You most likely know your competitors. And know them well. You study their websites. You check out their social media profiles and updates. You listen to them on Twitter. (Tip: Create a private list called “Competitors” and add them to the list for easy checking.)
What about LinkedIn? Do anything with your competitors there?
Before you start this three-step process, verify that your profile clearly conveys your company’s value to its customers and has your contact information. Look into using a web-based app that allows people to schedule appointments with you. Add the link to the scheduling tool under your contact information.
Step 1: Connect with your competitors on LinkedIn
Yes, connect with your competitors on LinkedIn. No joke. Many will accept your connection request without a second thought.
Think about it. You connect with prospects. Your competitors do the same. After a competitor accepts your connection, check out their connections. (Click their number of connections to see the list.) You can view all, shared, or new connections. The first time, check all their connections for prospects. Then going forward, you can track new connections.
If you’re connected, you’ll also see more of their activity on LinkedIn so you know how they are using the social network – which can give you a lot of information about their direction and goals. It can also provide ideas for your own LinkedIn activity.
Step 2: Find your competitors’ sales reps
Don’t know who the reps are at your competitors’ companies? Do an Advanced People Search. Enter the company name and job title of the people you want to find. From there, you can figure out who you want to connect with and start monitoring their connections.
You might also want to map their org chart, which is easier to do if you are connected to several people in their company. Remember, you can view connections up to the third degree on LinkedIn. If you have a couple first degree connections inside the company, you’ll be able to see more about their team.
For search tips, check out advanced LinkedIn Search tips and tricks.
Step 3: Protect your own connections
Every LinkedIn profile has a “Recent Activity” page. (To access it, go to a person’s profile, select the down arrow next to “Send a message” and “View recent activity.”)
Recent activity can include:
- New connection.
- New current job position.
- New link to a website.
- New recommendation for someone else.
- Start following a company.
- New skills.
- New content shared with network.
- Changed title of your current position.
- Current work anniversaries.
The one you want is the new connection. However, whether this information appears depends on the person’s LinkedIn Profile Privacy Controls. (You can change settings by moving the cursor over your LinkedIn image in the top right corner and selecting “Privacy & Settings.”)
The strictest privacy settings won’t prevent LinkedIn from displaying these activities:
- Added new connection. (You can hide your connections list to prevent this.)
- Group activity. (Control this within Group’s settings.)
- Shared content.
- Followed a University’s page.
- Upgraded to Premium. (Job Seeker account is exempt.)
- Followed a new influencer, publisher, or channel.
- Liked shared content.
You can work around this by modifying who can see your connections. You can either choose “your connections” or “only you.” Beware that if you go with “only you,” others can still see connections who have endorsed you and connections they share with you.
If you want to hide all your activity from a competitor or someone else, block the person by going to the person’s profile and selecting “Block or report” from the drop-down menu.
Do you have tips for dealing with competitors on LinkedIn? How do you handle this?
What do you want your LinkedIn profile to do? Generate more leads or find a job? Chances are good you want to find partners and connect with prospects. In most cases, an executive LinkedIn profile gives the impression of the latter.
Considering a LinkedIn profile looks like a resume, professionals build one by filling in the blanks. Often, this approach leads to creating the profile from a job seeker’s perspective. An understandable oversight.
As Table 1 shows, the content in a lead generator and job seeker profile is different.
Table 1. Differences Between Lead Generator and Job Seeker LinkedIn Profiles.
|Lead generator||Job seeker|
|Profile focus||Problem you solve.Results you achieve.Client industries or fields.||Skills.Experience.How you helped organization accomplish goals.|
|Websites||Company website.Resources, FAQ, help page.Join our mailing list.||Portfolio.Personal website.|
|Publications||Free white papers.Free ebooks.Webinar recordings.Presentations given by employees.||Personal articles and posts.Authored works.Presentations given.|
|Company page||Create one.||Not needed.|
|LinkedIn Groups||Expertise.Client interest.Industry organizations.Company-run.||Expertise.Alumni.Professional organizations.Local.|
|Status updates||Share industry insights.Post company news.||Share knowledge in field.Show interest in industry.|
|Follow||Influencers.Partners.Customers.Industry analysts and experts.||Influencers.Industry analysts and experts.Potential companies.|
Lead generators are looking to reach clients, prospects, and partners. As such, their profile needs to highlight the company and its accomplishments. Yes, the individual’s experience and accomplishments still matter. You want to marry the two to produce a profile with that delivers information your target audience wants.
