Social Media as a Business Research Tool: Part 4
4 Steps to Using LinkedIn for Research
LinkedIn is a fertile ground for those wanting to research almost any business niche or industry. Even with all its adjustments and changes over the last several years, LinkedIn still remains the most business-oriented social network, with a strong slant towards jobs and careers as well as on networking in the truest, most traditional sense of the word.LinkedIn is a fertile ground for those wanting to research almost any business niche or industry Click To Tweet
That’s why you want to make sure every word you put in your Profile Summary, posts or Page is focused on your business goals. So don’t post about puppies, babies or new swimsuits unless you are walking dogs for a living, running a Mums’ Membership site or working as a fashion designer specialising in beachwear! The exception to that may be on one of the many interest or hobby Groups that are on LinkedIn, for example, I’m a member of Horse Lovers of the Business World purely out of my interest in horses. More on Groups later.
LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to “Friend” everybody like Facebook does. In fact, indiscriminate contacting is considered a major faux pas on LinkedIn. This social network operates with contacts restricted to first, second and third level contacts… and then Group contacts.
Without diligent networking, it can take a while to build up a solid contact base – but do avoid the typical beginner mistakes, which are:
- Adding everyone in your email accounts, past workplaces and educational institutions. Stick to those people who share or influence your interests, goals and industry only
- Recommending everyone you can – whether or not they’ve ever worked with you before
- Joining too many Groups; then not bothering to monitor or interact
- Joining Groups that are too large – or too inactive
Finding the right people to connect with is a vitally important foundation to using LinkedIn for research. You need to choose or accept contacts carefully and with an overall goal in mind. After all, you want to be able to monitor your business branding, feedback and interaction – as well as using LinkedIn for research on others.
You can easily manage your profile and organise your contacts. You can view other data, such as how often people viewed your profile and how many times you appeared in LinkedIn Search (and whether or not this was a rising or falling trend).
Step 1. Finding the Right People on LinkedIn
Who should you connect with on LinkedIn? The network will offer to search your friends via email accounts, previous and current workplaces, professional organisations and educational institutions first.
Only connect with those who:
- Are in related or similar careers
- Possess similar interests
- You are currently networking within other areas of your life
- Possess skill sets you can learn from
- Are consistently active on LinkedIn
If you find someone you’d like to connect with but you don’t know them:
a) Follow them, if you can
b) Look for someone you already know to introduce you (but make sure you have a good reason to want to be introduced)
c) Look for Groups they are active in. Join this Group (provided it is actually a good fit for you and your goals) and make sure you are active there too.
You can invite people to become first-level contacts by accessing your contact import under ‘My Network’ on your profile..
Step 2. Using LinkedIn Searches
You can also search for likely contacts yourself. You can use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function to set up specific criteria – both to include and exclude.
Here’s how you do it…
1. Open up LinkedIn Advanced Search
2. Enter your keywords, separated by qualifiers such as “AND” and “OR”
3. Choose from your connections at various levels – or from groups
4. Scroll down and expand other fields that might be relevant in your search
5. Add a location, if that is relevant
6. Press “Search” when you have set up all your parameters
Some of these fields won’t be available to you if you have a free account. Scroll down the left-hand, vertical menu until you see “Search like a Pro” and click “learn more”. A pop-up window will open showing you various upgrade filtering options. However, you can find out a lot of information using just the basic version of LinkedIn for research, so I would advise sticking with this, to begin with.
You will see results in real-time;. If you have checked connections of any sort, you will see Profile slugs, photos and summaries as well.
You can also use LinkedIn’s search bar – which has recently been enhanced. (And you can Save searches.)
LinkedIn dropped LinkedIn Signal, a filtering tool that allowed opportunities for research in your news stream, at the end of July 2013.
LinkedIn believes its increased Search functionality made Signal redundant. You can now specify, filter and search for companies, groups, people, hashtags and more from LinkedIn’s basic search bar.
Step 3. Using LinkedIn for Work Opportunities
LinkedIn is a powerful virtual job fair for those seeking steady, traditional employment.
It’s also a great place to pick up freelance contracts and new clients for your business!LinkedIn is a powerful virtual job fair and a great place to pick up freelance contracts and new clients! Click To Tweet
You can search the “Jobs” section, which will be optimised for your Profile.
You can also see what your competitors are offering – and what potential clients really want from your type of business or your skill sets.
But it doesn’t matter what type of employment you are seeking – traditional steady or part-time, contract or online freelance – you need to reverse-engineer the business research company recruiters will use.
Recruiters usually don’t have a background in marketing. When they search LinkedIn, they most often use simple keywords based on criteria you might find in a job ad:
- Specific skills or skill sets
- Degrees or certification
- Industry jargon and terminology (try to stick to straight terminology, if in doubt)
Go through relevant job ads – and your own profile – and make sure that you highlight keywords and phrases regarding these terms, skills, accreditation and terminology.
Recruiters set great store by industry influencers, so find out which ones they follow and follow them too. (Or just find influencers yourself and follow them.)
How Do You Find Recruiters?
It helps to study a variety of recruiters – just the way writers study agents and publishers – to see what type of other, key search words they might be using. Avid Careerist, Donna Svei supplies tips and keywords in one of her July 2013 posts. In fact, virtual assistants who write resumes and CVs are also good to follow for tips.
Hunters study the habits of their prey. While your intentions are not in the least predatory, LinkedIn is one social network where the habit of study and research is far more important than other, more social and personal platforms – especially for job hunters.
Step 4. Finding and Using the Best LinkedIn Groups
The one place you can find everyone – recruiters, influencers, potential networking connections and prospective clients – is within LinkedIn Groups. Known for their strong focus, Groups provide a unique way for you to become visible, known and trusted – without members even being connections.
- Give and get feedback
- Ask questions
- Answer questions
- Present offers
- Share resources
- Invite people to share your content and visit your site
And best of all – monitor the response you get to all of the above.
You can also share links freely with Groups – but don’t use this as an excuse to spam. Always make sure that any links you share are relevant, timely and interesting, with a clear purpose for sharing.You can share links freely with LinkedIn Groups – but don’t use this as an excuse to spam. Click To Tweet
Used regularly, consistently and wisely – with a clear goal in mind – LinkedIn’s Groups feature remains one of the best arenas in which to conduct business research.
When you join the right Group, you can use it to check out:
- Areas of the common Group interest that its members are having trouble with
- Gaps in available resources and products
- Resources or products currently available
- Complaints about competitors or existing products or services
- Complaints about lack of products or services currently available
- Brainstorming sessions and ideas
- Community culture
- Industry or niche influencers
How do you know which Groups to join?
Get into the habit of scrolling down LinkedIn’s right-hand, vertical sidebar. That’s where you’ll find suggestions tailored to your Profile – including “Groups You May Like”.
- Make a commitment to spend time daily monitoring or interacting with your Group or Groups
- Decide how many Groups to join
- Find Groups that are active, with ongoing discussions and dialogues
- Avoid Groups that are too big (over 1,000 members) or too small
Taking these simple steps ensures you’ll create maximum visibility and interaction – which in turn will impact your searchability when others research you. Successful Group participation also creates trust and shows you without any need for third-party apps or stats who to follow – and learn from.
Like its competitors, LinkedIn is evolving all the time. Some changes are frustrating, some are exciting – but it still remains the premier social network for seriously career-oriented or business-networking online professionals.
And it still remains one of the top places to easily conduct solid, real-time business research.
That concludes my series on using social media for business research. I hope it’s been useful and if you can add other ways to use LinkedIn for research or any of the other social media platforms, it would be great to hear from you in the comment box below!