While LinkedIn might be best known as the networking site for job hunters, it is also an important place for startups to develop and foster relationships that will help build your new business. Here are some tips for startups that will help you make the most of LinkedIn:
- Establish a page for your business. All new businesses, even solopreneurs, should create a separate LinkedIn page in the name of their business that describes clearly and succinctly what their new venture offers and includes a call to action (e.g. “check out our web site!”).
- Join lots of groups. Search the keywords for your business and industry to find groups containing potential customers and influential people in your field. You can be a member of up to 50 groups at a time. I recommend that you join and observe for a short while, and then, when appropriate, add thoughtful comments to the discussion. Your posts shouldn’t be too sales-y in nature, but rather provide useful advice and establish you and your company as experts on the matter at hand. Once you’ve made a comment, continue to monitor the discussion, responding to both negative and positive feedback. You can withdraw from groups that prove to be less useful at any time. And if you don’t find a group that suits you, start your own! (Ready to get started? Here are three groups chock-full of information for starting a new business: Wicked Start, SCORE Association, and On Startups.)
- Create a content plan. As with all your social media efforts, you want to post with a purpose. I find that the easiest way to do this is to create a calendar with themes for each week or month. This helps me stay in sync with other marketing efforts and makes it easier to focus on which group discussions to follow at any given time. It also helps ensure that I vary the types of content I post – including reposts, asking questions, linking to interesting news, posting photos, and so forth.
- Use data to determine what works. Everything you do on LinkedIn should be in line with your larger business objectives, so you should be tracking all your activities to see which ones are most successful. Are some topics or types of content generating more interest than others? Do your posts on specific days of the week drive more traffic to your web site than posting other days? It can be hard to predict exactly what will work for your startup, so keep testing new approaches until you get it right.
- Have fun. If you are enjoying your time on LinkedIn, chances are that the people with whom you are interacting are having a good time, too. Observe the basic etiquette of social media (follow your following, don’t overshare, keep it civil, obey the golden rule). And don’t be afraid to keep your tone light and to inject some humor into the conversation whenever it is appropriate to do so.