LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It might be the one online platform where you wouldn't post a photo of yourself with your pet, but also a place where you hope you can be yourself as a professional and allow your personality to shine through.
LinkedIn has changed a lot since its early days. Yes, you can still get people to "recommend" you (i.e., give you a testimonial), but LinkedIn is so much more powerful than that. Those testimonials or recommendations sit at the bottom of your profile. So, people have to scroll down to see them. That's not to say you shouldn't request and give recommendations. But these days, it's really important to understand the many features LinkedIn offers and how they can work for you. Yes, you'll have to do a bit of legwork, as your profile won't run itself. But trust me… it's worth it!
1. Grow your referral system
For most of us, the referrals we get are how we obtain the majority of our business. At least, this seems to be the case for most freelancers and small business owners I talk to these days. Essentially, the more people you connect with on LinkedIn, the wider your network grows.
This means that people will be able to find you even without referrals. This means that even though it once seemed impossible to connect with a higher-level executive dream client, it's now very possible that you know someone who is connected to them and can introduce you.
It also means that the more active you are on LinkedIn, the more others will see you in their news feeds on the platform. The more people who are reminded about you, the more people who will remember to refer you the next time they hear of someone who needs your translation or interpreting services.
2. Demonstrate your expertise
Did you know that you can share original, penned articles on LinkedIn? Have you used this feature before? If you write a blog, or if you write even a short article just for LinkedIn itself, this is a fantastic way to show your expertise and knowledge in your area of specialization.
Not only can you share this content on your profile, but you can link to it in LinkedIn forums as a response to a question someone asks. This type of interaction on any social platform positions you as an expert and a resource for others. Who wouldn't want to work with you if you're already so helpful and knowledgeable?
(Bonus! The articles you write and share on LinkedIn stay at the top of your profile. When someone clicks on your profile, they will appear above the fold, i.e., before the point where they have to scroll down to see more of your profile. This means that you have a better chance of grabbing their attention right away and keeping them interested in learning more about you).
3. Connect with potential clients to whom you might not normally have direct access
These days you don't necessarily need to have access to someone's email inbox. If you can connect with them on LinkedIn, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with them. I'll give you an example.
In my own freelance translation business, I serve clients in the areas of medicine and life sciences. I often translate documents like patient diaries and survey responses. I wanted to get in touch with a particular person who works at the Pew Research Center after reading an article he'd written about health disparities in the Latino population in the United States. I searched for a few minutes for an email address for him. I couldn't find one. But I did find him on LinkedIn, and I asked to make a connection. After a week, I saw that he'd accepted my invitation to connect, and we now have a dialogue open and our professional relationship can grow from there.
If you do this well and you send a meaningful note when requesting a connection, most people will accept your request and will be interested in learning more about what you do. Even if they don't have work for you, they could serve as a referral or a client later on. The key is not to pitch your services in these types of requests. Relationship-building is the goal.
4. Stay top of mind with your connections
This is related to number one above on some level, but think about it this way. The more often you interact on a social media platform, the more often others see you and what you're sharing. It's really that simple. If you are consistently providing valuable content, interacting in a meaningful way and encouraging others around you, then it will be pretty difficult for others to miss your content. The more you do this, the more others are "reminded" of you. And as far as I'm concerned, when someone's sharing positive and solid content, I'm happy to see their name and content in my news feed. What about you?
By staying top of mind with consistent content sharing and interactions, you have a leg up on the next person who only jumps onto LinkedIn sporadically or to update their profile once a year. This means that you have more of a chance of being selected as the translation or interpreting provider for a new client, being referred to a new connection by a colleague and many more opportunities you wouldn't have if you just let your profile collect dust.
I'll be the first to admit that LinkedIn is a platform that has held people's attention for longer than I had thought it would. Part of this is due to the fact that the platform is updated frequently, and professionals are seeking meaningful business relationships and opportunities online. I continue to use the free version of LinkedIn, and it works well for me. But I'd be interested if any readers have used the Premium option and found it helpful. Please share!
For more strategies on how to use LinkedIn to grow your business, check out Seven Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile and Gain More Leads.