This post is in partnership with Entrepreneur. The article below was originally published at Entreprener.com
By Brian Honigman, Entrepreneur
LinkedIn has always been the industry standard when it comes to marketing yourself professionally, but the past few years have seen the social network’s importance and reach increase dramatically. TechCrunch reports that LinkedIn has roughly 187 million unique visitors per month, and that number looks like it’ll continue to grow.
In addition, LinkedIn has ramped up its efforts to become a content platform. In the past three years LinkedIn has acquired Slideshare, Pulse and Newsle; all of which hint at a continuing push towards content distribution.
Instead of just maintaining your profile and company page and being active in LinkedIn groups, LinkedIn is now encouraging brands and individuals to leverage its robust, new publishing capabilities. It is clear that LinkedIn sees itself as a vital part of the future of content marketing.
Building out your LinkedIn presence can seem intimidating. There are so many options now that the thought of exploiting them all can overwhelm even the savviest marketers.
Keeping this problem in mind, I set out to track down the most influential and accomplished LinkedIn experts and ask them to weigh in on their recommendations for making the most of your LinkedIn Marketing.
Viveka von Rosen: Leverage LinkedIn’s CRM
Viveka von Rosen is a prominent LinkedIn expert and author of the book LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day. Her recommendation not only highlights some interesting, often overlooked LinkedIn features, but also shows how they can be used to strengthen your networking connections.
Viveka notes that “LinkedIn is about building relationships, and one of the best ways of building relationships is to show your top prospects that you were listening to them.” With this in mind, she points out that LinkedIn actually provides users with fairly robust CRM tools.
She recommends leveraging these tools in five steps:
1. Research your prospect or client (or better yet, have a conversation with them – maybe at a conference or trade show?)
2. Make your notes about the person on their LinkedIn profile. (Click on the star icon to “unfold” LinkedIn’s CRM feature.)
3. Set a reminder to follow up with your prospect.
4. Find an article of your own or search Pulse to find content you think they might be interested in.
5. You can also tag your prospects, segmenting your network in a way that makes sense to you, and that will allow you to follow up with them in smaller groups.
Brian Murray: Be Active, Get Noticed
Brian Murray is the director of talent and culture at the prominent New York-based Digital agency Likeable. Although Brian’s profession is technically HR, he is careful to note: “My audience is NOT HR professionals. It is people with agency experience who love or have a focus on social.”
This is already a powerful lesson. The first step to connecting with your audience is identifying who you are aiming to target. Once you know who you want to notice you, Brian outlines the next step: “I share relevant content that causes them to continue to see me and recognize my name. When I reach out they are a lot more likely to respond than a cold email from somebody who doesn’t regularly use the platforms.”
We tend to misunderstand why it is that we trust certain people online or give them a certain degree of credibility. Brian nails it on the head with this insight. Oftentimes it’s not the amount of followers you have, it’s how often you show up on people’s radar. Perhaps the best piece of advice Brian gives derives from an analogy to sales:
Similar to sales, the time you need to make a sale is not the first time you call or email them. They need to trust you. They need to see you.
Going further, Brian believes that the only thing people like more than seeing someone tweeting or sharing things they love is when you engage with that audience and provide personal interaction. This actually speaks a lot to another piece of advice I got from our next expert.
Stephanie Sammons: The “10 in 10″ Rule
Stephanie Sammons is a renowned LinkedIn expert, named a Top 30 Marketing Thought Leader and a Top 25 Social Media Expert by LinkedIn, who coaches professionals on how to maximize their social presence. Her recommendation for marketers and business owners who hope to build their presence is to adopt what she refers to as the “10 in 10” rule.
“While others are pumping out content and status updates to their entire network” Stephanie instead encourages professionals to “go one-to-one with 10 of your connections 10 minutes a day.”
If you spend 10 minutes a day engaging personally with 10 of your valued LinkedIn contacts, you will grow your influence.
The first step in her process is to identify your MVC’s (Most Valuable Connections) LinkedIn. “These may be prospects, clients, influencers, or advocates for your business. Next, study their profiles and learn more about who they are, what they do, and who they help.”
She continues by noting that “once you are armed with greater intelligence about your MVC’s, strive for a one-to-one engagement with at least 10 of these individuals per day. One-to-one engagement can be in the form of a personalized, private LinkedIn message, a public comment or conversation, a or even an @mention.”
The reasoning goes that a personal, intimate connection with a smaller number of followers can be much more beneficial than an attempt to please everyone. This appears straightforward, but it seems that so few actually spend the emotional energy necessary to foster these connections.
Stephanie offers the assurance that although this consistent connection is hard to maintain, it will be well worth it in the long-run and ultimately lead to social media success.
Lewis Howes: Leverage LinkedIn Pulse
While there is no denying the effectiveness of a more personal approach, LinkedIn has recently become more than a networking tool. The past few years have seen Linked grow from a job-hunting, and resume site into a publishing empire. So how can marketers or professionals leverage this increasingly important aspect of LinkedIn?
Lewis Howes is a LinkedIn expert who hosts the School of Greatness podcast and he recommends leveraging the new LinkedIn Pulse platform by consistently creating engaging content on your profile. Howes points out that until recently the publishing platform was only reserved for select influencers. However things have changed recently and this presents a big opportunity for marketers to earn the attention of the right professional audience on LinkedIn:
With Pulse open to everyone (not just influencers), it’s a massive opportunity to expand your reach.
