeted at any LinkedIn audience not just your followers so they are a great way to reach a very specific audience.

9. You can add a career page

This is a paid option but for any business with 10 or more employees having a career tab on your company page is a great way to attract and engage with potential employees.

Finally, company pages are free. Work out the ROI on that!

Oh yes, and please follow my company page for more tips about LinkedIn and social media.

Top 5 LinkedIn Photo #Fails

July 20, 2015 / admin  / 

blog imageAccording to LinkedIn’s own research, profiles with photos get 11x more views than those without. For most of us the prime benefit of being on LinkedIn is to raise our individual and business profile not having a photo is a major own goal.

Choosing the right photo however is equally important.

LinkedIn is a professional network. Your profile is your professional shop window. A carelessly chosen photo can completely undermine your credibility.

As you may have noticed there are many examples of inappropriate photos on LinkedIn. Perhaps these are attempts to express individuality – to stand out from the crowd – or just simply a case of grabbing the nearest image to hand.

If you are reading this and beginning to have a few doubts about your photo, here is my list of the 5 Ps to avoid when it comes to choosing your LinkedIn photo:

5 Ps to Avoid

1. Pets and partners

It’s surprising how often favourite pets from cats to horses make an appearance of LinkedIn. You may also have a pet name for your partner but there really is no place for them in your profile photo.

2. Pubs and parties

Alcohol relaxes us and can stimulate conversation but the only time you should have a glass in your hand on LinkedIn is if (like one of my clients) you are a wine merchant.

3. Posh hats and weddings

Wedding photos are common, after all they were professionally taken weren’t they.

And that might have cost a fortune but it won’t impress your business connections.

4. Parents and babies

Yes, little William is gorgeous but incongruous next to your impressive job title.

5. Pot smoking and pop festivals.

Let’s face it we all let our hair down at times but LinkedIn isn’t the place to advertise this.

And finally, one more bonus P to avoid…

The Pygmy photo which is so tiny that even your mother wouldn’t recognise you.

Make the right first impression!

Once someone lands on your profile you have probably less than two seconds to make that first impression. Having a professional and friendly looking headshot will provide important reassurance and begin to create a positive emotional connection with the viewer. Is your photo failing this test?

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share it now.



Greg Cooper

How to create custom individual AND company page addresses for LinkedIn

June 12, 2015 / admin  / 

Did you know you can have a custom LinkedIn address? This feature is available to paid and free account users.

The default address looks pretty ugly something like this:

https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/john-smith/0/14b/931

With a few clicks you can get rid of that ugly suffix and create a custom url which can be added to electronic documents e.g. an email signature, a CV, a web page to give a much more professional and memorable image. Here’s how.

Custom URL Instructions

1. Go to the contact information on your profile page.

2. Scroll down to your current LinkedIn url and click on the gear wheel next to it.
blog image

This will take you to the following page

blog image

3. Click on the pencil icon next to your url.

4. Type your name in the box and see if it is available. If your name is slightly out of the ordinary you will have no problem, if you have a very common name then you may have to be creative by including your middle initial or name for example.

5. Save and you are done.

Create a custom Company Page address

When you land on a company page you will see a long and complicated url like this one for the Microsoft company page.

blog image

LinkedIn do not provide a facility to create a custom company page address however there is a simple way to do this.

Click on the company logo #1. This brings up the url #2:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/microsoft?trk=company_logo

Delete everything after and including the question mark. This leaves you with your custom clickable company page address. Here is mine:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/microsoft

Simple.

If you found these tips helpful, please share them so others can too.

For more tips and advice on how I can help you to grow your business more quickly with LinkedIn call (+44 (0)70917 360222) or email me today.

Is there a LinkedIn Penalty for connecting with too many people?

blog image
This is a great question and one which is relevant to anyone who wants to actively grow their network on LinkedIn.

There is a simple answer and a more complicated answer.

The simple answer is NO. LinkedIn does not penalize members for connecting with too many people, however it does impose account restrictions if it thinks you are abusing the system. I say “it” because much of this happens automatically.

Technically the LinkedIn user agreement states you shouldn’t connect with people you don’t know. In practice, most people connect with others they feel are relevant.

Invitation limit

Each account is allocated a number of invitations that can be sent. When this number is reached, the member can apply to LinkedIn for an increased limit. The limit is 3,000 for new members and 5,000 for more established users.

The maximum number of connections you can have is 30,000. This is strictly adhered to. In fact LinkedIn recently culled all member connections over this number. Members were not given the choice about which connections were cropped. It was ruthless.

