LinkedIn Tips for Print & Promo Pros: Generating Leads, Building Relationships
When starting out using social media for business, out of all the platforms, LinkedIn can certainly feel the most intimidating. Each social media app has its own “rules,” but LinkedIn is unique in its place as the more professional platform, not the one you casually scroll to see new pictures of your friends’ pets.
And LinkedIn has changed a lot over time. Javier Melendez, MASI, national sales executive for Walker-Clay Inc., a distributor based in Hanson, Mass., recalls that when he finished high school, LinkedIn was known as more of a digital résumé than the “business-first platform” it is today.
“Because of that, it wasn’t until a few years back that I started playing around with it more and have been more active in the past year on it,” Melendez said. “That said, according to Kinsta.com, based on statistics from 2019, ‘only 3 million users (out of the 740 million) share content on a weekly basis.’ So, it appears the majority of users on the platform still view it as I once did, but I believe people are starting to check in on the platform more.”
There’s plenty to know about LinkedIn, including how to best utilize it to connect with new customers. Here, we’ll look at different approaches for using the platform and learn from Melendez and two other distributor experts how to get the most out of your business efforts—whether you’re a new user or LinkedIn pro.
LinkedIn bills itself as “the world’s largest professional network with nearly 740 million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.” And the platform’s mission is clear: give professionals a space to connect with other professionals. But using LinkedIn effectively for business requires a little more strategy than just throwing around connection requests. So let’s run down a few best practices.
“I don’t use an app without finding everything that I can about using it correctly,” said Adrienne Barker, MAS, senior brand marketing manager at www.promoproducts.guru, powered by HALO Branded Solutions, Daytona Beach, Fla. “Though there was not a lot of information in the beginning, I knew that I wanted to use LinkedIn to help me stay connected. I also did not understand how to curate information and how to do this correctly. I was able to learn this skill about four years ago, and that made a big difference.”
Barker said that when she started on LinkedIn, she would rarely include messages when she sent connection requests. But she quickly learned that connections are more effective when they include a note. It helps to be intentional when connecting with other users, and adding a message with your request only takes a few moments. Barker also suggested completing your profile and utilizing every part of LinkedIn—testimonials, content, photos, banner, articles, etc.—to help you stand out. And it helps to continually update and evaluate.
“You will begin to see your LinkedIn grow with the connections you want to have,” she said. “I am always looking at my LinkedIn profile compared to others to make sure that I am relevant and have made sure my profile is up to date. I audit my own LinkedIn site every few months.”
The time you’ll want to spend on the platform varies depending on your specific goals, but the key is to set aside an amount each week that works for your schedule. This could look like a daily 10- to 30-minute check-in, or maybe specific days each week. If you’re publishing articles directly on LinkedIn, writing and putting together content will require extra time.
John King, owner of LogoMotions, Seattle, said he checks in for a minimum of 30 minutes twice a week. Melendez, on the other hand, checks in daily, but for less time each day.
“I try to dedicate no more than 10 minutes each day to scrolling the feed,” said Melendez. “I will throughout the day as I find new prospects or connections, go follow them or connect with them (there is a difference), or engage them if I see they posted something recently.”
Finally, don’t be too sales-y or direct. That may have worked in the past, but the platform has evolved. For Melendez, this is the most important thing to remember.
“No. 1 overall rule—after you connect with someone, don’t try to hard sell them via direct message,” he said. “Rule No. 2 is go read rule No. 1 again. How would you feel if I walked up to you and said ‘Hi, I am Javier, can you buy my stuff now?’ You probably are thinking, ‘Yeah, no way buddy.’ So why would you do that in [a] DM?”
King agreed. LinkedIn, he said, offers more nuanced ways to generate leads, like watching notifications for when a connection moves to a new company.
“I think in the current environment its bad form to take a sales-y full frontal assault approach,” he said. “There is a time and place to be direct with prospects and clients, but the format is better suited to create a ‘presence’ that attracts like a magnet. [It’s counterintuitive] to those of us who have been in sales for a long time, but we have to evolve.”
What to Post
Creating content on LinkedIn is a good way to build that sort of presence King mentioned. But content is truly personal—the type you create depends on your individual goals and audiences. Still, there are a few things worth noting no matter what kind of content you’re posting.
When posting, King recommended using hashtags (but not too many) and tagging strategically. He’ll often tag both others in the promo industry and a few key clients who might be interested in the content. This invites engagement on each post.
Melendez suggested creating and posting videos, which he believes help build better connections with his audience and more clearly convey his passion for promotional products. Video also lets him showcase promo items and how powerful they can be. Melendez creates these short videos for TikTok and shares them on LinkedIn where applicable.
“Not every TikTok I make will go on LinkedIn, but I do post some, with a caption explaining my thoughts so people understand my message in the funny video,” he said. “I feel they are a fun break from the ‘How to,’ ‘Join my webinar,’ and of course ‘Top whatever number things’ [posts] that seem to be clogging up the feeds these days.”
Another thing to consider is how your audience will respond to your posts. Content creation takes time, and Barker noted that it’s essential to create and share content “that your client will want to absorb.”
“I write my articles, curate industry news, comment on other posts and create posts that offer various information, including particular topics and products,” she said. “I combine my LinkedIn with topics that include essential business skills along with corporate etiquette. I try to blend the content, making sense to the diverse audience that I have within LinkedIn.”
Like King, Barker recommended using hashtags, and she uses keywords with photos. These strategies will help users find your content when they search for those words.
If you’re not big on creating your own content, that’s OK too. King said he’s written personal articles breaking down how an experience translates to his business, but he’s also shared posts from others that he found particularly impactful.
You’ll want to find the mix that works best for you. And remember, not every post has to be about your business. In fact, it’s better to not focus solely on the business side.
“Its OK to share every once in a while—things like the fact your daughter got into a great college, or a favorite place to stay while on the road visiting clients,” said Melendez. “It shows us you’re human and allows others to see a bit more you and know you, not [just] your company.”
Engaging Your Audience
Melendez views engagement as “one of the most under-utilized aspects of LinkedIn” and the most powerful tool the platform offers. Commenting on a post or sending a direct message is a great way to start up a conversation and get to know people better. In that way, Melendez thinks of LinkedIn like one big online networking event.
“Think of it similar to a networking event—if you stand on the wall the entire time, you’re probably not walking out of there with a bunch of new connections or leads,” he said. “But, if you go and introduce yourself, engage in conversations, you will find it more successful. You can follow people [on LinkedIn] even if you’re not yet connected with them, and see what they post (if they post) and spark conversations with prospects that way. This has served me well as I have generated conversations doing this often.”
He added: “Maybe these people you follow are sharing a job opening and you know someone that might be a good fit, or they donated to a charity that resonates with you? I have referred people who landed at jobs for years strictly through LinkedIn or made introductions to people I thought should meet and as a result had business dealings. The point is, LinkedIn allows you to network without having to go to a networking event.”