The last 2 posts I've written have focused on featuring real businesses that have created highly successful social marketing strategies using LinkedIn as a key element.

I started the series with an overview of LinkedIn concepts, then moved into a guide for creating your LinkedIn profile, followed by a list of the 11 most powerful LinkedIn tools for small businesses. Finally, I outlined 6 core strategies that small businesses use to leverage LinkedIn for building a tribe and covered the first three:

I also hosted an in-person Social Media Marketing workshop in New York City in which I provided the hands-on help many small business owners need to translate these strategies into action. If you missed it, click here to be notified of my upcoming Social Media Marketing events.

Today we cover the final 3 strategies.

  • Getting work as a freelancer or consultant
  • Promoting a product
  • Strategies for everyone

The Freelancer or Consultant

As a consultant, outside of being good at what you do and generally being able to successfully run a business and manage clients, success is heavily dependant upon two things:

  1. making sure people remember who you are and what you do

  2. making sure enough people are in group number 1 to keep your pipeline full.

Finding ways to stay on the radar of people who will either hire you or refer you to new business is a critical challenge for freelancers and consultants.

You will find many examples of business owners who are using LinkedIn's "Q&A" feature as a significant element of their visibility and lead generation marketing.

Heidi Cool, owner of Heidi Cool Consulting is one great example. Heidi shared with me how by providing excellent answers to the questions of other LinkedIn members, she has built visibility and credibility for her business, more and higher quality traffic to her Web site and more leads.

Here's what Heidi did...

Using LinkedIn Q&A

The key for Heidi is not generic visibility, but high quality visibility - where her answers set her apart. She focuses on answering questions that are directly relevant to her areas of expertise and will possibly get selected by the questioner as "best" answers. When this happens, both the question and the answer show up in her profile further building her credibility as an expert in her field.

To give you a sense of scale, Heidi has spent 1-2 hours per week over the last 6 months answering questions related to Web site design. Questions her take about 5-30 minutes each to answer properly.

As a great example of the inherently holistic nature of social marketing, Heidi relies heavily on her existing blog content to make sure that questions get a thorough response in a way that would not be possible by just answering the question on LinkedIn alone (as of this writing there's a limit of 4,000 characters for responses). Heidi's Results

  • Heidi received more than 3 times the number of visitors to her site in July when she focused heavily on this technique. She adds:
    "I can generate traffic from other sites for much less effort, but the quality of visitors isn't as high"
  • Heidi defines quality as both how many pages visitors view on her site ("stickiness") and how many real inquiries/leads she receives from site visitors. For example, the visitors from an article aggregator site she posts content to are not "high quality". 86% of those visitors leave after viewing only one page, "and so far none have made an inquiry through my contact form".

  • But during July when she ramped up her Q&A strategy, LinkedIn visitors sent her 29 email requests for more information or project proposals.

Other Freelancer/Consultant techniques:

  • Create an Email Signature and consider including your LinkedIn Custom URL on your business cards and on more of your marketing materials to enable potential customers to learn more about you and your company

  • Create a group

  • Send connection invitations immediately after conferences and events

  • Recommendations as strategy. Michael Zittel Owner, LLC offers this advice (in response to a LinkedIn Q&A of course):
    We use, and recommend to our clients, to at least utilize Linked In as a validation service of testimonials and "recommendations." It's easy for anyone to write a bogus testimonial about their services and post it on their site. It is not possible to do so on Linked in. So, having recommendations here, and posting on your site, then linking to LINKED IN so people can validate the reference is, in our approach, one of the simplest methods of utilizing LinkedIn.



The Product Promoter

LinkedIn is a very interesting tool for those who have a product to sell or promote. The same way communities must be built for the purpose of congregation, businesses also need to build communities around services and products.

