With over 120 million members, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network. There are certain features of the online resume and networking tool that require paid membership; however the majority of the site is free. Here are five ways you can utilise the tool in business:

  1. Connect with everyone you meet in a business sense – e.g. clients, suppliers, partners, prospects and other contacts you meet at networking events, tradeshows and seminars. LinkedIn also has functionality that allows you to import a list of contacts from your email account.
  2. Complete your personal profile, including details about your skills, work experience and education. You can also add a photo, ask your connections to make recommendations about you and personalise your URL which gives you a link that is easier to share with others.
  3. Set-up a company profile and add a company overview, products or services your organisation provides and a company logo.
  4. Join relevant industry groups. Here you can share ideas, post questions and find answers to topical industry issues that other group members can comment on.
  5. Post regular content updates and link these through to your website, e.g. articles or blog posts, opinion pieces on industry news, relevant events, industry studies/reports etc. You can also link up with social media tools such as Twitter so that one post can be shared across multiple platforms automatically.

Additional LinkedIn features include the applications platform which allows online services such as Tripit, WordPress and Amazon to be embedded within a member’s profile page and post updates; and the ability to request and post recommendations on a colleague, product or service you’ve had experience with.

LinkedIn also provides a number of paid opportunities for you to promote yourself, your company and its products and services:

Premium accounts – LinkedIn offers three levels of paid accounts which offer a number of additional account features including the ability to send direct emails (InMails) without waiting for an introduction, see more profiles when you search and view expanded profiles, access the Profile Organiser that allows you to track and file your connections into specific workspace, and access more specific details on who has viewed your profile.

LinkedIn ads – this service enables you to hone in on your target audience, allowing you to specify who sees your ad based on their job role, gender, age, geographical location and what LinkedIn groups they belong to. On the downside, the minimum cost per click or cost per 1,000 impressions in LinkedIn ads is $2 – high compared to Google AdWords, however you can target a more specific audience.

Job listings – LinkedIn offers straightforward job posting packages that start at US$195 for a 30-day posting. There are also a number of other paid options including a recruitment solution, a referral engine, company career pages, and ad space on your company’s profile page.

In our experience, we’ve found that most people are using LinkedIn regularly for steps 1-4 above; setting up personal and company profiles, adding connections and joining groups. While that is a vital starting point to allow you to share business information and ideas and collaborate with colleagues, it’s using LinkedIn as a marketing tool that will really help build your LinkedIn profile and presence.

Use your network to build appreciation of your company’s brand and develop stronger relationships. Share relevant content, ideas, company news, achievements and more.

If you’re sick of seeing your LinkedIn news feed filled with who’s now connected to who, or who has changed their profile picture, then lead the way by sharing content and partaking in relevant discussions. Viewers of your news feed will thank you for it.

How to really use LinkedIn: Click here to view a great infographic, “LinkedIn boot camp – basic training for the personal marketer”.

www.linkedin.com

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