The unexpected rise and pivot of LinkedIn in 2020 — and how business owners should respond

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As a social platform, LinkedIn is a bit of a hybrid.

For a lot of individuals, it is seen as a career mover. It’s a place to explain your professional background and look for job opportunities.

For others, it is seen as a business development tool to find and engage with decision-makers in particular industries.

But over the last eight months, LinkedIn has completely shifted and cemented its place as the social networking platform for people when they are at work.

Throughout lockdown and with the increase in flexible working arrangements, LinkedIn has become the only place for people to connect, engage, learn and contribute ideas with other professionals in their communities.

And this reality has led to a growth of over 25 million users (4%) quarter-on-quarter since the start of the year.

As a consultant to small businesses, this growth is something I have noticed quite personally.

Before this year, I would receive a handful of requests to facilitate LinkedIn training, and the majority of it was for business development and utilising the platform for selling.

Recently, however, I have received call after call from small business owners and leaders wanting to know how they can use LinkedIn to continue engaging with their most important customers and leads without their usual, in-person channels.

It is a big shift for small business owners. But one that will inevitably make LinkedIn a more dynamic and friendly platform to take part in every day.

So for business owners looking to deepen existing relationships, make new ones and communicate with (potentially) hundreds of people from behind their computer screen, here are my tips on how to get the most out of LinkedIn.

1. Do your research

Take some time to get to know the platform.

Look at what companies and individuals in your industry are doing including your peers. And take note of what posts you are interested in or stop to look at.

2. Set up your profile

Set yourself up, and act as the representative of your company.

People connect with people more than they follow companies, so being active and consistent on LinkedIn as an individual is your first step.

Make sure your headline connects you to your company, and you also have your company set up and listed as your current place of employment.

3. Build your network quickly

Connect with people at your work, in your industry, people who may be potential customers, people you went to university with, et cetera.

Most likely they will be happy to accept your connection and you will begin to get a regular news feed of interesting content.

4. Add it to your social rotation

Remember that LinkedIn is still a social networking platform, just like Facebook or Instagram — with the key difference that you have your professional attire on.

If you think of it as a work event versus a New Years Eve party, you can keep tabs on your behaviour and language.

5. Not sure what to post?

Most things you do day-to-day may seem a bit ordinary because you have been doing them for so long. But to others, they are very cool, even entertaining.

I have a connection on LinkedIn who sells a product for train tracks, and whenever he visits a site he posts pictures and talks about the history of the train line, and what work they are doing to service it. He isn’t pitching to his audience, but is adding value instead.

Adding value is something people will remember and after a while, the number of people seeing his posts was in the thousands. 

6. Check in consistently

See if you can make a habit of jumping onto the platform every few days and interacting with your connections.

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