Link in or get left out

by Michael Marchionda - Our growing dependence on social media has opened many doors for communications and marketing professionals. Never has it been so easy to create a two-way dialogue between an organization and its consumers. Recognizing this trend, marketers are shifting their spending to new techniques. According to the 2009 CMO Survey, organizations will allocate 13.7 per cent of their marketing budgets on social media in the next five years, up from 3.5 per cent currently.

It’s no surprise that organizations are beginning to approach social media with open minds (and open wallets), but with dozens of leading social media to choose from, which are most worthwhile? Current trends suggest LinkedIn, as more organizations favour popular social networking tools like it over blogging, podcasts, forums and other social media.

Though it offers DirectAds, a pay-service that allows advertisers to target a specific demographic, the options available to holders of a basic account are quite powerful. Knowing how to utilize LinkedIn’s features and applications can greatly increase your organization’s exposure and client-base, and your awareness of the industry you work in. For skilled professionals, but especially for independent professionals, freelancers and small businesses, LinkedIn is an essential social media marketing tool. Here’s how to get the most out of LinkedIn:

Position yourself as an expert

There’s no better way to establish trust than by asking questions and sharing answers within your community. The answers page allows you to narrow your area of expertise by choosing from a list of focused industries (e.g. biotech, software development) and answering questions by people only a few degrees away from you (e.g. your colleague’s former colleague). It’s important to help people only a few degrees away from you, as it helps establish your credibility with people with whom you are likely to do business. If you post a question in the future, that person may provide you with an answer, and the relationship may grow from there.

Providing a lot of detail in your answers is important as it will increase your chances of earning expertise points. Expertise points quantify how knowledgeable someone is in their field of expertise. For example, if your question is chosen as best by the person asking the question, you earn a point of expertise in the category of the question. Earning expertise is important because you appear higher on a list of experts, increasing your exposure. Jason Alba, author of I'm On LinkedIn, Now What?, believes that an answers strategy based around the offering or messaging of your company is a great way to advance corporate branding—as long as you’re willing to deal with the opinions they’ll muster.


Join as many relevant groups as you can. Regularly reading and participating in discussions will help increase your exposure and more importantly, allow you to listen to what people are saying. Listening to the problems, concerns and questions posted in the group will help you identify any potential opportunities and industry needs not currently being met. Even if you’re not looking for work, checking the job postings often is a good idea, as it’s a great indication of where the industry is moving.

If you’re feeling ambitious and wish to create your own group, remember to create a group for your industry, not your company. People are more comfortable joining a group when it’s not just for fans of your company.


If you want to find out what people are thinking, the polls application is a quick and easy way to gather information from your connections or from targeted demographics if you’re paying for the service. If you want to cast a wider next and expand outside your connections, you can use the URL provided by LinkedIn to share your poll. Polls are a great tool, but need to be issued correctly as the size and responsiveness of your network will dictate how many polls are completed.

Kill two birds with one stone

The Tweets application lets you share your Twitter status with your LinkedIn status. The application also allows you to access your Tweets, update your Twitter status, and access your Tweets settings. What’s good about this application is that not all of your Tweets will update your LinkedIn status; just those that contain #in, which is useful if not all your Tweets are work-related (whose are?). The new application is a great time-saver if you’re trying to promote something quickly.

Get recommended

Requesting recommendations is important because it allows you to appear in the service provider directory, allowing you to be found at the top of your industry if people recommend you. When looking for a service provider, users can narrow their search by industry and location, allowing them to search for the most recommended service provider in their industry. If you’re looking to get recommended, but don’t know where to start, try this: recommend a person or service you were satisfied with in the past, and hope they will return the favour.

Listen to the buzz

The company buzz application lets you listen in on what people are saying about your company. The application aggregates tweets that mention your company, allowing you to view the tweets all at once. If your topic is large, it may be difficult to see the most common themes, so pay attention to buzz words—these are the top five words associated with the comments for your topic. Company buzz is a great tool for PR practitioners especially, as it’s a useful starting point to gauging how people feel about your organization’s products or services.

Only time will tell if LinkedIn has real staying power, but the popularity of LinkedIn is hard to ignore. The 53 million members currently using it, the rate at which has grown, and current research all suggests it’s a viable networking source and will continue to be in the near future. LinkedIn is a powerful marketing tool that can help organizations conduct market research, stay on top of industry news, identify potential business opportunities, ask and answer questions visible to industry professionals, and listen to what consumers are saying.

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