This is not just a hunch either. Howes shared that he’s “seen a big bump in traffic and leads from this alone” and assured me that this would be the most effective way of reaching a larger and more targeted audience on LinkedIn in the coming year.
Looking at the current trend of LinkedIn’s updates and acquisitions, Howes’ prediction feels spot on. LinkedIn has already gotten hundreds of millions of users accustomed to networking on the site, and now they hope to build that same familiarity with consuming and creating content. The ability to get in on the ground floor of this kind of change is too good for marketers to pass up and should not be ignored.
Alex Pirouz: Have A Strategic Plan in Place
The previous advice has all concerned committing to continuous and sustained interactions with your professional network, but sticking to so many initiatives at once is difficult. Alex Pirouz, a serial entrepreneur who founded Linkfluencer.com, offers a bit of sobering yet crucial advice.
His advice is dead simple, but so often overlooked. “My top tip to anyone looking to use LinkedIn as an effective marketing tool is to first create a clear plan on what they’re looking to achieve from the platform.” Drafting a plan requires: “looking over [your] marketing objectives over the next 6-12 months, identifying the target market [you] would need to connect with in order to achieve those objectives and then building a LinkedIn profile that resonates with this audience.” Just like you would plan your editorial calendar, you should plan your LinkedIn posts.
Not having a plan is the number one reason businesses aren’t using LinkedIn to it’s full potential.
Alex told me that “over the past 12 months we’ve trained over 8000 businesses on how to leverage LinkedIn to grow their business and over 90% of those we speak with don’t have a plan or clear strategy.” He quipped that Ben Franklin said it best, “People don’t plan to fail they fail to plan.”
Bert Verdonck: Earn Greater Visibility with Slideshare
Bert Verdonck is the founder of the pioneering social agency ReallyConnect and a LinkedIn expert in his own right. According to him “one of the most underutilized strategies on LinkedIn today is the use of rich media and SlideShare in particular.”
Most people have no idea of the impact SlideShare can have on their LinkedIn marketing.
Besides being, as Bert refers to it, the “YouTube for Powerpoint,” he told me that “Slideshare links index brilliantly well, often ranking higher than LinkedIn or Facebook.” As if this was not reason enough to embrace the platform, LinkedIn purchased Slideshare in 2013 and has since offered substantial integration capabilities.
He notes that, “Of course, there are some SEO experts who let you pay a ton of money to artificially increase your search results, but SlideShare is for free and beats a lot of other strategies easily and in a natural way.”
His logic here is simple, but speaks to an understanding of the way search visibility works. Slideshare offers “a lot of quality content and Google loves great content, resulting in higher natural rankings. People will find you more easily for your topics.”
In other words, Slideshare helps your profile become more visible not only by putting you higher in search rankings in the search engines and LinkedIn, but by providing engaging content your potential audience wants to see when they do reach your profile. Talk about a win-win scenario.
Neal Schaffer: Embrace Long-Form Publishing
Neal Schaffer is the author of the excellent LinkedIn book Maximize Your Social as well as a social media coach, consultant and trainer. His recommendation for professionals looking to maximize their LinkedIn presence is to take advantage of long-form publishing.
Neal points out that “LinkedIn opened up their blogging platform to all users in 2014, but very few have taken advantage of being a part of the LinkedIn publishing empire.” Sure people have taken to posting some content, but the efforts of many users are scattershot or lack-luster short-form posts. Instead, Neal believes LinkedIn should be treated like a full-fledged syndicated blog.
If you are only blogging on your corporate blog you are missing out on the opportunity to get your content in front of eager eyes on LinkedIn.
This is a wasted opportunity because “when you blog on LinkedIn, your content is seen not only by your connections but also by others who are consuming news on LinkedIn Pulse.” Neal mentions that he has seen great long-form content by users that “received more views than their number of connections, and some that have literally received hundreds of thousands of views.”
As LinkedIn positions itself as a content platform, the benefits of embracing a content-centric strategy will become more and more pronounced. Stay one step ahead of the curve by creating engaging, rich, long-form content.
John Rampton: Call Out Your Profile Often
John Rampton is a social media expert and columnist for publications such asForbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. The advice he gave was something that frustrated him because it is so easy, yet so many people miss it. “I can never understand why people go to networking events, hand me their business card, and they don’t have their LinkedIn profile on there.”
He continued, “They have other social networks on there, but LinkedIn is THE professional networking site. When I want to size you up professionally, that’s where I go.” While it’s certainly easy enough to find someone on LinkedIn, John is right that the additional step to make people go through is an unnecessary barrier between connecting.
Don’t be shy about calling out your LinkedIn profile. Put it on your email, business card, etc… – anything with your name on it, your profile should be there too.
Another place he feels people miss calling out their profile is in their email signature. “Email is the same thing, your professional email can just as easily be an additional touch point or place to connect.”
Especially for people working in sales, John feels that having a LinkedIn profile link in email is such an easy, effective opportunity to connect that people miss all too often.
“My other recommendations would be leveraging the LinkedIn publishing platform and engaging more frequently, but these efforts are all maximized by having more connections, and calling out your profile is such an easy way to bring that number up.”
Lastly, here are these same LinkedIn marketing tips in a ready to pin infographic!
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