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With the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of subsiding, and with more mask mandates and lockdowns probably on the way in 2021, it only makes sense that digital marketers have been scrambling to find new ways of connecting with prospects and customers. After all, conferences, trade shows and exhibitions are either canceled or entirely digital these days. And all of the regular ways that marketers connect with customers and leads in real life have been basically shut down by the pandemic. With that mind, many digital marketers have embraced “social selling” online, and the primary platform of choice here is LinkedIn.
What is social selling?
Of course, social selling has been around for several years now – it’s not something that started from scratch during the early lockdowns of the pandemic. However, the way that people think about social selling has evolved in 2020. While the word “selling” is in the name, it’s not so much about pitching or selling as it is about deepening relationships and engaging with customers and prospects. In fact, if you are trying to “sell” directly on LinkedIn, you are doing it all wrong.
Instead, think of social selling on LinkedIn as the meet-and-greet portion of any good conference. The parts of any event where business gets done are the coffee breaks, the break-out sessions, and the times when people wander the exhibition or trade show floor, exchanging business cards and catching up with people they haven’t seen in awhile. That’s the way you should think about social selling on LinkedIn. The goal should be having conversations with people and connecting with new faces.
Optimize your profile
A good starting point is simply optimizing your profile. You’ll want to have a customized banner image, for example, and you’ll want to have a professional-looking image for your LinkedIn profile picture. And, of course, you’ll want to have a catchy headline to describe what you do, perhaps some links to featured content you’ve created in the past, and a concise layout for all of your skills and experiences. Think about this the way you would think about connecting with people IRL – you wouldn’t show up for a major industry trade show wearing a pair of pajamas, without a lot of business cards, or without the ability to whip out a quick presentation on your phone, tablet or laptop. But that’s exactly what you’d be doing if your LinkedIn profile looks like something out of 2015 instead of 2020.
Grow and engage with your network
The easiest way to grow your network on LinkedIn is simply being a good listener. It’s not about you actively promoting your products and services, it’s about connecting with others who have certain views and perspectives. See what people have to say and then like or comment on this content. Share your own experiences and actively search out people who have similar types of experiences. In terms of finding people to follow and connect with on LinkedIn, it’s best to target people who look like the types of people in your target audience. Check out people in your followers’ network, and get some good ideas there of people to follow and connect with on LinkedIn.
Another way to grow your network is simply learning how to use all of the tools on LinkedIn better. For example, LinkedIn now has trending hashtags, and that might give you a good idea of what types of concerns and issues people in your target audience might have. And LinkedIn also gives you ways to customize your newsfeed – this might be a way to filter out some of the noise on the network and ensure that you are spending your time most productively on LinkedIn.
Just remember, social selling is not a direct one-for-one replacement for all of your other digital marketing initiatives online. Instead, think of social selling as a complementary piece of everything else that you are doing. If your next digital marketing event in 2021 gets suspended or canceled, look for ways that LinkedIn can help to fill in all the gaps. And if bars, restaurants and coffee shops in your town remain under lockdown measures in 2021, then look for LinkedIn as a place to meet digitally with the same types of people you’d meet in real life.