The power of LinkedIn
If you’re in business and you don’t yet have a LinkedIn account then you could be missing a trick. LinkedIn is the equivalent of Facebook for business; a professional platform to network and connect with like-minded individuals, encompassing industry groups and forums that act as a rich information source and a place where you can build your credibility. It offers the benefit of growing the visibility of your brand, allowing you to uncover opportunities and leads that will grow your business. In this article we’ll discuss how to automate your LinkedIn activity, taking away the time-consuming elements that you would need to go through to deliver results from LinkedIn. In broad terms these are:
- Identifying your target market and building prospect lists of potential customers
- Engaging and with these contacts to promote your business and generate opportunities.
A rich database of contacts
Industries such as recruitment find LinkedIn an essential tool to their business because it offers advanced search capabilities to identify very specific target markets. A recruiter can search for candidates that have particular degrees, experience, language skills, seniority levels and much, much more. The image below shows you the LinkedIn search filters you can choose from to create a targeted list. In this article however I’m not going to focus on recruiters as this is quite a specific area and requires a different level of LinkedIn subscription. For now I am interested in sharing how businesses from a wide range of sectors can harness the power of LinkedIn and automate their activity to save a lot of time and capitalise on the unparalleled reach within the tool. The reason I refer to recruiters is that a business can, and should, use this LinkedIn search functional to identify sales prospects (whether this be companies or individuals) that meet their specific target market demographics. The fact that such a high percentage of professionals and businesses utilise LinkedIn means that it is one of the best sources of up-to-date data, of the highest quality because the data itself is managed by the individuals that own the profiles.
So LinkedIn carries a lot of power when it comes to business networking because if the size and quality of its user base, meaning it becomes a great social tool for broadcasting your message. If you’re new to LinkedIn then there are a few steps you should take to set yourself up properly before using it as an engagement tool. This is covered in my article on setting up a LinkedIn Profile for you and your business.
Once you’ve got a profile, built some connections and set up a business page then you’re ready to start utilising LinkedIn as an engagement tool. There are many ways to harness the power of LinkedIn, and here I will cover a few simple processes to get you started, but as this is more about the automation tools available, you can read more about engagement tactics for LinkedIn by clicking the link further down
Why LinkedIn connections are important
LinkedIn is a platform which enables you to post both personal and business updates. If you are talking about what is happening from a company perspective then you should post from your business page, but it is good practice for people within that business to share these updates via their personal profiles too. Personal profiles can be used to post a more personal and emotional perspective and can include your opinions, giving your audience the chance to build empathy with you. Just be careful that any strong opinions are posed independently of you company, something which disclaimers can help prevent.
The great thing about posting content on LinkedIn is that your post will appear in the feed of anyone you are connected with so you can consider it as free marketing. Even better, if your connection likes or comments on your post, it will appear in the feed of their connections too. If your posts resonate well with your audience then your reach can be exponential. If you want to know how to get the best engagement rates from your content, you can discover my 7 tips on increasing engagement rates with LinkedIn in the following article.
As we can see, by building up your connections on LinkedIn, the reach of your content and updates will be greater, giving you much better visibility. But building your network can be a time consuming task – not just for business owners that are busy running their business but also for marketers that have campaign deadlines to meet, webinars to host etc and this ongoing activity of building your network can often get waylaid. Luckily LinkedIn automation tools can do this in the background without you having to spend your valuable time on it.
How to automate LinkedIn activity
We know that LinkedIn is a useful tool to build empathy with your brand, discover new connections in your industry and get your message out into the market place. Like all social media however (I’m not going to lie to you) it can be an arduous task putting the required activity in to ensure the fruits of your labour. One you have built your connections you will need to to contribute to discussions, comment on other people’s updates, post useful content and build trust by sharing your knowledge. To deliver results from LinkedIn I recommend putting in 5 hours a week; a couple of hours identifying and building new contacts, a couple of hours posting content and sharing company updates and an hour contributing to group discussions or helping your peers. If this all sounds like time you don’t have readily available (and let’s fact it who does?) then automating your LinkedIn strategy is the best way forwards.
