LinkedIn coach and trainer Greg Cooper began his career in telemarketing before starting his own marketing agency. For 20 years he worked for computer companies like Microsoft and IBM, helping them identify the hidden opportunities within their existing large accounts. Greg's agency was an early adopter of LinkedIn and used it regularly within its operations. So when Greg sold the company in 2011, he decided to use the knowledge he’d gained to help small businesses harness the potential of this powerful business networking tool.
What is the purpose of LinkedIn?
The simple purpose of LinkedIn is to connect businesses with opportunities. Where it differs to other social networks is the fact that it is seen as being the professional business network. It’s the biggest, most accurate database of business professionals out there.
What makes LinkedIn such a good platform for networking compared to others?
First of all it’s the pure coverage - it’s so comprehensive. In Bristol alone there are 300,00 people on LinkedIn. You couldn’t buy a commercial database anything like that size. It’s networking on steroids! And it’s a great complement to face-to-face networking - you can go along to a breakfast meeting and meet people, then keep in touch with them on LinkedIn and see who they know. You can share content with them and if they engage it can be seen by their networks, and their networks’ networks.
How can people best use the LinkedIn article function?
The articles function is about both keeping front of mind with your existing connections and reaching out beyond your network. As soon as someone likes your article it goes out to their network and further and further. So it’s about raising your profile and also exposing your expertise, positioning yourself as an expert in your area.
In terms of whether to publish on LinkedIn or on your website, you need to decide where you want people to go. When you publish on LinkedIn it stays on your profile and builds into a library, which I think is important. And generally speaking you're going to get a lot more engagement on LinkedIn. Plus every time you get a like or a comment, it pumps it out again. What I do is republish my website blog content on LinkedIn with a note explaining that the content was originally published on my website. That way Google knows which one is the original and doesn’t see it as duplicated content.
What are the biggest mistakes you see people making on LinkedIn?
The biggest single mistake is an unprofessional photo. People arrive on your profile and it’s the beginning of your psychological relationship with them, so if they see a picture of you with your dog, or your baby, or a pint (and I’ve seen it!) the first impression is, “This person is not professional.” What you're trying to do with your profile is build trust, getting people to think, “This is a good person to do business with.” If they immediately see an unprofessional photo, you’ve lost it from the beginning.
What one thing could people do today to improve their LinkedIn use?
Show your profile to one of your customers or clients and say, “If you read this, would you give me a call?” It’s the best way to get an outside perspective and see whether it’s achieving its objectives.
What makes for a good LinkedIn profile summary?
It goes back to the point that you're trying to get people to think that you’re a good person to do business with and that you are a good fit for them. Best practice is writing it in the first person because it’s easier to relate to someone in the first person. LinkedIn is actually a relationship building platform - people think it’s a sales platform, but it’s not. It’s about building relationship, building trust; once you’ve done that, the opportunities come afterwards. It’s like regular networking - you have to show up, people get to know you, trust you and then they start recommending you.
How important are key words?
Key words are very important both for Google and for LInkedIn. What I normally suggest to people is to save most of the keywords for a paragraph at the end titled “specialities”, and you can stick all the keywords there. So you’re getting all your keywords into your summary but you’re not disrupting your copy.
Also, sometimes people forget that while the summary is only 2,000 characters, so is the experience section. So you can use the experience section to expand on and develop and add to what you put in the summary - and you can include key words there too.
Should you accept every request that comes in, or only people you know?
I accept about 60% of the requests I get. I think you have to be discriminating. I recently got a request from a South African landscape gardener and I thought, “There’s no value for either of us in connecting.” At the same time, the bigger your network, the more opportunities you find. You never know who is going to recommend you to somebody, who knows someone who knows someone. The maximum number of invitations you can send is 5,000, and the maximum number of connection you can have is 30,000. So you don’t really have to worry about having too many connections.