If you think your website is one of your company’s greatest business engines, think again
What if I told you it’s LinkedIn? And what if that engine was backfiring or sputtering at various points, but could be tuned?
Let me explain.
People do business with people, not websites. That’s difference number one. Your corporate website prompts client or customers to take some sort of action, but do they stay there? Do they develop a relationship with your website? (If it’s Amazon Prime, then perhaps, yes!)
LinkedIn, however, does a host of other things, like:
A company’s story used to be relatively opaque. Advertisements, press releases, public filings, and the ilk were the only ways to share what a company was all about.
Then came the internet, which opened the doors a bit, but only in a prescriptive, highly curated way.
Then came LinkedIn (not to mention Glassdoor, and the like), and companies began to lose control of their stories as employees started basically creating online résumés. Unwittingly, they also started giving away confidential information.
On the flip side, however, LinkedIn profiles that are strategically considered and carefully developed give insights into the educations, career backgrounds, and thought leadership contributions of company leaders. The right approach can instill confidence within key stakeholders (e.g., customers/clients, investors, and analysts).
Until recently, when Person A scheduled an appointment with Person B, it was nearly impossible for the parties to learn about each other before meeting. And then after meeting, the parties only knew what they learned during the meeting.
No pre-meeting messaging or context to pave the way. No post-meeting tool to support credibility, amplify personal brand, or continue the made connection.
LinkedIn allows those relationships to not only begin, but blossom. LinkedIn also offers controls about how you send and/or receive messages from others. It’s their attempt to (a) give you a bit of control, while (b) monetizing their platform. But at the end of the day, LinkedIn really isn’t much different than the types of relationships you field in your every day life. It’s still on you to either embrace or ignore a relationship in a way that’s authentic to you.
For those you decide to explore or embrace, LinkedIn offers a rich way of connecting and cultivating those long-term business relationships.
What does a LinkedIn connection mean in business?
Today, it’s reflexive for people to google each other before meeting. When cross-referencing another person, will you find that person to be reserved? Bold? Cautious? Credible? Fly-by-night?
Will you discover a team player who believes in his or her team? Or a self-indulgent, hyperbolic representation of a person you’d hoped was otherwise reasonable?
Will you find out that the person you just met has led three turnarounds and holds 24 patents? Or will you find a bare-bones profile and be left to fill in the blanks with your own assumptions?
Also, I don’t know about you, but when I think about LinkedIn and the word connection, I think about the people with whom I have explicitly agreed to become a first-degree connection.
But connection is also about the impression or feeling others get when they read about each other. This begins with the LinkedIn profile picture and trickles all the way down to the verbs one uses in his or her written story. Is the brand warm? Stern? Approachable? Unapproachable?
The reality is that we’re all already making impressions on others, whether purposefully or not.
It’s worth noting that an unapproachable brand may have been crafted by design, in the same way that an approachable brand would be. For instance, does a healthcare system CEO want to embody feelings of warmth and care? Or foster an image as resolute leader, driving a healthy bottom line. (One could argue that both are possible.) The first brand might resonate with patients who want to think of the hospital as a caring place, while the second might hit closer to home for partners and investors who want to know the hospital and its profits are in good hands. This CEO likely built that brand intentionally.
Never before have we been able to so effectively shape our career stories and truly connect with others. You might not know, until you read their LinkedIn profiles, that your neighbor holds 14 patents, or that your best friend from middle school now holds a Six Sigma Black Belt.
“But I thought LinkedIn is basically an online résumé”
Well, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Because LinkedIn was developed as an online résumé, which is troublesome for a lot of reasons, the knee-jerk response people have when they see someone else updating their LinkedIn profile is, “Oh, s/he’s looking for a job.”
LinkedIn has only recently grown into a tool for business (and isn’t necessarily getting it all right), but I’ve been writing as if that were the case for a long time. The two ideas are finally merging. I write using a simple pattern:
- Opening paragraph: Champion the current company.
- Paragraph 2 of 3: Move into the profile subject’s role at the company.
- The rest: Dovetail into the reason that person is in the role to begin with by presenting career relevance, professional credibility, and collective impact.
As background, the whole idea evolved from my work with stealth job seekers, and the above pattern lets the profile owner talk about themselves and their career credibility in what I call “broad daylight,” without causing alarm for current constituents/stakeholders. Happily, the most elite recruiters (retained executive search) want to find and pluck happy people, so it’s a virtuous cycle to present oneself as if one is happy.
Interestingly, clients who were indeed stealth job seekers began reporting back that their LinkedIn profiles had become business tools! This was unexpected, at first, since it originated from my need to obfuscate a client’s real purpose. In many cases, their own fulfillment grew at work, and they ended up staying.
