Profile - How I Use LinkedIn

Site Is About More Than Just Recruiting

Jody SteinhauerWith more than 200 million users, it's no secret that Linked-In has become one of the Web's premier tools for job seekers and recruiters. In fact, a 2012 survey from firm Jobvite found that 93% of all recruiters turn to LinkedIn to find qualified candidates. But while the social networking site is useful for finding talent, savvy businesspeople are leveraging LinkedIn in other ways, as well.

"By far the most useful tools on LinkedIn are the groups and discussions," says Jody Steinhauer, CEO of Toronto-based distributor The Bargains Group. "Having access to so many industry professionals in a wide variety of specializations allows me to keep up-to-date with trends that I can directly implement into my business."

Here are her tips for using LinkedIn.

Q: How does LinkedIn help you generate leads and close deals?
A: I may meet someone face-to-face only once, but by connecting with them afterward on LinkedIn, I'm able to build and maintain a relationship with them while opening up a gateway to connections through their network. This interaction also allows me to determine a person's needs, so I can better gauge when and to whom I can offer my business. This type of networking information helps me to gain an inside track to new opportunities which, before LinkedIn, I would never have had access to.

Q: How can LinkedIn be used to gather competitive intelligence?
A: If my business is growing in an area I'm less than familiar with, I'm able to utilize my connections to have virtual conversations with experts. I can pose questions to experienced professionals, and within minutes, I have a wide variety of opinions and insights that would've taken me a great deal of time to research. Through my connections, I'm also able to arrange meetings and information sessions with people who have accomplished great things in their areas of expertise.

Q: Why do you encourage your staff to use LinkedIn?
A: I've always encouraged my staff to use social media because of the endless networking possibilities. My sales staff uses LinkedIn to keep connections with past clients and even potential clients. It's a great avenue for direct contact with clients who are too busy for face-to-face meetings. Keeping a constant eye on LinkedIn connections also enables my team to know exactly when to approach a client for repeat business, as well as which connections have potential for generating leads.

Q: How should an executive decide what groups to join on LinkedIn?
A: The most important question to ask is: "What value does this group offer to my business?" As an entrepreneur, I like to be involved in all aspects of my business, so I'll join as many groups as I'm allowed. However, upon joining a group, it's important to add value by sharing your experiences, ideas and expertise. Take time to listen, and when there's a conversation you can contribute to, dive in. As with all social media, the content you provide is what drives interaction.

Q: How has LinkedIn affected your marketing strategy?
A: I've incorporated my Linked-In profile with my marketing department, allowing my staff access to my network to promote and share relevant content that will attract and educate new connections on exactly how my business can benefit them. It's also allowed my team to monitor discussions and learn from other marketing professionals so we can adapt our business model based on other businesses' experiences and success.

Q: How would you suggest executives craft their Linked-In profiles?
A: Don't be shy! Your Linked-In profile is, in part, an online résumé, so it's important to maintain a level of professionalism. But a profile can be more personal. My profile highlights my business and speaking arrangements, but also showcases my passion for combatting homelessness. I've founded two annual give-back projects, and my profile reflects my commitment to these initiatives.