Are you using social media to grow your business yet?
Many C-level executives already are. Data from the Q4 2011 Vistage CEO Confidence Index quashes any remaining doubts that today’s executives are ready to embrace social media. The survey of 1,641 U.S. CEOs found that 60 percent of CEOs today are actively using social media to grow their businesses. And more than 40 percent have taken a shine to LinkedIn in particular, at least when it comes to personal social media activity. Here’s where U.S. CEOs are hanging out:
- 41 percent of CEOs are most personally active on LinkedIn
- 26 percent are most active on Facebook
- 5 percent are most active on Twitter
- Only 3 percent are most active on Google Plus.
Of course, LinkedIn has always positioned itself as a business network first; it makes sense that the C-suite would congregate there. But there are plenty of compelling reasons to start using the network as a business tool (and not just a digital resume). The network now reports having 135 million registered users in more than 200 countries. And as of September 30, 2011, LinkedIn claims there are executives from every Fortune 500 company on the site.
Still need convincing? Here are 5 ways you can leverage LinkedIn to grow your business in 2012:
- Generate Leads and Grow Influence— Although overall optimism surged in the fourth-quarter CEO Confidence Index, the top business challenge going into 2012 (according to 25 percent of CEOs surveyed) is a familiar one: customer retention and lead generation. Enter social media: LinkedIn’s new company pages give CEOs (and their marketing teams) a uniquely professional opportunity to get top-of-mind with prospects—and stay there. But you can also grow your personal brand by answering questions and sharing the content your business generates. Check out Rebecca Corliss’ webcast on how HubSpot uses LinkedIn as an inbound marketing tool, yielding an impressive 20 percent visitors-to-leads conversation rate. (LinkedIn says that content referrals from the network back to the publishing site were up 75 percent in Q3 of 2011.)
- Find and Recruit Top Talent— LinkedIn is still one of the best ways to vet new talent online. And since more than half (55 percent) of surveyed firms reported plans to hire in 2012, the highest total percentage since 2007, there’s no time like the present to get acquainted with LinkedIn as a hiring tool. While you may want other members of your team to actually investigate and implement LinkedIn’s corporate recruiting tools, you can still find out quickly which A-players in your expanded network are newly available, looking and interested. (Make sure you’re opted in to get email digests of who in your network has changed jobs—go to Settings and then “Email Preferences” to adjust.) You can also bump into candidates in industry groups, or dig up new contacts using Advanced People Search—and use the (premium-level) Profile Organizer tool to track prospects.
- Build Key Relationships (Without Wasting Time)— Networking on LinkedIn is not just for job hunters. The network is a virtual rolodex of 135 million professionals—any of whom could become potential partners, allies, hires, experts or consultants. (Don’t forget to ask your connections for introductions.) And as Alessandro Di Fiore writes for HBR, “Before LinkedIn and other professional networks came on the scene it was just too costly in terms of time and mental focus to update, communicate, keep alive weak tie relationships…The impact of on-line professional networks on weak relationships is terrific because they let you exploit this ‘untapped’ reserve of Social Capital.” One final tip: if you’re on the go a lot, no problem. LinkedIn’s CardMunch app for iPhone users lets you to digitize your business cards—and find out more about the person who handed you that card on the spot.
- Get Insight and Advice from a Peer Group— Members of peer advisory organizations already know that many minds are better than one; imagine what 135 million minds can do. On LinkedIn, you can easily join (or found) an online group of like-minded peers or colleagues. And just like a “real-life” peer group, the more you listen and participate, the more you’ll get out of it. From a competitive standpoint, moderating an active industry group can help establish you as an expert—but the opportunity to benefit from the insight, support and expertise of your peers is priceless. (Lewis Howes, creator of LinkedInfluence, gives an additional 10 reasons to start a LinkedIn group.) Another idea: start a group for your team, and use it as an internal forum.
- Stay on Top of Market Trends— One thing’s very certain about 2012: it’s not certain. CEOs are optimistic, but they’re also keenly aware of the ever-increasing demands on their time and their ability to adapt. If you want to grow your business in 2012, you need to quickly and ably meet a lot of new demands—preferably before your competitors do. How aware are you of what your competitors are talking about, worrying about and doing? Get an inside view by following company pages, joining groups your competitors and colleagues are active in, reading relevant Q&As (on LinkedIn answers) and exploring the most-shared industry content on LinkedIn Today.
Finally, for more details on how to optimize your profile (and measure its success using LinkedIn’s analytics) here’s a 12-step checklist.
Are you using LinkedIn yet? What’s your #1 tip for using it to grow your business?