Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can LinkedIn Really Help with New Business Development?

I am determined to figure out the best ways to use LinkedIn for marketing. As a PR and marketing consultant, social media is a great tool for me. Many consultants swear by LinkedIn as a way to find new contacts, build networks, share information and generally just make yourself look smart.

But can you get business from it or is LinkedIn just the world’s largest database?

The answer is I really don’t know. I have used LinkedIn successfully in the past in several ways that are helpful:

Team Building – When I need to put together teams of people to go after large contracts, and I am missing a key team member, LinkedIn has provided a resource for finding new talent.

Prospect and Database Development – I network a lot and each time I meet a new contact, I send an invite to join my LinkedIn database. This is part expediency (it’s easier than inputting cards into my system, and people respond quickly and remember you), and part a way of connecting that is not a direct request for business.

Building Attention for Blogs and Other Writings – I belong to many LinkedIn groups, actually I think I’m over the limit, and a handful I monitor regularly. I have several blogs and posting a link and note on a group that may care about what I’ve written drives traffic to my spaces.

Twitter and Facebook for Business Associates – I tweet about all sorts of things – from Paul Simon’s performance of Sounds of Silence at Ground Zero to how hard it is to teach my 15 year-old son to drive. But on LinkedIn I can “tweet” the professional stuff that interests me and not worry about the entire universe seeing it.

Keeping Up With Journalists – I am connected to many journalists on LinkedIn and I can keep up with them this way without reading endless Twitter feeds.

Monitoring the Conversation – Some LinkedIn discussions are pure drivel, others go on forever, and others I’ve learned from. One conversation on How do you know if someone really doesn’t understand marketing? resulted in a blog post, that resulted in a news article, and the conversation is still ongoing.

Much of the talk is about stuff I already know but it’s good to be reminded and I have learned some new things.

Looking for New Work – I’ve had former clients (and unfortunately boyfriends) find me on LinkedIn, and sometimes when I get wind of a new project I can look up a person from that company and ask for help connecting. This seems to work well. Of course you have to pay a fee to use the InMail function but it’s worth it.

But can LinkedIn be used for Marketing?

I digress. Can LinkedIn be used for business development? I am trying. For the last couple of months I have been going through my list of 600 or so LinkedIn connections and getting in touch with those that I think I could partner with or help. I’ve met with about a dozen of them for coffee or lunch, depending on how well I know them.

I’ve found a lot of job seekers who I’ve helped more than they’ve helped me. But I’ve also gotten some leads. Stay tuned for an update. And feel free to comment and offer your own advice.