One example was the profile of a friend who is also a client. An SVP for a well-known leisure and hospitality company, her LinkedIn for Business profile had helped open doors to several-hundred-thousand dollars in deals with tech companies that had previously been elusive prospects. One afternoon, the CEO of a well-known Silicon Valley company rang my client and related that my client’s LinkedIn profile was why she had contracted my client’s company in the first place, saying, “We felt like we were going to be taken care of, not sold to.”
Consider another client, who began working with me in the late 90s, and is today president of a multibillion-dollar business unit. As his career progressed, and my own thinking about LinkedIn evolved, we shifted his LinkedIn profile from all about him, to a platform for sharing the pride he holds for his global workforce. Within months, he found that his employees seemed more eager to meet when he visited their country.
Deals are being closed … business is being done … all because LinkedIn profiles are being cross-referenced and the messaging supports the profile owner’s role and position in their current company. It’s not posing as a psuedo-résumé.
If you’re ready to tackle your own “LinkedIn for Business” profile, or rally your team or employee group to do the same, here are two ways to look at the same guiding principle:
- Develop the LinkedIn profile subject’s career story around the larger purpose of the current company’s goals
- Elevate awareness about the company through the credibility the profile subject brings to the company.
The new LinkedIn profiles will soon begin serving as proof points for potential partners, supporting business development and sales, and underpinning the company’s formal online presence.
But if you’re interested in going deeper, let’s carry on.
So if you’re not using LinkedIn for business, are you missing out on business?
Maybe, maybe not. But you won’t know until you try. A sure-fire way for such a powerful digital tool not to work is to do nothing.
Are you missing deals because your LinkedIn profile is untended? Indeed, what if you’re missing growth opportunities because the company, as a whole, hasn’t figured out how to leverage social media. Has the company thrown up its hands and let employees have their way? On the flip side, has the company restricted the use of the LinkedIn platform? (Here’s looking at you, Apple.)
Are you worried that your employees will bail? (You and everyone else, by the way.) Do their website bios sound like they’re aligned with your company mission? Or do they read like they’re ready and open to the next job that comes along? Or worse … actively looking for a new job?
What if I told you there was a way to build and cultivate all of those little employee profile engines on LinkedIn so they amounted to something much bigger than your corporate website? Or at least supporting it by demonstrating the gravitas, credibility, fun, or whatever other ideas best describe the team you’ve assembled?
I have a guiding philosophy in my efforts helping companies and leaders write great LinkedIn profiles
Write from your point of view in your current leadership role, and as if you are happy in that role. The rest will follow.
So I found it disconcerting when, during one of the saddest times life can deliver, I found myself thinking about LinkedIn during funeral preparations for a recently-deceased family member.
Bear with me. There’s a point here.
On leaving our first meeting with the funeral director, he said to us, “I’m sorry to meet you again under such sad circumstances. Thank you for your trust.”
Thank you for your trust?
It was a simple statement, which he has undoubtedly said countless times to countless others, but in that moment I was touched. And then because I think about messaging day and night, I thought, “Hmm, what does he say on his LinkedIn profile?”
I never checked because I didn’t want to find out, but it did bring to mind a way to universally demonstrate why we should all use LinkedIn as a tool for business, not as an online resume. It has to do with audience, and for this guy, his primary audience should be families who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Let me stop and just show you the opening paragraphs of two fictional LinkedIn Summaries I wrote to illustrate what happens when you get “audience” wrong, and then how to correct it:
Fictional Paragraph Opener #1 (bad): All about the LinkedIn profile owner (with a few no-no words thrown in to properly nauseate you):
Fictional Paragraph Opener #2 (good): All about the company, service, or product, with the LinkedIn profile owner demonstrating why he’s the guy I should trust during a difficult time:
Put a bit of art into the science behind your profile. Create it matter-of-factly, not through overstatement and hyperbole. The best people brands come from people who are purposefully standing in their professional center, not screaming from the rafters. The best LinkedIn profiles—indeed, brand platforms—will draw in or repel people, and ultimately lead to the best types of connection.
From boards and executive teams, to the middle of the org chart and beyond, a company’s story doesn’t really flourish without its people. Think of their individual contributions as the engines that make the whole thing run, and then tell that story to the world.
About Jared Redick:
Jared isn’t the marketing or ad agency creative whose telling your company’s macro story. He’s the guy who uses LinkedIn to tell the micro stories about your company’s leadership team that will flow into and comprise the company’s macros story.
He believes those people represent your company’s bottom line, one moment at a time, and that their stories collectively represent the company as a whole.
Jared will work with you and your team to size a LinkedIn strategy to the needs of your team, work with individual team members to elicit the right stories, and ultimately shape profile content that best reflects your company’s purpose, mission, and goals. The resulting LinkedIn profiles should not only empower the individual employee, but tell the collective team story to the right stakeholders (e.g., customers, clients, investors, press, vendors, partners) about why they’ve been entrusted as leaders of your company.