Part 1: Automating LinkedIn prospect identification and list building
The first part of automating your LinkedIn strategy requires the LinkedIn sales navigator subscription. A free LinkedIn subscription won’t give you enough search functionality to build and save accurate prospect lists or make any of the subsequent automation tools I talk about later in this post worth investing in. A free LinkedIn subscription includes limited search capability and messages meaning a sales navigator subscription really is advisable.
LinkedIn sales navigator is a nifty tool in itself for helping you to identify decision markers within your target market and saving them to data lists that you can export.
Sales Navigator professional costs $64.99 a month and includes the following features:
One of my favourite features of all of these is the ability to build your own target list very easily from a list of demographics. The functionality we’re focussing on for our automation here is the 1500 saved leads, advanced lead and company search and lead and account recommendations. These are the features that will give you a really good target database. As you can see in the below image you can search LinkedIn contacts by sector, size, geography, seniority level, title and much more. You can also create multiple lists to represent your different target markets for different products or messaging. In the image here you’ll notice that the search criteria entered has yielded 248 results. Each day these results will vary as sales navigator updates your list whenever there is new data, growing your list automatically.
Another nice feature of LinkedIn Sales Navigator is that it automatically updates you with news and activity from your contact lists that you have built. In the image above we can see that 7 people from our list have changed jobs within the past 90 days, and 20 contacts have posted on LinkedIn recently. This information enables you to interact with your prospects that have been active recently by liking and commenting on their updates, congratulating them on new jobs etc – this all helps to build a relationship. The trick with social media is to be a giver not a taker, building trust with your new contacts by supporting, commenting and helping then with useful knowledge. Once you have your lists you can set about engaging with them, which we cover in part 2 below.
Part 2: LinkedIn engagement
Of course building lists is just the start. The next step involves engaging with the prospects on your contact list, whether this be through LinkedIn or via alternative channels. Ideally you should engage with your prospects via multiple channels because you can never be sure which is a target prospect’s preferred method of engagement unless you get to ask them directly. When it comes to engagement through LinkedIn though, there are some advanced automation technologies (independent to LinkedIn) which can perform the second part of the marketing funnel – the engagement piece. Tools such as Dux Soup, LinkedIn Helper and MeetLinda will automate your first stages of engagement very efficiently, offering the following functionality:
- Visiting profiles of contacts in your target market and creating lists that can be exported (you need a LinkedIn sales navigator subscription to enable you to visit enough profiles to make this a valuable investment)
- Sending connection requests with tailored messages to increase the size of your network
- Automating a flow of sequential messages to contacts in your lists without duplication
- Automatic follow-ups and drip campaigns within LinkedIn
- Sending messages to LinkedIn group members
- Automating the endorsement of contacts
- Inviting your 1st degree connection to join groups
- Withdrawing pending connection invitations
- Following and un-following LinkedIn connections automatically
- Adding notes against contacts to keep important information and additional insights readily availably
- Uploading of your lead lists to your CRM system
- Sharing your leads with colleagues so they can follow up when a response is received
Now, you may not understand what all of these mean until you start using the features and become familiar with them so I’ll explain your automation options to let you decide which features you may need from a LinkedIn automation tool. This may help you decide what to look for when choosing one for your business.
The first step in building a relationship over LinkedIn is to visit someone’s profile. LinkedIn allows users to see who had viewed their profile, so they can see if you have viewed theirs. What this gives you is an opportunity to get noticed by a prospect in a non-threatening manner. Now, whilst this isn’t likely to result in any business for you, it is the first step in building a relationship, and creates awareness of you and your company. which may pay dividends later. I recommend that as a first step in the engagement piece that you view someone’s profile – something which these tools will automate, saving you lots of time.
Sending connection requests
You then have a couple of options on where to go next – you can try to connect to people or follow them. I always think it is a compliment when someone follows you. It means they are showing an interest in you without being invasive. For many of us, an approach that is too direct can get our heckles up. I recommend following them first as a mark of respect before attempting to connect if they don’t know who you are. There are then many other ways you can subtly court prospects before inviting them to connect, for example commenting on their posts, congratulating them on career successes, liking their posts etc.
