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Jennifer Wilson

Using LinkedIn to Develop Business

Four tips to build your brand and sphere of influence.

September 26, 2011
by Jennifer Wilson

TechByte

Most CPA professionals I know are now on LinkedIn. But being “on” the platform doesn’t magically generate new opportunities for you or your firm. To begin to harness the power of this incredible social networking medium, consider these four “cash free” strategies you can employ to put LinkedIn to work for you.

  1. Use the Platform Daily
    • Schedule 15 minutes to 30 minutes every weekday to work the platform. Because it’s online, you can do this at any time — day or night, but it takes discipline to do it (like working out). For some, it will also take discipline to keep from spending too much time on the platform once you dig in.
    • Go to your Home page on LinkedIn each day. Read any messages you have, accept any invitations you receive and read the latest “feed” of information about what your connections are doing on LinkedIn. As you view the activity on your Home page, notice who your connections are connecting with – are they people you should know? Are they attending events that you’d like to attend or doing other things on the platform that are worth exploring? If so, click on those names, events or activities and connect or join in.
  2. Build Your Brand
    • While you’re on your Home page, type and share a status update in the box in the upper left-hand corner to tell all of your connections what you’re up to and include information about important professional events, news or activities in which you think your network would find value. Do this at least once per week to keep your name and firm showing up on your connections home page, which is a great way to keep you and your brand on top of people’s minds.
    • Add your company profile. Go to the “Companies” tab on LinkedIn. Then choose “Add a Company” and follow the prompts to put your firm’s information out on LinkedIn, including your logo, elevator pitch and specialties. You can also include employment opportunities and information on your firm’s products and services. Then, notify your team members that you now have a company profile and ask them to edit their personal profiles to link to the company directly. When you have a company profile on LinkedIn, people can follow you and you will show up in searches more often. This will also give you one more page on the web that has your company name and web URL attached thereby improving your Google and other search-engine rankings.
    • Add and promote some events. Under the More tab, go to Events and add any seminars, roundtables, conferences or other events your firm may be holding or attending in the future. Then, you can including it in your status update and promote the event by with a link to the event. Else you can send a custom e-mail to your entire contacts list or a segment of it (by geography, industry or other criteria) with event information and a link back to the LinkedIn events page. This provides an easy, no-cost way to promote your firm’s activities and also keep your name in front of your connections.
  3. Broaden Your Sphere of Influence
    • Join a few groups and get to know the groups’ members. Use the search box in the upper right-hand corner of LinkedIn to search by group. Type in keywords that are of interest to you, such as “accounting” or “not-for-profit” or other industries, associations, schools or groups with which it makes sense to affiliate. LinkedIn boasts thousands of groups and you can join up to 50 of them – so choose wisely! Once you are a member of a group, go to the “Members” tab for each group and learn who the members of the group are. Use the search feature to find members of your groups that you should know or with which you should be connected and then outreach to them to either create an online connection or schedule a telephone call to share what each of you offers and see if there are ways to collaborate. While you’re viewing your groups, consider participating in or starting an online discussion to put your name and ideas in front of your groups’ members.
    • “Vampire” off of your connections. Go out to each of your connections’ profiles and click on their connections to see who they are connected to. Remember, seeing and leveraging the connections of your connections is one of the most important benefits of LinkedIn! Take the time to read the list, no matter the length, to see if there are any connections worth having for now or in the future. If you find some who will make a good connection, ask your connection to make an introduction. If you know the target, click on “Add [name of Person] to Your Network,” and send that target an invitation to connect through the system. If you are connected to clients, pay special attention to their connections, especially if they have any that you would really like to know. Ask your client for a referral by name.
  4. Research Your Prospects, Clients and Referral Sources
    • Leverage the platform to get smarter. Under the search function on the Home page, search by company to learn about prospect organizations and find the names of key decision makers. Learn how you may be connected to the people inside these organizations by clicking on each person’s profile, which will show you any shared connections. Conduct the same search by typing the company name in the “search by people” function to get a listing of all of the people who have that company name listed in their profile. Click on those with whom you share connections and pursue a “warm way in” to your prospect via an introduction from someone you know.
    • Follow specific clients, competitors, referral sources and vendors. From the Companies tab, search Companies to find those in which you are interested, then view their page and follow it. While you’re there, read about their organization and look at who is following them and who their employees are as well. Connect with those that make sense.
    • Read profiles of others, especially of prospects and referral sources. This will make you smarter when you meet with these people by phone or in person and will give you a better sense of the appropriate rapport-building questions to ask or points of commonality to raise when you are in a pursuit. Read about the connections of your referral sources and, instead of waiting for them to give you a referral, consider asking your trusted referral sources for an introduction to a specific connection they may have.

Conclusion

Social media and platforms like LinkedIn are revolutionizing the way we communicate, market and sell. Use of the platform is no longer an early-adopter activity, and you need to jump in and leverage the power of this application to remain competitive.

Undertake at least one of these strategies today!

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Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, a leadership and marketing consulting and coaching firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. Link with her on LinkedIn.