A good way to figure out your audience is to study your clients’ LinkedIn company pages. There, you’ll find the number of employees, specialties, industry, company type, and location. This comes in handy if your company advertises on LinkedIn because you’ll want to target your ads to companies like that.
Job seekers want to attract recruiters, hiring managers, and human resources personnel. Their profiles feature their accomplishments across multiple jobs.
You can add up to three websites to your LinkedIn profile. A lead generator shares company-related websites of interest to the prospect or potential partner. These could be links to the company website, forums, FAQs, support pages, or mailing list. Ask yourself what clients, prospects, and partners would want to know before they do business with you. That’s your answer.
The job seeker directs people to a personal website that tells you about the person’s background and experience. A personal blog — if appropriate — could go here too.
A standard company page contains a few paragraphs about the company and what it does for its clients. It lists specialties, industry, company type, headquarters location, company size, and so on. Employees who have access can post status updates that clients, prospects, and partners may read.
A company can create showcase pages for products and services. A showcase page is like a company page as it can have its own followers and status updates. For example, Microsoft has showcase pages for Microsoft Dynamics, Office, Skype for Business, Microsoft Training & Certification, and more.
If your company can commit to creating and managing its own LinkedIn Group, it can be an effective way to keep the company in the spotlight. To get started, refer to Best 5 Blog Posts on How to Start and Run a LinkedIn Group.
Both the job seeker and lead generator should join Groups related to their expertise. That’s where the similarity ends. Job seekers want to connect with colleagues in a variety of companies. These connections might help them reach the hiring manager. Good Groups for the job seeker include alumni, professional organizations, and local networking groups.
A lead generator looks for Groups that clients join. Other good types to find are industry organizations and company-sponsored Groups. For example, a company that’s a Microsoft partner would join PartnerPoint. Other Microsoft partners may have a business complementary to yours making you good referral resources for each other.
The status updates you post can reveal a bit about you. Updates tell others about the topics you’re interested in, your expertise, your company’s expertise, beliefs, and vision. Job seekers share their knowledge of their field and demonstrate interest in the industry where they seek a job.
Lead generators share industry insights, industry resources, and company news. Both can post tips, statistics, and interesting articles with a short commentary.
Regardless of how you’re using LinkedIn, it’s always useful to have recommendations for your current job and the previous job. It’s who you get recommendations from that speaks more to hiring managers or potential clients.
Job seekers want to show they can do the work. The person they directly reported to and their coworkers are in the best position to do this. If they’ve done a lot of work for external clients, those would be good recommendations to get. It’s also valuable to have recommendations across multiple jobs.
People looking to generate leads would profit most in getting recommendations from partners, executives, and customers. Recommendations from these help verify the company’s ability to achieve the work they do.
The influencers, topics, and companies you follow say something about your interests. Job seekers follow industry and field influencers, industry analysts and experts, and companies they’re interested in. Lead generators follow industry influencers, partners, customers, and industry analysts and experts.
Think about what you want to get out of LinkedIn and then gear your profile toward that with these tips. Be sure to include a call to action in your Summary and Advice for Contacting [You] sections of your LinkedIn profile.
Get more tips for creating a strong LinkedIn profile:
- LinkedIn profile tips for marketing executives.
- LinkedIn profile tips for sales executives.
- LinkedIn profile tips for MSP executives.
What would you add to make a profile more lead generation-oriented?
