And, your business growth depends on you NOT being a wallflower.
I know many of you struggle with whether or not you should be active on LinkedIn (the short answer is “Hell yes!!”). I believe most of you have a strong sense that you should, but you question how/if it can actually help you grow your business.
As you’ve already figured out from my short answer above, I see active participation on LinkedIn as an absolute must in order to reach your full potential in today’s online business world.
Set appropriate expectations
When you think of business growth, your likely first thought is new revenue. And, of course, that is the eventual growth we all need in order to survive and thrive as businesses. However, there is also the professional growth we all need in order to eventually achieve sustainable revenue growth. Active engagement on LinkedIn can drive both, just maybe not on the timeline you would prefer.
If you expect to show up online today and have new business tomorrow, or if you even expect to be able to draw a direct connection between what you do online each day and a new client, you will become frustrated very quickly.
Sure, new clients will happen, but think of online engagement as a powerful combination of professional growth opportunities taking place among a fertile environment of prospects.
Professional growth through industry transformation
This is the single greatest era of transformational change our industry has ever experienced and I see social media in general, and LinkedIn specifically, as the greatest platform-of-change in business today. We all have a responsibility to participate and help shape that transformation, which means being active participants in the discussion. Sometimes we’ll agree, sometimes we won’t. Regardless, we all grow from the interactions.
I get it, it can be a bit scary
I know the thought of putting your ideas out there for the rest of the world to consume and potentially criticize is a bit scary, but get over it. That zone of discomfort that scares you a bit is where great things happen.
Social media is a place to challenge traditional thinking but to also allow our own thinking to be challenged. It’s not a place to be safe, but it’s also not a place to be an ass.
I love it when there is a healthy tension in the conversation. I know that leads us to re-evaluate what we think we know and to gain a new perspective. It’s only when we find a new perspective that most of us are driven to make a change.
Personal growth can only happen as a result of change, and change that isn’t the result of debate and introspection is rarely the right change.
But, where is the ROI?
Every investment, whether financial or time, has to drive an ROI.
Think of LinkedIn as a networking event that sits on your computer or phone whenever you’re ready to show up.
I know you’re no stranger to traditional networking. You belong to the Chamber, you join networking groups, you hang out in places where you expect to meet prospects. And you only continue doing so if a reasonable amount of new business, the ROI, follows.
Networking on social media isn’t really all that much different from traditional networking events. Rarely do you go to a networking event (traditional or online) and leave with a new client, but you will never set the actions in motion that will lead to a new client if you don’t show up.
Choose the right “event” – Traditionally this has meant showing up at events where your target clients hang out. On social media that means joining relevant discussion groups and connecting with the right folks. Over time, you become familiar with one another, earn trust, have an old-fashioned phone call, and maybe, eventually do business together.
Hint – Find LinkedIn user groups that focus on three things: 1. Issues that will build your general business acumen; 2. Issues that will drive your professional/technical growth; 3. Issues that are top-of-mind for your prospects/clients.
Frequency – You know that the more traditional networking events you attend, the more likely you are to meet that right prospect, center-of-influence, etc. The same universal truth holds on LinkedIn: show up on a regular basis and you become a familiar, comfortable presence.
The cool thing about online networking is you don’t have to show up at the same time as your target audience. Your shared article, comment made, or invitation to connect will still be there waiting for that future prospect the next time they come online.
Hint – Start by setting aside 15 minutes a day to start building a habit of simply showing up.
Introductions – Obviously, it doesn’t benefit you to go to that cocktail reception and sit at a table by yourself. The ROI from your attendance will never come if you don't introduce yourself to anyone. Again, same with LinkedIn. Develop and execute on a strategy to regularly connect to the right people: targeted prospects, community and industry influencers, thought leaders, etc.
Hint – Set a weekly goal to send connection invitations to X number of people. You don’t need to limit connections to only people you want to do business with. Connecting with influencers is just as important. I would suggest you include industry thought leaders, future potential prospects, community leaders, and any others who may have an influence on your prospects.
Engagement – Of course, it doesn’t do you any good to simply make an introduction and never actually have a conversation. Online, this means commenting on ideas shared by others, sharing your own ideas, or simply sharing other’s ideas with which you agree.
Hint – Start by setting a daily goal of liking something you read, leaving a brief comment on something you read, and sharing something you read. If daily feels like too much right away, then start with 3x/wk.
Be interesting – Just like in traditional networking, anyone who is more interested in themselves and their own agenda will never be interesting to anyone else. Not much better are those who simply take a safe route in conversations. The more you bring an interesting perspective to a conversation, the more interesting you will be to others. Let your personality show.
Hint – The more you read, the more ideas you will have to share. And you will be more interesting if you share your opinion on those ideas rather than simply sharing the idea itself.
How do I “do” social?
For me, the simple answer is I show up consistently (usually a handful of times per day) and speak as openly and honestly as I can. I say what I feel needs to be said, but do my best to be respectful and fair along the way. My LinkedIn headline describes my goal, “Insurance industry antagonist and champion all wrapped in one.”
I have found a measure of success on LinkedIn because I know what I want to accomplish, have a strategy to make it happen, and spend a bit of time each day on its execution.
See what I mean? The LinkedIn business world really isn’t that much different from the one you’ve always known; it’s simply more convenient.