Monday, May 17, 2010

How to use LinkedIn with business savvy

This post is by Brooke Howell, SmartBrief’s small-business editor.


When Lewis Howes crushed his wrist, along with his dream of making his fortune playing football, and ended up bedridden on his sister’s couch with no college degree and no job, he could have made best friends with Ben & Jerry and whiled away the hours watching TV.

Instead, he spent six to eight hours a day experimenting with LinkedIn — tweaking his profile and learning the ins and outs, often through trial and error. After he was able to get up and about, he cut back to about three hours a day and kept on learning.

Sound like a waste of time? Nope. We’re not talking about Facebook here. Howes wasn’t posting pictures of the people who came to sign his cast and taking quizzes to find out which Disney princess he’s most like. He was doing business and growing into a business pro.

“I believe that LinkedIn is the No. 1 social-networking medium on the planet today … for anyone looking to build their business,” Howes told participants in the Social Media Success Summit on Tuesday afternoon.

For Howes, LinkedIn has been just that — and he says it can do the same for you, too.

“Start using it aggressively every day and testing and tweaking to see what works for you,” he suggests.

Luckily, you won’t have to spend quite as many hours learning LinkedIn as Howes did, because he’s happy to share what he learned, not only at SMSS, but with co-author Frank Agin in their book “LinkedWorking: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Website.”

Howes says LinkedIn is so powerful for a number of reasons, including:

  • You can export your contact list into a file that you can keep and analyze.
  • You can have an unlimited number of contacts.
  • Its members are largely business professionals, many of whom are decision-makers.

Like any powerful tool, though, you have to put some thought into how you use LinkedIn, starting with your profile. And every profile, says Howes, must start with a keyword or two. For Howes, the word is “sports.” For you it could be “kitchen contractor,” “tax expert” or “French chef.” What’s important is that it gets at what you are all about.

That keyword needs to appear in five places in your profile:

  1. Headline
  2. Current experience
  3. Past experiences
  4. Summary
  5. List of specialties

Putting the keyword in those five places will help move you up in LinkedIn searches and help people who are looking for experts in your field find and connect with you, says Howes, who is often at the top of searches for “sports.”

In addition to putting your keyword in your summary, he says, you need to be sure that summary answers three important questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who do you want to help?
  3. How are you going to help them?

Answer these questions and write them in a narrative format, not in formal bullet points as you would in a resume, Howes says. He gave more good tips and referred SMSS participants to check out free instructional videos on his website for more information.

It is worth your time to get on LinkedIn and learn to use it with savvy as an important business tool. The great thing about the medium is that you can use its best features for free, which is great for everyone and especially useful to entrepreneurs, independent contractors, solo businesses and small companies that may not have the bucks to spend on marketing and other outreach efforts.

Have you achieved business success with the help of LinkedIn? Tell us about it and share your tips.

For more great sessions on how to develop a social-media strategy and maximize your efforts, check out the continuing 100% online Social Media Success Summit that (full disclosure) SmartBrief helped plan. For access to the whole session and many others, sign up here.

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