I ran into an old friend and we updated each other on our families. She shared the news of her daughter opting out of teaching for a marketing internship. Because of her personality and skills, everyone always thought she’d be a great teacher. Apparently, she burned out in the job and needed a change.
Leaders change jobs for a variety of reasons. Some do it for the challenge. Some do it to make a change. Some do it because of an exciting opportunity. The change could be from one industry to another, such as trading a long career in selling to the federal government to move to a division where you’re selling to the commercial industry.
Or maybe you switched from serving federal governments to state or local government. That’s a different ballgame. Or maybe you moved from one software company to its competitor. Any kind of job change calls for LinkedIn profile update.
The good news is that you have a body of expertise that can translate from old job to new. Still you need to create a bridge from where you have been to where you’re going. This can be accomplished by repositioning yourself in the new space while drawing on the area where you have expertise and thought leadership.
Part of what you need to do is craft the profile so it tells your updated story. The story will highlight your strengths while making sure it represents who you are. The other part will need to show that your interest in this new area.
Use this checklist to update your LinkedIn profile to make you look like an expert in your new job:
1. Create a list of keywords.
Think about the keywords that capture your expertise. Make another list of keywords for your new industry, company, division, or focus. Pick the top ones from both groups. Add these keywords in your headline, current and past work experience, and summary.
2. Update the companies, organizations, and people you follow.
There are no limits on how many people you follow. Follow companies, organizations, thought leaders, journalists, analysts, and bloggers in your new field. If needed, remove any that you don’t want to distract from your more vital information.
3. Revisit your LinkedIn Groups.
LinkedIn has a 50 Group limit. Review your list as some Groups may still apply, such as local networking and alumni Groups. Look for Groups that discuss your new industry, career, department, or company. Once satisfied with your Groups, participate by responding to questions and asking questions. The questions you ask offer just as much insight as the answers you give.
4. Post relevant and timely status updates.
Since you can write a status update once or twice a day, you can write short notes related to your new area of focus. Be sure to include useful resources and repost other people’s updates. As you share other resources, add your commentary – especially that which reflects your forward thinking.
5. Revise your Summary.
This takes a little more time and thought, but it’s critical in telling your current professional story. Be up front about the change without overselling yourself. Create a draft that just tells your story and what prompted you to change. Once drafted, you should have a good basis for a compelling LinkedIn Summary.
Don’t worry about perfection, get it done and posted. Need more help? Here’s what your LinkedIn profile should say about you.
6. Add Projects.
You may not have a lot of experience in your new field. Feature it by adding related projects you’re working on. If you’ve worked on a small project related to your new job in the past, it might be worth highlighting as a project rather than having it get lost in your job description.
7. Connect with people in your new job.
You’ve probably met people in your new job. Build your LinkedIn network by requesting a connection. Customize your connection requests as they go over better than automatic, generic requests.
It helps to update your profile before you start connecting with more people. They may look at it before agreeing to connect. This ensures they know the latest about you.
8. Write Recommendations.
To build up your recommendations in your new field, write recommendations for colleagues, leaders, clients, and partners. They’re likely to return the favor. If it’s too soon, put it aside with a reminder to do it later when you’ve spent more time in the new job.
9. Write blog posts that work in your new area.
Blog posts on LinkedIn offer a valuable way to share your expertise and demonstrate thought leadership in your new area of focus. If you switched from selling to the federal government to selling to commercial companies, you can write about selling in general and incorporate tips for selling to both government and commercial companies.
Writing content that’s timely, relevant, and forward thinking will help you stand out as a thought leader in your new field. Share your experiences and use it to make predictions about your industry’s future. And in no time, you’ll be viewed as an expert in your new field.
Moving from teaching to marketing is quite a leap for my friend’s daughter. However, her management, communication, and organization skills from her teaching job apply to her new marketing career. You can do the same by linking your expertise to your new job.
Before attending any event, I look up attendees’ and presenters’ LinkedIn profiles to learn more about them. This helps me come up with relevant questions and discussion points. An interesting pattern popped up. When the people are a senior executive, CEO, or in any other C-level position, sometimes their profile appeared vacant.
