LinkedIn for the trades

More than a year ago, PHC News started this bi-monthly social media feature. During the past 365 plus days, there have been many different kinds of reactions to the features. We have seen increased engagement on Plumbing Engineer’s social media from newcomers to the digital world, and received story pitches based on questions readers have posed.

Now that awareness has been raised, it seems fitting to take a more in-depth look at some of the digital platforms that have been mentioned. So, in the next few installments there will be a focus on specific social media sites. First up is LinkedIn.

Assistant Editor Ashlei Williams spoke with Barbara Rozgonyi, CEO of CoryWest Media, for a deep dive into LinkedIn. Rozgonyi has consulted a variety of companies on strategic marketing, social media, and public relations, including trade businesses in the plumbing, kitchen and bath industries. One of CoryWest Media’s most popular offerings is its “LinkedIn Consulting and Corporate Training” program. Williams spoke with Rozgonyi about some of the tips she shares with clients regarding LinkedIn.

AW: Why is LinkedIn a valuable tool in the social media market?

BR: LinkedIn is a valuable social media and personal branding tool for many reasons including presenting yourself professionally, presenting your company consistently, and being part of a community. People often think of LinkedIn as a career site for posting resumes, and that’s where people get stuck sometimes. They think, “Oh, if I’m not actively looking for a job, I don’t need to be active on LinkedIn.” But, the reality is there are over 300 million people on LinkedIn, and everyone needs to have a professional profile. Personal branding is really important right now.

AW: Can you explain features on LinkedIn that go beyond the basics?

BR: Companies can easily set up their own LinkedIn page and invite customers and contacts to follow their updates. If you want to take it a step further, LinkedIn now offers the ability to add Showcase Pages. So, for instance, if you are a kitchen and bath studio, you can have pages for kitchen remodels, bath remodels, room additions or home offices. Each Showcase Page is like a blog within a blog, in that you can post ongoing updates. From a company perspective, you can really build out and talk about your areas of specialty – and you can measure results with LinkedIn’s analytics.

From a personal profile perspective, LinkedIn now has a publishing option, which means you can post longer updates with images and hyperlinks. So, if you want to go beyond the basic profile with short updates, you can write articles that LinkedIn will index and distribute throughout their ecosystem. Analytics show results like number of shares, comments and likes. Because the articles go into a searchable database, you get exposure beyond your LinkedIn connections.

AW: How should businesses use LinkedIn?

BR: Although most businesses rush to be on Facebook, LinkedIn is the flagship company social media site. Businesses should be using LinkedIn as their social media credibility site. It’s important that leadership profiles are well-crafted. And, it’s essential that all employee profiles are consistent in terms of keywords, location, company information, and industry. Even the company name has to match so that every employee’s profile is connected to the company page. As far as how much time you should spend on social media, every business is different. When you plan ahead and craft content a month at a time, you can schedule it to appear on your personal and LinkedIn company page with a tool like Hootsuite. A quick check-in three times a day will give you time to respond, share content, and look at how your updates are doing.

To optimize time spent on content marketing on social media, start small with a monthly theme you can build upon. For instance, maybe one month would focus on what your customers need to know about waterproofing their basement. What you will find is that throughout the year there will be topics that people will really be interested in. Rather than think in terms of days per week, think about how you can stay in touch in little bits and pieces, so you can really keep progress going.

AW: What are some pros for using LinkedIn?

BR: One pro is that LinkedIn gets you and your company into Google’s search results, which is good if you are looking at another way to optimize your personal or professional search results.

Another is the ability to use keywords. LinkedIn’s searches are based on keyword optimization, which is a real plus. You can pop in the key words that you want on your profile, and if people are searching for, let’s say, plumbers in your town then there’s a good chance you’ll pop up.

A third pro is referrals. If you have customers who absolutely love what you do, they’re probably on LinkedIn, especially if you work in the luxury remodeling market. When they write a recommendation for you, you show up on their profile and they show up on your profile, giving you an expanded reach. They can also post recommendations for your company.

Lead generation is the fourth pro. Look for local networking groups on LinkedIn. When you join a group, introduce yourself. This strategy worked for one of our clients in the home remodeling industry. They introduced themselves and their work, and within a week they had a proposal for a six-figure project.

The last pro is that LinkedIn lets you showcase images. Do you have a before-and-after photo gallery? Put together a PowerPoint and upload it to SlideShare.net. Then, you can share the file on LinkedIn.

AW: What are some cons for using LinkedIn?

BR: The first con is not sharing enough information. On LinkedIn, everyone needs a flattering photograph, a strong headline, and a complete profile that lists positions with descriptions.

The second con is being hesitant to complete their profiles. We’re taught not to be boastful, and to be humble. So, one of the catches is that people need to give themselves permission to really share their successes.

Cost is the third con. Although LinkedIn free, the pro version does cost almost $50 a month. The upgrade entitles you to expanded searches, seeing who views your profile, and more. It’s a rich set of tools, but $50 is $50, and a lot of people really don’t want to invest in that. But, LinkedIn will let you try the pro version for free for a month to see if it’s valuable for you.

Staying with it is the fourth con. People will put up a LinkedIn profile and forget about it. They won’t go into building mode, which is where the LinkedIn magic happens.

The last con is misunderstanding. It’s not LinkedIn’s fault that a lot of people think LinkedIn is more for people in management and executive positions than those in hourly, entry level or skilled trades workers. LinkedIn is for everyone and is now open to students as young as 13.

AW: Is there a specific formula for successful posts on LinkedIn?

BR: Yes, for longer posts start with a catchy headline and an intriguing picture. Include keywords to insure your post will be found in searches. Break the content into paragraphs, each with a headline of its own. Add in a brief bio paragraph at the end to let readers know who you are and what you do. Then, share the link in your newsletter as well as throughout your social networks, including on your personal profile and on your company page.

Not much of a writer? Commenting on other people’s posts is a great way to join a conversation already in progress. Look for a leader in your town, your trade, or your vendor community who publishes LinkedIn posts. Share a comment on their posts to contribute to the conversation. Commenting is an underused strategy that is really easy and successful for those folks who don’t want to spend a lot of time writing original content.

AW: What do you think people are missing about LinkedIn?

BR: People may not know how useful the LinkedIn mobile app can be. It’s easy to use, and it gives you at-a-glance ideas and suggestions on how to connect with other users. The desktop version keeps improving as well. Like anything else, the more you use LinkedIn, the easier it is to get results.

AW: What’s your social media secret?

BR: I love taking pictures of people, places and things. That’s why Instagram is my favorite social media secret. Although I am a photographer, I specialize in consulting, speaking, and training. Instagram allows me to share pictures of everyday life, events, pets, and travel with the world. Instagram also helps answer two of the most frequent questions I get asked: “How can I differentiate my business?” and “How can I share my personal life without revealing too much?”

It all comes down to public relations (PR). I like to define PR as Personality + Reputation. Every person, and every business needs both. Instagram puts your PR in focus.

It’s also the lazy person’s best social media tool, because you choose an image, and use the editing tool to make it look fantastic. You can add hashtags, then post it to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and follow shares and comments across the spectrum. Thanks to Instagram, a picture is worth 1,000 words and priceless social media connections.

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