Why LinkedIn is the ideal business tool

By Patrick Gordon, Duo Marketing Online Marketing Manager

Founded in 2002 and launched in 2003, LinkedIn has become one of the most successful networking tools on the web, with more than 60 million users spanning in excess of 200 countries and territories worldwide. Despite its global profile, LinkedIn is still not being used effectively by the South African online community. Herewith some reasons to consider:

1.    Improves connectability through relationships
To maximise LinkedIn as a business tool, it is important that the user provides as much information as possible. Instead of just listing work related information, include your educational history, schools, universities, clubs societies etc. If you see a potential contact that went to the same school or university as you, you already have the foundation for a relationship.

The same is true for previous employers; the more people you have associated with, the easier it will be to build your LinkedIn presence. Embrace your connections from the past and start building your network.

2.    Business/Job Reference tool
Instead of having to actively search for a supplier, send a messages to your network. In most instances your connections will operate in similar business circles to you and will therefore serve as an excellent source of knowledge for potential contacts.
The next time you are looking for PR agency, or a financial service provider ask your network for their feedback first.  This can prevent a lot of time being wasted as well as help reduce the risk when choosing a new supplier.

If you have a large following you automatically have access to a large reliable audience without having to spend a cent on advertising.  The more you use LinkedIn the more effective it becomes.

3.    Reference Checks
If you are looking to hire someone first check to see if they are on LinkedIn. Then see who their connections are; details of previous employers, do they belong to industry bodies, who has recommended them etc? By going through each of these questions for serious potential candidates you will be able to eliminate sub standard applicants.

4.    Credibility through recommendations
Build both your own credibility and that of your company by requesting recommendations. It might seem unimportant at present, but people do business with people, if potential clients see that you are respected and have proven yourself, they will be far more likely to work with you.

In theory you can ask anyone for recommendations, but rather be selective and choose people who will offer real value to your personal brand.

5.    Ask for advice
LinkedIn Answers serves as a platform whereby the user can post business related questions to both your network and the greater LinkedIn community. Questions can range from LinkedIn queries to financial advice.  The success of this function is based on interaction, if you have an answer to a question post it, the more you share the better.

6.    Interact with experts
Answers and Groups functionality allows you to interact with experts through trusted introductions. By using this as a platform for developing connections you will see your online reputation grow as well as the size of your network.

7.    Enhance other online tools
As is the case with most major social networks, it is now possible to synch your Twitter feeds with your account. This functionality can you save time, as it means you no longer need to login into your LinkedIn account to be active. It also prevents the user from having to duplicate content.

Be careful to not overuse this, as it can have a negative impact on your LinkedIn brand, if you like to Tweet about random social events, either avoid synching your account or limit the viewing rights to certain users.

8.    Improve your Google Page Rank
LinkedIn makes your profile accessible to search engines for indexing. This is helped by its global internet ranking of 35 which ensures the site receives a high search engine page rank. To maximise this make use of linking strategies in and out of your profile, by doing this you will build both your personal profile as well as that of your business.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace are all great networking tools, but if you are looking purely for strategic business value, nothing can compare with LinkedIn.

Whether you’re an established CEO or just starting out, LinkedIn provides an opportunity to interact with a worldwide database of business contacts. Start building your personal online reputation today, with the most effective and targeted business networking tool on the web.

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Why LinkedIn is the ideal business tool