Invitation strategy

It is generally regarded as good practice to send a personalised invitation message, however to date, mind that many people will simply click on the tick or cross in their pending invitation box and won’t actually see the message until they check their email. If someone rejects an invitation LinkedIn offer the options “I don’t know this person” or “Report as Spam” if the recipient chooses either of these that will count as a black mark and if a member receives several in a reasonably short space of time their account may be restricted.

Restrictions are usually short lived, e.g. LinkedIn may insist that you know the person’s email before you can connect or in an extreme case they may suspend the ability to send invitations.

In practice LinkedIn are reasonably lenient and if you space out invitations over a few days and back off if you are being asked to always give the email address then you should be OK.

LinkedIn are inconsistent in the way they allow invitations to be sent – sometimes insisting you have an email at other times, allowing even encouraging you to send a default invitation without an email address.

Conclusion

LinkedIn are at best inconsistent in their attitude towards invitations. This reflects perhaps the conflict which comes from wanting to encourage more activity on the site and yet wanting to protect users from spam and intrusive connection requests.

As with most things in life moderation wins the day. Sending out large volumes of invitation requests to people you don’t know and where there are no mutual connections or obvious benefits is likely to trigger restrictions. Everyday users are unlikely to fall seriously foul of LinkedIn account restrictions and if the worst happens and you do, LinkedIn will write to you and ask you to confirm that in future you will behave a little better.

If you found this useful please share it now so others can too.

To connect or not to connect? That is the question.

December 9, 2014 / admin  / 

When I joined LinkedIn in 2006 the general rule was to only connect with people who you would personally recommend. As a result, people were quite discerning about which invitations they accepted and 200-250 connections was considered a significant network.

Today some people have 10, 20 or even 30 thousand first degree connections in their immediate network (30 thousand is the maximum by the way). Clearly there has been a shift in the way LinkedIn is being used. What has caused this? I think there are three factors:

1. LinkedIn, a public company since 2011, wants to dominate the recruitment and business networking/publishing market and has extremely ambitious growth targets. The company works very hard to encourage members to make new connections and have informally relaxed some of the earlier barriers to connecting.

2. Members have recognised a truth about networking: “The bigger your network, the more opportunities you will find and will find you”.

3. Fear of missing out. When you see others chasing numbers it’s hard not to join in.

Let’s take a step back and revisit your business objectives, why are you on LinkedIn? Which of these reasons would you tick?

Broaden your reach

Foster your professional identity

Build the company brand

Generate leads

Drive traffic to the website

Establish thought leadership

Gather market intelligence

If you are in a niche business, then it may be appropriate to connect extremely selectively to maintain the perceived value of your network which in turn will influence how many of your target audience choose to connect with you. For example, in my previous business my target audience was senior IT sales and marketing executives there was no value in me linking to businesses outside this niche.

Another strategy widely used by recruiters is to become a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). LIONs welcome and accept connection requests from everyone. A LION will usually put this in their headline and display their email address prominently in their profile. The downside of this strategy is although it results in a bigger network the relationships in that network will be weak or in many cases non-existent.

Some people will only connect with people they have met. This will result in a small network with relatively strong relationships, however for most people this is unnecessarily restrictive.

The strategy I use myself and recommend for most businesses is to connect broadly but intelligently. There is value in a bigger network but a bigger network of people with no mutual value is pointless. For example, I had a connection request from a South African landscape gardener recently which needless to say I didn’t accept. I accept about 60% of the invitations I receive.

My target audience is business owners, sales and marketing managers and executives, coaches, and social media managers in the South West of the UK so that is who I send connection invites to. In addition, I link to people I have met online or offline where I consider there is value in being connected which includes many links to people in the US, Australia, and Europe.

Finally, be aware that there are fake profiles out there. If you receive a request from someone with very few connections and a sketchily filled out profile investigate a bit more thoroughly, if in doubt don’t connect.

What criteria do you use to connect? Please share below.

For more information about UK courses click here or contact Greg directly to discuss in-house and online options.

10 Point Recipe for LinkedIn Success

September 24, 2014 / admin  / 

I had the pleasure this month of collaborating with my friend and fellow LinkedIn specialist Sarah Santacroce who is based in Switzerland. Chef Dennis Littley, Food blogger and social media super star invited Sarah and I to appear on a special edition of his show “Good Day Google+” to talk about how to use LinkedIn effectively.

In recognition of Chef Dennis’s standing in the food blogging community we decided to put together our own LinkedIn recipe for success.

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Ingredients (Serves one or a team)

1. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve on LinkedIn.

There are many reasons to be on LinkedIn what are yours? It could be a combination.

  • Broaden your reach

  • Foster your professional identity

  • Build the company brand

  • Generate leads

  • Drive traffic to the website

  • Establish thought leadership

  • Gather market intelligence

  • Other

2. Identify your target audience.

One of the great strengths of LinkedIn is its advanced search capabilities. Depending on your membership level you can filter your search by multiple criteria including relationship, location, current company, industry, company size, job title, group membership, education, post code, keywords to name just some.