Author Gary Unger shared a great example of how he uses LinkedIn to regularly sell out of his book which is available for sale at In July 2008 he published the book "How to Be a Creative Genius (in Five Minutes or Less)". Gary spends about 4 hours per day on LinkedIn, reading messages, looking for questions to answer, writing answers and interacting with people he meets. His results? He explains that for every good answer he posts, about 15 people will email him asking to connect. For his Web site he gets up to 500 unique visitors per week if he is as he says "in the zone" - active in answering questions. He also regularly checks his book sales during these periods and says that he will easily sell 20 books per week and see his Amazon ranking jump when he is actively posting.

Supporting this experience, freelance copywriter and marketing consultant Leon Altman cautions "You shouldn't try to sell directly from LinkedIn. But you can start building the bridge to marketing your products and services". Leon's also underscores the importance of landing pages "on your website you must get people to opt-in."

To Connect or Not to Connect?

One of the questions that often plagues early LinkedIn users is deciding who to connect to.

LinkedIn offers these suggestions:

Thoughtfully select those people you know and trust because these are the people you will seek advice from and request a recommendation about your/other's quality of work. Because of this, the quality of your contacts is always more important than the quantity of contacts. It is important you know your connections because you may be asked to recommend one of your connections to another. If you know little about the connection you weaken the integrity of the recommendation and your network...Choose your connections wisely as there are certain questions you might only ask a connection because you know and trust that member with this information. Be sure you trust your connections with the information you make available to them."

However on the opposite end of the spectrum, many members of LinkedIn support what's called "open networking" meaning they will connect with pretty much anyone who sends them an invitation.

Also keep in mind these LinkedIn facts:

  • all connections are visible to your direct connections by default (although you can change this)

  • maximum number of connections is 30,000

  • maximum number of invitations you can send is 3,000

My take on this is that I think once you know your goals, resources and the tools you have to work with, the question of who to connect with no longer takes on the same importance. If you need to build out a community of 500 people with very specific goals like Daniel Tunkelang from LinkedIn strategies part 1, perhaps open networking is not necessary for you. If however you're trying to build a community of 5,000 people with broad interests it's probably more important. Keep in mind that the more people you have in your network, the more people you can contact directly. This is probably the biggest advantage to accepting most of the invitations you receive.

Strategies for Everyone

Here are tips for other things you should do regardless of what category you fit into:

  • Update your job description — your profile and the details in it are the center of ALL activity on LinkedIn and are at the core of your credibility for whatever you do on LinkedIn. Keep it current with new accomplishments by updating it a few times per year.

  • Check in — often a tactic used by successful business owners as a core of their business success. Use your profile as a Rolodex and check in with a few contacts each week or month just to say hello

  • Check References & Interests — it is always good to do a little research in preparation for a new relationship. In fact these days it's not at all creepy, it's respectful. The same way you'd research a company before an interview or a big sales presentation, these days each person is his or her own walking brand. Research their interests and know a little before you interact with them to help make the interaction more successful

  • Find people you should meet — if you know who your target audience is, you should also know some search criteria for finding them on LinkedIn. Perhaps it's not cost-effective for you to try to reach out to every one of your potential customers individually, but perhaps it's super smart to reach out to that guy or gal who runs the local chapter of the retailers association who could make a great strategic partner for your business.

  • Consider a LinkedIn ad — and tailor the reach to your target audience

  • What are you working on now? — this feature is often not noticed by your connections in my experience, but it can be used to share good news, newly completed projects, new hires with your connections

  • Maximize Travel - check the locations of your connections before you travel so you can schedule time to see people in the city your going to. (Thanks to @merylkevans for the reminder on this one!)

  • Maximize New ConnectionsBarbara Rozgonyi offers these words of advice "After you accept an invitation, consider replying with a quick personal message that includes a few bullet points about what you do, an opportunity to ask questions about your industry and additional ways to connect with you online such as your blog, ezine or forum." A great tip and something I try to do as well. Thank you, Barbara!

  • Connect Your Connections - helping others find the people they need from within your own network can go a long way. (Thanks to


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