By Mark Kakkuri
“So-and-so wants to connect with you on LinkedIn.” We’ve all received invitations like this via email. Sometimes you know the person who’s making the invitation but you don’t bother clicking to accept because you don’t really use LinkedIn. Who has time for another social media account? And besides, you’re busy enough with all the other marketing objectives you have on your plate! If this reflects your persuasion, here’s something to consider: LinkedIn is actually a great place for marketing, whether B2B or B2C. An added bonus: it’s relatively firearms friendly. With that, here are five reasons to be active on LinkedIn (and they’re all good for business).
1. It’s a definitive place for professional networking. Those connection requests you get are usually others showing genuine interest in “linking” with like-minded businesses or professionals. Of course not all LinkedIn users are using their accounts as the platform intends, but most are sincere. Connecting with others via LinkedIn gives you access to at least some of their information (an associate’s job history, for example) as well as whatever updates they post to their account. In this way, it’s very similar to Facebook. Where LinkedIn differs, however — and why you should consider using it for marketing — is the regular stream of communication is completely professional in nature: business ideas, marketing plans and more. Even if you connect with someone and don’t interact with them immediately, chances are you will someday. While you’re actively promoting your business on LinkedIn, you never know when an old connection might be informed and persuaded by your activity.
2. Gain access to a long-term social media platform. Social media, by its very nature, is dynamic. As such, it’s difficult to keep up with the pace of change, let alone the volume of posts. Facebook’s 1.74 billion users upload 300 million photos per day. Then there’s Twitter, Instagram and more — each with their marketing strengths and weaknesses. And each has iterations of change meant to draw in more users and provide more features. LinkedIn’s relatively simple concept of connecting business professionals to each other has remained fairly consistent over time. Sure the platform has evolved, modernized and provided more value to users, but you could have joined LinkedIn years ago, connected with several people, not used the platform for anything and pretty much jump right back into using it without needing any further insights. This enables it to serve as a long-term platform, meant for use over the multi-decade course of careers.
3. Blend a personal and company element. You join LinkedIn as an individual user, but you’re able to provide contextual information associated with your work or career. As part of a business or company, you have the option to list information on LinkedIn similar to a resume and start a dedicated “company page” featuring pertinent information about your firm. Your personal page can feature any updates you want, while a company page can highlight company news, job postings or less personal info. As such, there are multiple channels for your marketing communications to suit your tastes. Don’t want to include too much personal information? Focus on your company page. LinkedIn’s strength is its ability to connect people with people. And the firearms business is an all-people business.
4. Take advantage of built-in groups and discussion areas. In addition to your personal and company page, you can participate in any number of groups on LinkedIn. Groups cover a myriad of topics, some with a few participants, others with thousands. Likewise, some have an occasional post or update, while some have scores of updates each day. In general, they’re built around companies, industries and topics that further assist with networking.
Enter groups you are interested in or are relevant to your business, and begin to post helpful comments, ask insightful questions and learn from others. Interact with others’ comments and thoughts and keep up the conversations. Observe proper etiquette in these forums (i.e., don’t post advertisements, don’t slander the competition, etc.) and you’ll enjoy burgeoning relationships that could lead to increased interest and sales.
5. Bottom line: LinkedIn is a serious social media outlet. Every social media outlet has its downsides — LinkedIn included — but there are many positives to all of them. While LinkedIn may not have the overall reach of Facebook or Twitter, I’d contend it creates a more serious context for communication because the audience is made up of professionals. As such, while the number of users may be smaller, the conversations can be more significant and the quality of the leads you can generate can occur at a higher ratio. There will be the occasional off-topic or silly post, inappropriate follow-up comments and times of inactivity or silence that will make you wonder if it’s at all worth it. Take the long view and stay active over an extended period of time and you’ll realize the untapped potential in marketing through LinkedIn.
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