A typical profile lists their current job, their past positions, and little else. In fact, I had a meeting with the CEO of a company. You can guess what I did before meeting with him. Yup, I looked him up on LinkedIn. He had no photo, listed his three most recent positions without a description, and joined a couple of groups related to his industry. He didn’t have the all-important summary either.
One CEO’s story
I asked Chris (not his real name) about his LinkedIn profile, explaining that I was curious. He said that he had a successful career and didn’t need to work anymore. He started his company simply because he was passionate about his company’s products. He didn’t feel the need to have a complete profile based on his standing.
This attitude isn’t unusual, especially among older executives who still know LinkedIn primarily as a resume site. But LinkedIn has changed substantially over the past five years.
Chris constantly works to sell his product to other companies. Needless to say, he would love any publicity for his company. As do most executives. That right there is a good reason to put effort into your LinkedIn profile.
According to the Public Relations Global Network, there’s an 80 percent chance a journalist will look up an executive’s LinkedIn and other social media profiles prior to an interview. What executive wants to miss out on an interview?
Don’t miss out on publicity and being sought out
The 2014 Social CEO Report from CEO.com has found that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have zero social media presence. However, of those who join one network, 74 percent start with LinkedIn. Some of those may be your competitors.
The report says that taking advantage of social media lets the CEO represent the company’s image, build relationships with the media and employees, and put a face on a company. No matter your successes or number of connections, creating a complete LinkedIn profile does a lot for your company.
Executives may be able to get away with a thinner profile, but not so thin that people pass on their profiles. The key is to demonstrate leadership and to reach your target audience. Jump ahead of your competitors with these tips to build out your LinkedIn profile.
4 ways to create a strong LinkedIn profile
At a minimum, here are four things you must do to create a strong LinkedIn profile.
1. Post a professional photo.
The first thing to do is upload a photo that reflects your personality. If you never wear a business suit, then a photo of you wearing one wouldn’t be ideal. If you can, skip doing anything else on LinkedIn until you check this off. (If you don’t have a good photo, get one as soon as you can. Here are tips for a good LinkedIn profile photo.)
Many ignore a profile without a photo and move on to the next professional.
2. Tailor your LinkedIn profile to your target audience.
The CEO of a startup looking to partner with small businesses will have a different profile than someone who is a CFO at a publicly-traded company looking to impress industry analysts, stakeholders, and the press. Executives looking to generate leads would create a profile with keywords targeting small businesses based on the target’s industry, role, and problem that needs solving.
The way you talk to small business owners is different from IP lawyers, help desk managers, or Wall Street analysts. Furthermore, a B2C conversation is from a B2B one. It’s about speaking the right language, getting the tone right, and talking at the right level.
The CFO at the publicly-traded company would include slides, videos, and links to any interviews, presentations, and articles. Executives looking to attract journalists want to make it easy for them to notice they’re available for interviews and how to contact them. For extra help, refer to 8 tips to write a compelling LinkedIn profile summary.
3. Write a strong summary.
The section with all your current and past positions looks like a resume, as it should. That’s what makes the summary more important. You can highlight the most important things you’d like your audience to know about you in a narrative. This gives you an opportunity to tell your story with an emphasis on what you want them to know about you and what action to take after reading profile.
Seeking interviews? Tell them about known publications and resources that have interviewed you. Also highlight your expertise in the topics you’d like to discuss. If you’ve given keynotes or presentations on the topic, this would be a good place to mention it.
Remember to include media from presentations, if you have them. Again, mention how people can reach you. The more contact options you provide, the better your chances of being contacted. Whatever your goals for your target market in LinkedIn, tell your professional story with those goals in mind.
4. Fill in the details on your most recent positions.
Many executives leave these blank. You don’t have to write a book in describing your most recent positions. Keep it simple. Explain what the company does and how you helped the company achieve its goals. If you want to go the extra mile, check out LinkedIn profile tips for CEOs.
