LinkedIn launched in 2003 as the social network of choice for professionals, and as a landmark of sorts for those who wanted an online space for their resume.
Since then, the platform has grown to more than 225 million users across the world, who use LinkedIn not only as a place to showcase career skills and ambitions, but also to have conversations around specific topics in the more than 1.8 million groups, look for new jobs and get news about their areas of interest.
When LinkedIn Today launched in 2011, it marked a major shift in how users would interact with the platform, and also quickly transformed LinkedIn into a publishing powerhouse. This was reinforced with the introduction of LinkedIn Influencers, a feature that gives hundreds of the world’s top thought leaders a forum through which share their professional insights with the network.
Although many of these updates in publishing strategy have notably benefited media organizations and well-known individuals, many entrepreneurs and business owners have also seen great opportunities for sharing their own content.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, and you only have time for one social network, I would choose LinkedIn over any other,” says Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a social media software startup for small businesses, and a LinkedIn Influencer with roughly 220,000 followers. “LinkedIn will undoubtedly give you the biggest bang for your buck.”
For entrepreneurs who are looking to make a bigger splash on LinkedIn, these four strategies will help get you on the right path.
1. Do the Basics
With LinkedIn’s many groups, updated publishing features and new content tools, there are a variety of options for entrepreneurs who want to be more active on LinkedIn. But individuals should still be cognizant of how their overall profiles look to other users on the network.
For those who have been lurkers on LinkedIn, just adding a profile picture to your account, for example, makes your profile seven times more likely to be viewed by others, according to LinkedIn data.
“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to maintain your profile,” says Alexis Grant, founder of Socialexis, a digital strategy company for small businesses. “Once you’ve done that initial foundation building, you can get a big return without doing much.”
But beyond filling out a profile with a powerful, keyword-filled summary, as well as skills and experiences, entrepreneurs should strongly consider the type of content they share to LinkedIn, much as they would with Facebook or Twitter, Kerpen says.
“I use LinkedIn as a way to distribute great content, and I usually share six to eight updates on LinkedIn each day,” he says. “I’ve only gotten feedback from one person out of my 218,000 followers and more than 10,000 connections that I share too much.”
So what status updates perform well on the social network? "I share inspirational quotes and links to articles, both that I or my company has written or that I come across, that I think will be helpful," Kerpen notes. "I read everything that I share because I believe I have a responsibility to share good, useful content."
2. Find Value in LinkedIn Groups
With nearly 2 million LinkedIn Groups, a user can find conversations for nearly any topic –- from “Food Industry Jobs” to “Australian Football” to “On Startups,” among many others.
For entrepreneurs, LinkedIn Groups can be a valuable opportunity to join vibrant conversations and identify valuable connections, but it can also damage your brand by marketing yourself too much.
"Groups are the main feature I use on LinkedIn," says Grant. "But some of those groups can get a little too noisy to share valuable information."
“You just have to make sure you're adding true value to these groups,” Kerpen adds.
“You see a lot of people posting inappropriate content or trying to promote themselves too much.”
To control the conversation, as opposed to lending a voice to a noisy conversation, some entrepreneurs have created their own LinkedIn Groups around their business area or backgrounds.
“If there’s a gap in the conversation to create a niche group, I think it’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and business owners,” Grant says. “And if you own a group, you can send [announcements] to group members.”
That point may be most appealing to entrepreneurs –- the ability to send messages to group members in a form of an announcement. While you may not be able to brand these messages much like a custom newsletter, they could help spread your message and content to potential clients and customers at no cost to you or your business.
3. Don't Underestimate the Influence of SlideShare
LinkedIn acquired professional content sharing platform SlideShare in 2012. The purchase not only made sense from a user base perspective –- SlideShare sees more than 50 million unique visitors each month -– but the platform, which allows users to upload and share presentations, infographics and videos, adds a much-needed visual element to the very text-heavy LinkedIn site.
But SlideShare offers entrepreneurs on LinkedIn much more than just a visual element.
“SlideShare has been the most powerful professional tool I have ever used,” says Tara Hunt, a LinkedIn Influencer and co-founder of the social strategy firm Lime Foundry. “SlideShare is all of the smart things you have to say about a topic in one clickable deck.”
SlideShare has helped Hunt improve her presentations, too. "I would never have talking points on my slides," she notes. "It would be 26 pages of images that would serve as visual cues during a live presentation. My decks are now able to be standalones on the platform."
And Slideshare can be a major business driver for some entrepreneurs, Likeable Local’s Kerpen says. “The number one and number two business drivers for my companies are SlideShare and LinkedIn.”
4. Understand the Power of Being a LinkedIn Influencer
There are now more than 300 LinkedIn Influencers, which is comprised of some of the world’s top thought leaders across a variety of industries. When promoted through the LinkedIn Today news platform, longform posts from these Influencers can have a wide reach.
In fact, the average Influencer post gets up to 25,000 views and nearly 100 comments. “The LinkedIn Influencer program allows thought leaders to have an even wider distribution platform on LinkedIn,” Kerpen says. “Through this and LinkedIn Today, LinkedIn has built a publishing platform like we've never seen.”
For entrepreneurs who are starting new companies or partnerships, the LinkedIn Influencer program “is a great platform to expand the reach” of the brand’s message, Hunt says. “You’re looked at as an authority on the matter, so you get a sort of social boost with that.”
Although LinkedIn is not accepting applications for new Influencers at this time, you don't need to be a part of this program to have a major impact on LinkedIn, Kerpen notes.
“The only major difference is that the LinkedIn Influencer program gives me a longer-form opportunity and a wider distribution network,” he adds. “I don’t mean to take these two for granted, but everyone can share original content on this network.”