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Leverage a LinkedIn Strategy for Lead Gen

At last count, LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, has 200 million members. If you aren’t using it as a prospecting tool, your business may be missing out on a lot of opportunities.

For both B2B and B2C, social media offers rich opportunities for business lead generation. A 2012 study of more than 5,000 businesses, conducted by HubSpot, reported that traffic from LinkedIn resulted in the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent—nearly triple the rate for both Twitter (0.69 percent) and Facebook (0.77 percent) combined. 

Key Takeaways
  • Sync your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile to easily share your thought leadership with your contacts.

  • Launch your own LinkedIn group or community focused on your industry or expertise.

  • Enhance your credibility and make connections when you provide input to other communities.

LinkedIn's conversion rate also outranked social media as a channel overall, according to Hubspot. In other words, of all the traffic that came to these business' websites via social media, about one percent of that traffic converted into leads, compared to LinkedIn's 2.74%. Keep in mind, however, that lead generation through LinkedIn, as with all social media, requires a subtle touch. Here are six ways to do it right:

LeadGeneration

1.Give your links some pizzazz.

You can include three links to other web pages on your LinkedIn profile. Lorrie Thomas Ross, a marketing consultant and author of The 36 Hour Course of Online Marketing, notes these links are an effective way to encourage people to visit your website, blog, Facebook business page or Google+ page. The links you use on your LinkedIn profile can be classified by standard dropdowns, like “blog” or “company website.” However, Ross says that by selecting the dropdown “other,” you can create your own more colorful description – such as “retail operations expert” or “cash flow management advisory”– which might coax more potential customers to your page. 

“When it comes to the social web, you develop leads by playing nice in the sandbox and sharing helpful gems of web wisdom.”
2.Get extra social.

Through your LinkedIn profile, you can sync to your Twitter account or other social marketing efforts. Ross says by automatically linking, say, your blog to your LinkedIn profile you can easily share your thought leadership with your contacts. “It’s all about building credibility, usability and sellability,” she says. “When it comes to the social web, you develop leads by playing nice in the sandbox and sharing helpful gems of web wisdom.”

3.Check who’s checking you out.

Track who is looking at your profile and your staff's profiles, by purchasing a premium LinkedIn account. Chances are some of the looky-loos will be prospective customers you’ll want to reach out to.

4.Start your own community.

Kristina Jaramillo, a LinkedIn marketing expert and founder of GetLinkedInHelp.com, suggests that people launch their own LinkedIn groups or communities focused on their industry or expertise. “For example, in my LinkedIn group, I start discussions based on my blog content and videos,” she says.

5.Create high levels of credibility.

In addition to starting your own LinkedIn community, you can make connections when you provide input to other communities. One smart way is to leverage material you are already creating, such as press releases, or shine a spotlight on publicity you have received from trusted websites and magazines. “When my clients —or my own – quotes or articles get published somewhere, I want to make sure as many people as possible see that,” Jaramillo says. She creates conversations in LinkedIn communities, driving members of those groups to the content that features her clients in a favorable way. “Besides getting additional exposure, it strengthens credibility and positions companies as thought leaders that prospects on LinkedIn will want to connect with and do business with.”

6.Go for the direct sale.

While much of social networking is about sharing expertise and knowledge, sometimes you want to be direct. You might consider buying a LinkedIn direct ad that will only be viewable by your target market. You can select them by job title and function, industry and company size, seniority and age, or their membership in LinkedIn groups.

Joe Mullich is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, Workforce Management, Information Week, Datamation, CIO, Los Angeles Times, Time, the Wall Street Journal and other national publications.