If you’re a business professional or looking to sell or promote yourself in a ‘business to business’ (B2B) environment, LinkedIn should be your social network of choice. LinkedIn, unlike the other social networks, is one that is specifically and unapologetically tailored for businesses and business people.

What is LinkedIn?
Learn more about the social network aimed solely at business professionals

LinkedIn can be accessed through the internet, either through a web browser or dedicated apps. Aside from desktop or laptop computers, LinkedIn can also be accessed and used via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

LinkedIn in many ways resembles Facebook, in that all users have a profile of their own which they can extensively populate, through which they can connect with acquaintances to whom they can post updates and links of interest. Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows companies to have a Company Page (which can be edited and managed by registered LinkedIn users) and has a vast network of LinkedIn Groups, which are discussion boards set up and managed by LinkedIn users on every (and any) subject under the sun.

Of course, the big difference is that LinkedIn is professional in its outlook and function, and there is an expectation that users will use the network as such, no family holiday or baby snaps here. It is through LinkedIn that you can project a professional ‘brand image’ for yourself or your organisation… or both.

LinkedIn also acts as an incredibly powerful search engine to find individuals and businesses by any criteria that you can think of. Whereas Facebook actively encourages users to post personal information for the benefit for Facebook advertisers, LinkedIn does so as well but also for the benefit of other LinkedIn users.

The power of ‘search’ on LinkedIn has long led to it being mistakenly dismissed as just a place where people go to look for jobs or for employers looking to headhunt without incurring expensive recruitment agency fees. While it can be used in this fashion, that is really only skimming the surface of what is an incredibly powerful (if occasionally cumbersome) business tool.

The main power of LinkedIn lies in the fact that it allows you to keep in touch with and broadcast to your professional contacts in a ‘light touch’ manner. Think of it as a Rolodex crossed with both a Christmas card and public noticeboard. Make a point of connecting with all business people that you meet at networking events and other environments on LinkedIn – this ensures that LinkedIn acts as a de facto CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, and it also allows you to find out more about those people and their businesses.

This is why having a professional LinkedIn profile is so important. In many ways, it is an online CV that allows you to show off all your professional and educational qualifications, as well as providing a forum to post a potted history of yourself and showcase your skill set. However, unlike a traditional CV, LinkedIn users can write recommendations and give endorsements for other LinkedIn User’s skills. This is incredibly powerful psychologically as only other LinkedIn users can do this. They also do so publicly (their LinkedIn profiles are publicly linked to their recommendations and references for that person).

Out of the two, LinkedIn recommendations are the better as they take the form of written statements. One can either request recommendations from other users, or they can provide them unprompted. Recommendations can be linked to a specific job role, and it is always good to encourage referees to write in terms of specifics (“Joe helped me with X on Y project”) rather than just generalities (“Joe is exceptionally courteous and reliable”).

LinkedIn endorsements are far simpler in both concept and in process and therefore of less value (although I would still not turn any away). Reminiscent of the card game Top Trumps, users can list up to 50 skills or qualities, and other users can tick a box on your profile to vouch for them (again, their endorsement is linked to their own LinkedIn profile). Because these are so easy to dish out and lack the in-depth context of a written recommendation, LinkedIn endorsements are sometimes viewed as having little impact, although en masse they can be psychologically useful in attracting new clients.

Apart from allowing users to post into a newsfeed where all their connections can see their posts (and vice-versa), LinkedIn Groups can be fantastic forums in which people can discuss issues of concern with professional peers in a neutral forum or to engage with new business people in your locality. There seems to be an infinite number of subjects on which LinkedIn Groups are based, and Nick Lewis Communications’ clients have found new business in off-topic forums as well as more traditional channels.

The above description only superficially touches the surface of what LinkedIn can do. For business professionals, LinkedIn should be considered as one of their primary social media channels.

Nick Lewis Communications can provide training in LinkedIn as well as offer professional management of LinkedIn Company Pages. To find out, please e-mail info@nicklewiscommunications.com or call 07970 839137.