If you’re familiar with the TV show “Shark Tank,” you know the sharks on that show aren’t wanting for anything. They’re successful business owners and celebrities. No one will refuse to take their calls. Yet, they’ve made the effort to have complete LinkedIn profiles:
- Robert Herjavec: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/robertherjavec
- Barbara Corcoran: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/barbara-corcoran/74/718/7a7
- Daymond John: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daymondjohn
Examples of strong CEO LinkedIn profiles
Here are more executive profiles to inspire you as you work on yours.
Lou Adler, CEO, The Adler Group
Gina Bianchini, founder and CEO of Mightybell
Scott Case, founding CTO of priceline.com
Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president, and CEO of Lockheed Martin
Clara Shih, CEO of HearSay Social
Daniel Solove, president and CEO, TeachPrivacy
Brad Smith, president and CEO, Intuit
David H. Stevens, President and CEO, Mortgage Bankers Association
Randi Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg Media, founder and CEO
Know an executive with a strong LinkedIn profile? Tell us in the comments.
You don’t have to be a celebrity in your industry to work toward becoming a thought leader. Sure, there’s always someone who knows more than you do. Don’t let it scare you away from thought leadership. You know a lot. In fact, you know things that the more successful thought leaders in your industry don’t.
Why bother with thought leadership? Think about your competitors. How do you separate yourself from them? Thought leadership can do that. It provides exposure to your innovative ideas. As you share your ideas, your prospects get to know you. They’re more likely to remember you if you inspire, tell stories, or compel them to change. B2B companies especially benefit from thought leadership with their longer, more complicated buying cycle.
But what does it mean to be a thought leader? Search the web and you’ll get different answers. Here’s an insightful one from Daniel W. Rasmus:
“Thought leadership should also be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”
A thought leader is a person or business who shares forward-thinking viewpoints, takes a stand, and encounters dissenters. You can accomplish this anywhere: conferences, social networks, blogs, forums, and so on. Be sure to include LinkedIn in your thought leadership strategy. You can’t get much better than a social network for professionals.
This article will tell you how to take advantage of the best opportunities to provide thought leadership on LinkedIn.
The key to sharing your expertise is to be timely, relevant and progressive. Tell stories using real-life examples and you’ll have it made. Here are seven ways to achieve thought leadership on LinkedIn.
1. Publish blog posts: Your company’s website may have a blog. Still, you’ll want to write blog posts on LinkedIn as it’ll show up high on search engine results. The fact the content appears on LinkedIn gives it a big boost. A valuable post would be based on interviews with industry leaders, connectors, and influencers. They’ll most likely publicize the post and it could go viral.
2. Post status updates: Share industry news, link to deep diver articles and guides, provide tips, and ask questions.
3. Participate in Groups: Answer questions without any sales spiel. This enhances your credibility to help you build relationships on LinkedIn. You can also pose questions that get people thinking and start interesting conversations. The questions you ask can make as big an impression, if not more, as your answers.
4. Respond to others: Respond to status updates, Group posts, and blog posts. People appreciate being heard and acknowledged.
5. Share other people’s posts: The simple act of sharing earns Brownie points with the person who originally posted the update and puts you in top of mind with them and those who catch your share.
6. Add media to your profile: You can add documents, photos, links to external resources, videos and presentations. If you give a speech or presentation at a professional event, get it recorded and have someone take photos. Documents can be white papers, case studies, articles and other useful tidbits. Do podcasts or webinars? Include those too. Mentioned in an online article, link to it.
7. Send messages: When you come across something of interest to a prospect, share that in a private message. The prospect will appreciate the thoughtfulness and you gain credibility, which increases chances of being remembered when the prospect needs your company.
Now that you know where to post your thought leadership, go give away your ideas. Don’t worry about sharing your secrets. Many companies won’t have the energy and resources execute them. Instead, they’ll go to someone whose ideas mesh with their company’s goals and can do the job well.
What other ways can you use LinkedIn for thought leadership?