After doing an introductory teleconference on LinkedIn® last week, I started thinking about the most important things companies can do to leverage LinkedIn for business right now while waiting for more new features. The company pages are currently in beta, meaning not quite full-featured yet, but what if you want to get started right away?
1. Since company pages have fewer features now, it’s a perfect time to concentrate on your company’s strategy for LinkedIn. First, take some time to explore other company’s profiles and industry-related Groups so you’ll be prepared to make the most of your own. Next, ask yourself:
- Why does my company want a presence on LinkedIn anyway?
- What are the company goals for LinkedIn?
- What message do we need to communicate about the company as a whole?
- How much time and energy can we put into our LinkedIn presence on a regular basis?
2. Once you have a strategic vision, and a clue what other people are up to, create a company page. Pay careful attention to your company description, it should be accurate and easy to read—for many businesses the tone will be more “casual Friday” than “button-down boardroom.”
When you list your company specialties, be sure and use language that makes sense based on known phrases or keywords in your industry. Separate each term with a comma so that it appears as a separate, searchable term. Notice that the specialties are hyperlinked. When you click on a term, LinkedIn runs a search of all companies that describe themselves with the same language. Choose your words carefully.
For example, I could choose to list one of our company specialties as “Digital Strategy.” If so, more than 4 thousand other companies come up in a search of that term. When I changed it to “Digital Strategy Coaching,” only 11 results come up. Since we want to be accurate, and don’t want to get lost in a sea of listings, I went with terms that put us in a smaller group by being more descriptive rather than more general. Your strategy may vary, but it makes sense to think about the implications of your choices and to test out each term you include.
3. Encourage the members of your company to create a Personal Profile on LinkedIn. When employees add a current position, they will automatically be connected to your company profile and it will be updated accordingly.
Smaller businesses may do well to have all employees participate by posting their current job description and relevant experience (at the very least) because it provides a better overview of the company.
I’ve also heard small business owners express concern that their employees will be poached by competitors based on LinkedIn profiles.
Back to strategy. If a small business owner worries about employee retention, perhaps it’s a good time to review employee treatment and concerns—even in a challenging economy excellent, employees are likely to have options. Weighing the costs, benefits, and norms of transparency in your industry should all be part of developing your strategy.
4. Would it make sense for your company, or your company and key partners, to have a closed group on LinkedIn?
If you’re satisfied with your current communication channels, then adding another one may be overkill. If you have employees or partners in faraway places, and haven’t settled on a collaboration platform, the Huddle™ application for LinkedIn will allow you to work securely with connections no matter where they may be.
5. Search existing LinkedIn Groups to determine where potential partners, clients, and competitors are likely to hang out.
If you discover relevant Groups with decent membership numbers and constructive conversations, then join and participate consistently. If not, then it may make sense to create a new Group to address client needs or to explore challenges facing your industry.
LinkedIn has already has cultural norms and you ignore them at your own risk. Whether joining existing groups or creating new ones, effective participation includes providing value with your contributions, resisting blatant self-promotion, and respecting Group rules and norms.
Don’t forget to check out the LinkedIn blog for news about new features every once in a while.