How to make the most of a free LinkedIn account
Jess Shailes, managing director of Midlands marketing agency The Ideal Marketing Company, explains how to maximise the potential that LinkedIn can offer your business – for free.
With over 500 million profiles registered, LinkedIn has become a powerful business tool. However, that’s also a lot of people vying for attention. So, how can you ensure that you stand out and make the right connections?
Optimising your profile
These are the main areas that are often neglected:
- write a killer headline – aside from your name, this is what shows in searches, so it’s an opportunity to demonstrate some personality and confirm that they’ve found the right person
- add services – you can select one ‘business focus’ from a drop-down list and up to 10 services
- optimise for search – if someone is using the search bar to find what you do or offer, what words will they use? Are these words featured in your headline, profile, summary and services?
- write an engaging bio – a good structure to follow is:
- one paragraph about your story: who you are, what you do, why you do it
- who you want to work with – and why they should work with you
- a call to action – be explicit about the best way to contact you
- is your contact information up to date? – common mistakes include having a Gmail address, the website of an ex-employer or no contact details at all!
- update your public profile and link – you can also change the URL used to access your profile which is helpful if listed in your email signature. You can also decide exactly what people who aren’t connected with you can see
Finding your audience using the search function
Premium paid-for versions may have more search filters, but the search filter in a free LinkedIn account can also be very powerful if used properly. Firstly, think about how well you know your customers. We always start by establishing ‘customer personas’, in part so that we have identified how to target them on sites like LinkedIn.
If your organisation serves other businesses, what industries do they work in? What are the job titles of the people who buy from you? Do they have specific qualifications? What area do you prefer to work in?
Once you have the answers, it's easy to use them in the filters that are available in LinkedIn’s search function. If you’ve identified companies that you’d like to work with, you can find your key person using LinkedIn filters too.
Another way to find good connections is through your existing network. If you’ve identified a useful ‘connector’; one of those people who has a great network, loves to put people in touch and is in contact with your regular customers, you can use the filters to look through their connections.
Accepting LinkedIn connection requests - should you always say yes?
The main reasons that LinkedIn users make connections include:
- Getting in touch to try and sell services/recruit you and to access your contact details/data.
- To build up their connections as a vanity exercise – in these cases, they are rarely concerned by quality.
- A genuine desire to stay in contact, see what you have to say in their feed and to follow up with you.
So, consider: do you really know them? Would you be happy for them to contact you? Are YOU genuinely interested in seeing them in your news feed? If in doubt, it’s acceptable to politely ask why they would like to connect with you before accepting the request.
Sharing content that connects – what to include in your LinkedIn feed
It can be challenging to come up with content that will make you stand out from the crowd on LinkedIn. Your starting point should be your customers: what do they value about what you offer and your skills? How can you write posts that demonstrate your expertise and value?
These same principles apply to writing content for your wider network. While you may not be looking to do business with most of them, treat them like an extended sales force who could work on your behalf. Understanding what you do, the expertise you offer and the value you provide means they’re much more likely to refer you if the opportunity arises.
The following content ideas can all provide inspiration:
- articles or links to blog posts that answer the questions people often have. The best place to look for cornerstone content is within the FAQs you answer and the problems you solve
- ‘did you know?’ facts that are easy to digest
- links to industry articles that are not in competition with you but still valuable to your audience
- ‘get to know the team’ posts – if you are one of a team, make sure you showcase the team you’re working with
When it's worth considering a paid version
Premium plans are increasingly tailored to the different groups of people who would find it worthwhile to pay, specifically:
- those looking for a new job
- those looking to recruit
- those looking for leads or self-services
- those looking to learn or develop skills/learning
If you fit into any of these groups (as many do at some point), it’s worth signing up for a free trial to see if the premium features make a difference. But, even if you stick with the free version, LinkedIn is a powerful and persuasive tool for many businesses – if used the right way.
Jess Shailes is MD and Head of Digital Marketing at full-service marketing agency, The Ideal Marketing Company. She has over a decade’s experience in digital marketing and has seen it evolve from an experimental tool to a key part of marketing strategy for many businesses. In 2015 Jess was named by LinkedIn UK as ‘one of the most connected women in marketing in the UK’ as part of International Women’s Day.