By guest blogger Heidi Rasmussen of freshbenies.

Have you heard of They create more, shall we say, "direct," catchphrases for well-known companies. For instance, WebMD's honest slogan is "Convince yourself you have a terminal illness" – so true! For LinkedIn, they've come up with, "Connect with people for no good reason at all."

Six months ago, I would've agreed. I've been a LinkedIn member since 2007 and really used it as an online resume and a place to connect with other professionals – again, for no real reason other than because it might come in handy someday.

Turns out, I was right! Recently, I've used it for much more and I have a few tips to share...

1) Start with the basics

This seems like a non-point, but SO many people get it wrong. There are a million theories but here are my thoughts...

  • Take some time to actually do it – This is your chance to tell who you are, what you do and how you work. LinkedIn is getting more popular and it's used more to actually do business (vs. just store information).
  • Do it right – This is a page about you. What's your brand? What do you stand for? Don't quickly throw up (I mean that in all senses of the phrase) a page.
  • Keep it simple – For instance, list your previous jobs with 1 or 2 sentence explanations, not a book about every little detail of every job you've ever had.
  • Use "normal person" speak – Please spare people from having to read sentences like "Developed and maintained vendor partnerships while executing negotiation strategies relative to product costs, shipping, and return issues while maximizing margin opportunities." (This is a real cut/paste from LinkedIn!) How about, "Negotiated with over 60 vendors resulting in +10% margin improvement"? It never hurts to actually throw in some factoids about how you were successful in each gig!
  • Have a profile picture – 1) just have one – I shouldn't even need to note this, but so many people are missing a photo, 2) that is not a selfie or taken in a non-business setting – this is a PROFESSIONAL social network.
  • Use the Summary section to tell who you truly are – Follow all the rules above, but use this section to give a quick overview of "you". Answer these questions: What am I good at? Why am I good at it? Why would someone want to work with me?
  • Don't be sales-y – There's a fine line between providing useful information about who you are/what you do and pitching yourself and/or your product. Take care not to cross it!

If you haven't taken the simple actions above, you're not ready to invite people to your page, so start there!

2) Work your networks

How many LinkedIn connections do you have? Now, measure that against how many contacts you have in your email account. Or, against how many people you have in your customer database.

Did you know you can upload all your email account contacts (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) and LinkedIn will automatically locate and connect with them? You can also create an Excel file of everyone in your database or CRM and upload them for the same result.

NOTE: Gird your loins, because you'll start getting a million emails as people accept your connection. I went from 1200 connections one day to 3000+ about 2 weeks later. As a result, I've had multiple conversations with new connections about how my product can help them. Soon, I'll be able to attach revenue and profit numbers to those connections.

3) Take advantage of being a publisher

Until recently, LinkedIn allowed only "big name influencers" to publish content. In February, they opened up the publishing ability to 25,000 members and are steadily expanding to more. What does this mean? Many people (maybe even you – look for the little pencil icon where you'd normally share an update) can publish long-form original content that is not only pushed out to their connections – it's also picked up and shared with thousands of LinkedIn users.

I was "awarded" publisher status in June and have since published nine articles. Results have ranged from 50 views/1 like/0 comments to 6300 views/267 likes/52 comments. I've learned some valuable lessons about what makes a published post viral...

  • Good, helpful, actionable content – not pitch-ey drivel. Your #1 goal should be to help people navigate the industry, not sell your product/services.
  • Focused content – Determine your brand and topics. Then, stick with it. It confuses people if you write "5 Tips for Choosing a Rock Star Insurance Broker" one week and "3 Reasons Why I Love Sailing" the next.
  • A catchy headline & image – These need to work together, be intriguing and draw people in FAST.
  • Scannable content – People are busy, so put your main points into chunks and bullets so it can be quickly scanned and easily read.
  • Publish dates/times – When you publish makes a big difference.
  • K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple and speak like a normal person. Ask yourself, "If this article came across my feed, would I read it?"
  • Get people talking – We're in a somewhat controversial industry, so ask for comments. Any interaction with your article sparks the algorithm to serve your content to more people.
  • Tell them who you are - Many people won't go to your profile page to learn more about you. A well-written "About the author" blurb is a necessity. This is where you can tell who you are, why you write and it's a great place to sneak in a phrase about what you do/your product.
  • Luck – Sometimes an article just hits at the right time and gets served to the right audience. Sometimes it just doesn't.

As a result of my ability to publish, I've been in contact with many of our current brokers who aren't producing and I've been able to make new connections with brokers/clients who aren't yet working with us. Soon, I'll be able to attach revenue and profit numbers to those interactions.

4) REALLY work your networks

There's "adding connections" and then there's "truly connecting" with other LinkedIn members. Those are two very different activities. Here's what I mean: we have a national contract with a large brokerage, but all the offices are independent. The national office doesn't do anything to promote our product to their offices or provide a contact list for all their producers.

Through LinkedIn, we were able to search for people who work for this brokerage and find those that had "producer-like" titles. Next, we sent a focused connection request, "Hi Joe! Thought I'd connect - I'm working with many {insert BROKERAGE NAME} offices with freshbenies (telehealth, advocacy & other non-insurance services), but I haven't had a chance to work with you. Do you have a few minutes to talk sometime in the week ahead? Talk soon! Heidi"

Do you know what happened? We had to stop after the first day because we were getting too many responses to handle! We've since started working with 15+ new producers and soon, will be able to attach revenue and profit numbers to those interactions.

If you don't have a plan, the "Connect with people for no good reason at all" slogan is right on. However, if you think through ways you can use this valuable network and come up with an actionable plan, it can be worth added revenue and profit for your business.

Stay tuned for more! I may just have some more learnings to share about LinkedIn Groups, Business Pages and Ads.

Now, it's your turn! How do you use LinkedIn to build your business? What tips do you have?


Photo by WaD