The results can then be stored as a “saved search” for further follow up. LinkedIn will also automatically add any new people who meet your criteria to the list and send you a weekly email to tell you about the additions – a great feature.

3. Decide on your approach i.e. your connection strategy

In the early days, LinkedIn instructed members to only connect with people who they would be happy to recommend. Most people adopt a more open approach these days in the belief that a bigger network will mean more exposure and therefore more opportunities.

However, there is a still an ongoing argument between those who accept all connection requests and those who believe in being much more selective. I know some people who will only connect for example with people they have personally met.

My own approach is somewhere in between I accept about 70% of connection requests.

The maximum number of connections that LinkedIn allows is 30,000.

4. Optimise your profile

What do I mean by an optimised profile? This is a profile where all the relevant sections have been completed, which gives a full, accurate and professional representation on who you are and what you offer today. It should have plenty of social proof in the form of endorsements and recommendations to reassure viewers of your credibility.

LinkedIn helpfully display a graphic on the right-hand side of your profile page on the strength of your profile. You should aim for an All-Star profile status.

Profiles that have been optimised generate 5 times more views than those that have not been.

5. Join and be active in relevant groups

LinkedIn has over 2m special interest groups covering everything from drums and bagpipes to social media marketing.

Groups for many people are where the real action is on LinkedIn, a place where you can demonstrate your expertise, build a reputation, and find and engage with potential customers and collaborators.

You can join up to 100 groups. There is no way you can be active in so many of course but by adjusting your notification emails in settings you can keep abreast of what is happening in the most important groups and occasionally dip into to other groups when a discussion grabs your attention.

Remember that as group member LinkedIn allows you to send 15 messages per month to anyone else in the same group. This is a great way therefore to reach out to prospects who you are not currently connected to and a good reason to make sure to join groups where your potential customers are.

6. Being consistently active and visible

As with all social networks rule #1 is to turn up. Post regularly in your top 5 groups. Try to post an update every day on your LinkedIn home page. Any given update is likely to be seen by only 5% or less of your connections so you are unlikely to annoy connections by over posting.

People often comment to me that they have seen my LinkedIn posts which helps me to know it is working.

7. Remember LinkedIn is a social platform

If you really want to be noticed on LinkedIn, notice other people first. Like, comment on and share their posts. Be generous in giving endorsements and recommendations, when merited.

Recognising and affirming other people’s achievements and skills is the quickest and surest way to be recognised for yours.

8. Develop efficient LinkedIn habits

A recent post in a group I belong asked the question, “What is the hardest thing about LinkedIn that stops people using it?”

Interestingly the most common answer was “difficulty in establishing a regular routine.”

Unless you find a way to incorporate LinkedIn into your daily activity then it is unlikely that you will achieve the results you would like.

People in sales and business development roles can easily justify spending one or two hours on LinkedIn every day but for the average user regularly finding 10 or 15 minutes can be a challenge.

If this is you can I suggest you read this article on how to manage LinkedIn on 15 minutes a day.

9. Take advantage of LinkedIn Publisher

In January, LinkedIn announced it was opening its blogging platform to all members. This is currently rolling out. I was lucky to be one of the members to get early access. Speaking from my own and colleagues’ experiences this has been a great success. The posts appear immediately below your photograph at the top of your profile and gradually build into a library so that even older posts attract new viewers and comments.

What has really impressed me has been the level of engagement. Several of my posts have had more than 150 shares and many comments.

If you are an established blogger on LinkedIn, you might be interested in this research by Paul Shapiro on what makes a LinkedIn blog post successful. He analysed over 3,000 LinkedIn posts – read the full article here.

10. LinkedIn and Google+:  a great combination

Whilst LinkedIn is the #1 networking and publishing platform for business it has to be said that at times it can seem a bit dated and lacking in functionality. LinkedIn was born in 2004 before the social media revolution unlike Google+ which is 3 years old and was designed from the ground up as a social platform with lots of great features.

Of course depending on your business it may be that LinkedIn and Twitter or LinkedIn and Facebook are a good combination, but for most business I believe that bring together LinkedIn and Google+ is a rocket fuelled combination.

Indeed, the raison d’etre for this post is a Google+ show where we are talking about LinkedIn – a perfect example. There are many opportunities to cross fertilise both contacts and content between the two platforms.

If you enjoyed this post please share it with others so they can too.

Thanks to Sarah Santacroce for working with me on this post and for Chef Dennis Littley for inviting us both onto his show.

Click through for more information about public, onsite or online Linked courses and consultancy click here.