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LinkedIn: it’s the friend of every entrepreneur but, are you using it right?

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LinkedIn has long been my favourite social media platform.

I joined in October 2006 and was the 7,859,355th member to join.

There are now more than 225 million registered LinkedIn users. About four million of those are Australian.

I always find it strange when I meet someone and then discover they are not on LinkedIn. Isn’t anyone who’s in business using this network to their advantage?

Perhaps not. Then, there are those who don’t quite seem to understand its potential.

Here are some tips to ensure that you make the most of LinkedIn.

1. Be interesting

Put some thought into your profile, especially the Summary section. People do actually read this.

Make sure it reads well, is grammatically correct and, make sure it supports every other part of your business and brand.

2. Get past the first date

Just because you are connected to someone, don’t just jump in and tell them what you can do for them and how much you will charge. As with all social media, treat LinkedIn like a social occasion, albeit a business one.

If you’re at a business function, you don’t just lumber up to a client you want to land and start off the conversation like that. So, why would it be any different online? Take the time to understand the business of your new LinkedIn contact. Ask them about their business before you start telling them about yours.

By opening up the discussion this way, you will probably get a response. Launching in with a hard sell almost guarantees that you won’t be getting another email from them. Get to the second date (email exchange), explain briefly about what you do and then ask how you can help – don’t tell them.

3. Have a strategy

Know who you want to connect to and, why. Don’t just randomly connect to people that LinkedIn recommends.

Otherwise you come across as fragmented and, sometimes, a bit like a stalker. If there is no obvious reason why you should be connected, then think about why you are asking.

It’s not enough to just send a ‘I want to add you to my professional LinkedIn network’ standardised connection request. While these requests need to be short and succinct, give context and a reason for connecting. It comes back to point #1 – be interesting, but not whacky or weird (think #2).

4. Be organised

A less known aspect of LinkedIn is being able to categorise your connections. If you don’t, they all end up being labelled as uncategorised by default.

It can be a time consuming task to categorise your entire list of connections, especially once you start hitting the hundreds, let alone the thousands. But, it’s worth it.

Alex Pirouz, an Anthill contributor and founder of Linkfluencer, has some tips about this.

“By segmenting my connections, I was able to quickly work out which connections I had that could help in a particular instance,” Pirouz explains. “I didn’t set up categories until I had more than 1,000 connections. It was a time consuming task but, worth it. At the end of the process I knew exactly who was in my network and how each of them could assist me in my business goals.”

Pirouz’s LinkedIn experience has been so successful, he’s ended up the subject of a book on the very topic: Getting your business LinkedIn.

5. Don’t spam

One of the biggest turn offs is getting a LinkedIn message with the opening line “Dear Melbourne friends” or “Dear valued friend” or, something equally lame and impersonal.

It’s something I explain to my seven year old daughter: If you want something, ask me. And, I mean as me, not me as a part of a blanket email.

Everyone’s time in precious. You are better to find the right people within your LinkedIn connections to ask about specific requests. Personalise the message. Yes, it will take you longer, but the pay off will be better.

Think of it this way. Is it better to ask someone a personal favour, explaining why and why their help is what you need or, is it better to stand on a street corner and shouting at everyone in your street to help you?

Making someone feel special, privileged or, respected is always going to be you a far better reaction.

If you’re doing these things, then you are on your way to becoming a great LinkedIn community member. This will serve you well as you grow your business.

LinkedIn is a business tool. Use it to your advantage.

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