When it comes to the point of connecting, I’m sure most of you will have been on the receiving end of a blank connection request from someone you don’t know. How do you respond? If you don’t know someone and don’t know why they want to connect with you then there’s a high chance that you will ignore or decline their request. However, if you receive a connection request from someone who you don’t know that contains a message carrying some relevance to you, or some common ground, then you’re much more likely to accept their connection. Whilst you can automate the connection process with automation tools, including a message and making that message relevant will have a much higher success rate.
If you have been following someone, commenting on their posts and subsequently invite them to connect with a message such as “I found your recent post really insightful and would be keen to connect with you” then the groundwork should really make a difference to your acceptance rates. Remember – connections increase your reach.
Automating the flow of sequential messages
Moving on to sequential messages, these involve sending a series of messages to a target list, and should aim to result in an end goal – whether this signing up to a webinar, downloading content, signing up to a partner programme, taking a free trial or registering for an event – the end goal should be something that will help drive your business forwards in some way but doesn’t have to be a sale. It may be asking too much to expect a prospect to buy after just a few emails, that will depend on your offering and brand credibility.
Some automation tools will stop a sequence of messages once a contact responds, which maintains a professional image. In my opinion these are well worth opting for if you are going to use the sequential messaging feature as it doesn’t look good when you continue to send someone invites for a webinar or free trial that they have already signed up to!
Sending messages to LinkedIn group members
Should you want to extend your reach beyond your network and your saved prospect lists, then groups can be a great place to target next. I find that the main limitation of groups is that you can’t target them geographically but the ability to automate broadcasting to groups is powerful if you have a wide geographical target market.
Automating endorsement of contacts
Personally I only tend to endorse my connections for their skills. I don’t think it comes across as very genuine if you endorse contacts in your prospect lists that you are not connected with – the likelihood is that you have never experienced them in their job function and so can’t honestly endorse them. Where I think endorsement carries more weight is with you customers and existing connections.
Invite your connection to join groups
Inviting your contacts to to join your groups can also be a good way to build relationships; with the added benefit that if you want to promote yourself they will then see your content in a less invasive way via the group instead of directly from you. It’s a win-win if your contact has a genuine interest in the group that you are inviting them to join, but remember, it’s all about relevance and if the group you invite them to is not relevant to them then you risk alienating that contact.
Withdrawing pending connection requests
LinkedIn gives you a finite number of outstanding (i.e. not yet accepted) connection requests, so when you get to your maximum then your automation tools will stop sending any new requests out. It is good practice to remove old connection requests to people who haven’t accepted them within a few weeks. This usually demonstrates that the message hasn’t been relevant enough, or the person may just not be an active LinkedIn user (and there are plenty of these). Automating the removal of connection requests allows you to continue building your network without the process being halted. The fact that some of these tools automate this process implies that it is an important part of the process, and one I have used frequently.
Following and un-following LinkedIn connections automatically
As mentioned earlier, I find that following someone is a good idea before you invite them to become a connection in order to increase your chance of them accepting a request to connect. Therefore this feature is an important one if you have this as a step in your process.
Uploading lists to CRM systems and sharing leads amongst teams
With some of the more advanced Linkedin automation tools, they are starting to integrate with CRM systems to enable you to automatically pull the data into a company wide contact management system. This then feeds leads directly into your sales and marketing funnel, enabling them to be distributed amongst a team and nurtured in accordance with internal processes. This can start to get costly but for larger companies with advanced sales processes and large sales teams there is more to gain from with these advanced features.
LinkedIn automation can help you to increase your network, expanding the visibility of your brand. Automating your LinkedIn activity enables you to increase your exposure whilst affording you more time. If you’re interested in automating LinkedIn then you there are a few tools that can help, but I recommend Dux Soup as one of the best tools, which you can explore at the link below.
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