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In last week’s blog, we looked at using Facebook to build your training business. Continuing on the social media theme, this week I wanted to take a look at how LinkedIn can be a fantastic tool for building your network and your reputation.
According to the latest stats (March 2015), LinkedIn has approximately 347 million users worldwide, making it the seventh most popular social network and the world’s largest professional network. There’s no doubt that LinkedIn is the ideal place to network professionally, find jobs, answer questions, and build thought leadership.
So, what could you be doing on LinkedIn to build your training business?
Building your profile
If you don’t yet use LinkedIn, your first step would be to create a profile. Go to www.linkedin.com and sign up using your name, email address and a password. Once you log in to LinkedIn, you will see that your main profile screen is structured in much the same way as a CV, with a summary statement, then sections about Projects, Skills, Experience, Education and Additional Information.
Whether you’re new to LinkedIn or you’ve been using the platform for a while, it’s a good idea to think about what keywords people might use to search for a trainer like you. Try to use these keywords strategically throughout your profile (in much the same way as you would on your website), especially in the 120-character headline that appears underneath your name at the top of the page.
If it’s been a while since you’ve updated the static elements on your LinkedIn page, now is a good time to look at them with fresh eyes. Do they still convey what your training business is about? Do they show how you can make a difference to your training clients? Has your business changed and evolved? Are there different skills or experiences that you would like your profile to highlight?
LinkedIn isn’t a do-and-leave kind of platform – like your career, it should be constantly evolving and updating to reflect your development.
Growing your network
One of LinkedIn’s main functions as a networking website is to help you benefit from the principle of six degrees of separation, i.e. that we are all potentially connected to one another through the people we know.
People who actively use LinkedIn to grow their business often find that they know someone who knows someone else who could really benefit from their services. Therefore, one of your aims should be to grow your LinkedIn network.
It’s true that people on LinkedIn have become more protective of their networks in recent years, largely thanks to years of spam connection requests and messages. It is still possible to grow your network but you need to be savvy about it.
One thing I’ve learned is that, unless you know the person well and don’t need to introduce yourself, you should never just send the template message that LinkedIn creates, which says: I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Instead, I would recommend personalising your request, reminding the person who you are and why you would like to connect with them, especially highlighting how you feel it would be beneficial to you both.
You might also want to try the following to grow your network:
- Each time you set up an appointment to talk to someone about your training business or you receive an enquiry, let them know you would like to connect with them on LinkedIn. You could send a connection request on LinkedIn saying that you’re looking forward to talking more on <insert date and time> and that you’ve emailed them with all the details.
- If someone has viewed your profile and you share common ground, you might want to send them an introductory message explaining why you’d love to be part of their network.
- If there’s someone you follow on Twitter or Facebook and you have had a few interactions with them, you could try sending them a request to connect on LinkedIn, explaining that you follow them on whichever platform and that you would like to connect to be able to share their ideas with your network.
- Some LinkedIn users have reported great results from connecting with influencers who’ve published articles on LinkedIn. Their advice is to like and comment on a post, tagging the person to invite interaction, and then following up with a connection request that refers to the article and what you liked about it. You could also say that you’ve shared the article with your entire network and looking forward to engaging with and sharing more of their insights.
- At a networking event, you could try sending LinkedIn connection requests to people you meet instead of trading business cards (add a personal message to remind them where you met) or you could go through the business cards you’ve collected once you’re home from the event and find the people on LinkedIn.
Rinse and repeat as often as possible. I find it helpful to set a goal of connecting with three to five people a week.
Nurturing your relationships
It’s not enough to add people to your network on LinkedIn – after all, it’s the quality of your network that counts, not the quantity. The next step to help you grow your training business is to nurture your relationships with your connections. The feed on your Home page will show you any new content people have posted to their own profiles. It’s a good idea to take a few minutes once or twice a week to like, comment on and share articles from people in your network.
By regularly interacting with your contacts, you stay in the forefront of their minds, which means that the next time they need to hire a trainer, you’ll be the person they call.
Demonstrating your expertise
LinkedIn is developing more and more features to help you build your reputation as an influencer within the training field.
You might want to ask your existing training clients to write a Recommendation for your LinkedIn profile or endorse your skills. Endorsing a skill is much like a show of hands, showing potential clients and connections at a glance that other people are willing to vouch that you can do what you say you can do. Recommendations act more like a testimonial or review and are excellent for reputation building.
I would also suggest looking at these ways to demonstrate your expertise as a trainer via LinkedIn:
- Write articles that showcase an aspect of your knowledge or insights for LinkedIn Pulse. You can write as many articles as you like and, as your number of followers grows, so will your reputation.
- Share articles that you think people will find useful – for example, if there’s a new law or regulation that will affect your training clients, share the information with them via LinkedIn.
- Use the LinkedIn Connect app as this will give you notifications about birthdays, job anniversaries, people in your network who’ve got new jobs, and much more. It only takes a minute to send a congratulations message via your phone but it will help you build your reputation as someone who cares about their network.
- Follow recognised thought leaders in your field to show that you have your finger on the pulse of your industry.
Keep an eye on your hard work
LinkedIn has a handy feature on your main Profile page, which shows you where your profile ranks within your network. This information can be found under ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’. Simply click on the information about whether your rank has gone up or down in the past 30 days and LinkedIn will give you some suggestions about how to boost your profile views and grow your network. You should find that after making some tweaks, your ranking will go up. If it starts to fall, it might be time to review your profile again.
Do you use LinkedIn for your training business? I’d love to hear your experiences on LinkedIn in the Comments section below.
If you’d like to learn more about using Twitter, you’ll be delighted to hear that Nicky Kriel will be joining me for a webinar on Monday 6th July 2015 to talk about how to get more business on Twitter. To make sure you don’t miss out on all her fantastic hints and tips, sign up for your place here.