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The do's and don'ts of LinkedIn



When interacting with professionals on LinkedIn, you need a unique social-media playbook



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By Elizabeth Nash
Published: January 10, 2017
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LinkedIn, with more than 433 million members, is the most-used business social-media site in existence. “Business” is the key word here, as people are on LinkedIn to connect with others in their industry and possibly help advance their careers. The site can be used to find out about certain companies, discover new ones, and stay in the know with industry news.

LinkedIn has two functions that you’ll find useful as a hobby retailer:

One is the personal profile, where you can network with like-minded professionals and companies, whether they are other small-business owners or companies related to the hobby industry.

The other is the ability to create a separate page for your business where customers, prospective employees and other people in the industry can connect to see what’s going on in your store.

Although LinkedIn looks like other social-media sites, the tone feels drastically different due to its professional nature. So with that in mind, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when networking on LinkedIn.

 

DO Create a home base. Before focusing on your business, you’ll need to fill out a personal profile.

Anyone on LinkedIn can visit here. People connected within the industry may look at your profile when deciding who they want to do business with.

Put your best foot forward by including your work history, accomplishments and personal mottos within the proper fields. Be as thorough as possible, and always write with a consideration to what the reader will take away.

 

DON’T Leave out your business. Once you have a personal profile up and running, you’ll want to make a company page.

Once again, be as detailed as possible. Add your store’s specialties and links to your website and other social-media accounts.

In the “about” section, describe who you are, what you do and how to get in touch with you. Define your mission statement and the services you provide to customers. If someone takes the time to visit your profile, you’ll want to give them all the information they need to understand what you do and how to contact you.

LinkedIn business pages rank high in search-engine results, so utilize strong keywords to drive people to your store’s profile, your website and, eventually, your brick-and-mortar store.

 

DON’T Hide your face. When sifting through LinkedIn, the number of profile pictures featuring flowers, dogs or just grayed-out placeholder figures will amaze you. Don’t follow this trend.

As a professional networking site, it’s important to keep your profile image professional. You don’t need a headshot, but your image should still clearly show who you are. Avoid extreme close ups, selfies or “cut outs” (where you zoom into a small portion of the original image to cut other people out).

Use your store’s logo as the profile picture on your company page.

You also want to avoid low-resolution images, as nothing says “unprofessional” like a picture with heavy pixilation. LinkedIn recommends a size of 400-by-400 pixels.

 

DO Connect with strangers. LinkedIn has three levels of connections:

1st degree connections are people you have connected with personally. You can send them messages (InMail) and the posts they create will appear on your feed.

2nd degree connections are all of the connections of your connections you have not connected with yourself. You cannot send them messages (unless you have a premium account), but if one of your mutual contacts likes or shares your post, they’ll see it.

3rd degree connections are the connections of all your 2nd degree connections; while they appear in searches, you’ll need to specify how you know them in order to connect.

You can send and receive connection requests. Some of these will be from people you have met or share real-life connections with, but others will be strangers.

If you find yourself with a request from a stranger, ask yourself these questions: Is he a part of my industry? Should I know him? Is he a leader in his field? Might his connections be useful to me?

If you answer “yes” to any of these, then go ahead and connect. Immediately reach out and introduce yourself. Find out why this person is on LinkedIn and if you two can help one another. This is a quick way to turn a stranger into a possible ally.

Obviously, if the request seems to be coming from a spam or irrelevant account, do not accept it. You don’t want your connections to be built on nothing. It won’t do your business any good or build the brand awareness you want.

When searching and adding people in LinkedIn, you may be prompted to say where you know them from. If you’ve never met the person you would like to connect with, don’t worry. Select your current business and occupation from the menu and write a brief introduction explaining why you’re connecting.

The more 1st degree connections you have, the larger your extended network, and the more people with whom you can network.

 

DO Ask for recommendations. One handy feature of LinkedIn is the ability to ask for recommendations from people. Anyone you worked with in a professional setting, from employees to clients, can give you a recommendation.

To ask for a recommendation, go to your profile, find the drop-down menu under your profile picture and click “Ask to be recommended.” Similarly, you can give recommendations to your connections, which is a nice way to show how you appreciate their talents.

 

DO Post the right content. Just like on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll want to post content that will be seen by your followers. Unlike on Facebook and Twitter, that funny picture of you sticking your tongue out at your family’s holiday party doesn’t belong on LinkedIn. Similarly, any political or overly personal content is inappropriate. If you wouldn’t say it at work, don’t put it on LinkedIn.

So what should you post? People on LinkedIn are there to make connections and stay up-to-date on industry news. But they are also there to learn and be motivated. Follow this advice direct from LinkedIn: Every update should convey your brand promise and values. But don’t forget that LinkedIn members want informative, insightful, inspirational content —not self-serving promotion. By delivering useful and interesting content, you’ll foster engagement and help spread your message faster.

Post ideas, thoughts, videos, links to a blog or other articles that inspire you. What advice did you take that might help your connections? What piece of news needs to be shared?

It’s fine to post about your business, too. Tell people about new job openings, products, store announcements, events, camps, workshops, classes, etc. People want to know about your company’s culture, and you want to show that your store is a happening place and a leader in the industry.

To keep your overly promotional voice in check, share three posts about other topics for every update you create about your business.

 

DON’T Forget links. Always include relevant links in your updates to encourage people to interact with your post. You can send people directly to your home page, a specific product or job listing, or to your online forum if you have one. And while it’s good to include links that lead directly to your site, don’t be afraid to send people elsewhere. If you read an article that you find inspiring and think your LinkedIn community would appreciate, post a link to the page.

If you have a YouTube channel (read about creating YouTube videos in next month’s issue), LinkedIn is the perfect platform on which to share that content. How-to and product-review videos show that you are an expert in your field and add credibility to your profile and page.

 

DO Interact. The largest business social-media site is just that—social. To build brand loyalty, it’s important that you communicate with your connections. Always answer questions and respond to comments in a timely fashion. This shows that you’re listening and are grateful they reached out to you.

If you decide you want more interaction, you can join Linked-In Groups. Use the search bar to find people who have similar interests as you or are in the same line of business. Here you can discuss issues, ask and answer questions, and make business contacts.

If you can’t find a pre-existing group to join, you can create your own. From there you can start conversations, invite people in your field to join, and assign moderator roles to others. Checking in with your groups often is a good way to stay connected and increase awareness of your brand.

 

DO Keep a posting schedule. According to LinkedIn, companies that post 20 times per month reach, on average, at least 60 percent of their audience.

Experiment with times to discover your optimal post schedule and then stick to it. If you can, post once a day. At the very least, try to post once a week and always post your biggest news while it’s still relevant.

 

DON’T Set it and forget it. You get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. If you don’t update your account regularly, your page will become stagnant.

Don’t let months go by in-between posts. This signals to viewers that your company is not active and that you won’t respond if someone reaches out. Stick to your posting schedule, respond to comments and interact with your groups. Do this and you’ll have a healthy, lively looking site.

 


LinkedIn is the place for you to network and talk about business—including your business. It may not be as flashy as other social-media sites, but chances are you’ll learn a good deal more about the hobby industry here.

 


Elizabeth Nash is associate editor of
Model Retailer.