At last count, I’ve written 300 different tips on how advisers can use LinkedIn more effectively in their businesses. Today, I’m going to share three really important ones.

    LinkedIn first appeared in 2003, and ever since advisers around the world have joined the site.

    In fact, every time I speak to an audience I ask for a show of hands as to how many people have a LinkedIn account.  Almost everyone puts up their hand.

    But when I ask: "Who knows why they are on LinkedIn?", hardly anyone puts up their hand. The thinking tends to be along the lines of: "Everyone else seems to be on there, so perhaps I should be too."

    Although over the last two years there has been a sudden and rapid increase in the number of advisers joining Facebook, most advisers can still be found on LinkedIn.

    Advisers on Facebook tend to be active, busy and helpful, and use it to network, interact and engage with each other.  The LifeTalk Mastermind group for advisers on Facebook is a thriving community of positive activity, a movement of new thinkers eager to grow and build their businesses. Almost 1,500 have joined the group to date.

    Yet on LinkedIn, the groups for advisers and financial planners have little going on, with hardly any interaction at all.  That’s more of a design issue, but it does mean that most advisers' experience of LinkedIn is somewhat lacklustre.

    But for those who put some effort into using the site, they invariably see very positive returns.

    It’s important to remember LinkedIn is a piece of software. Like all software, whether that's your CRM system or back office tools, unless you take some time to learn how to use it, you will rarely see any real benefits.

    Once you've learned as much as you can, here are three tips that will transform your experience of LinkedIn.

    Tip #1 Decide how you want to use LinkedIn

    There are several different ways to use LinkedIn in your business, including:

    • As an extension of your website that enhances the perception of your expertise, authority and credibility. It’s important to remember your website is not the be-all and end-all of your internet existence.  If you have clients who are in executive, management or corporate roles, there’s a good chance they will be on LinkedIn too.
    • To attract new clients
    • To post PR updates and to build relationships with the press and media within and outside of the financial services industry
    • To find a new role
    • To learn about and follow companies of interest, such as existing clients or prospects
    • To build relationships with professional connections
    • To listen and learn from business leaders and ‘influencers’
    • To network, connect people and support others

    That's just a few of the ways you could use LinkedIn, but when you have a clear idea or reason why you use the site, you will immediately find your experience of it becomes far less 'random'.

    Tip #2 Decide what you want to be known for

    LinkedIn rewards users who have fully completed their profile, with those people appearing higher up the search results when others are looking for expertise that you possess.

    However, you need to complete your profile in the right way, and primarily that means making sure you include your keywords.

    A good exercise is to write down about a dozen keywords that accurately represent your skills and expertise. So advisers might include:

    • Pensions
    • Investments
    • Financial planning
    • Cashflow modelling

    You might be tempted to think that every adviser will have the exact same keywords throughout their LinkedIn profile. But in reality every firm is different, and if you think carefully about your keywords they will invariably be different from other advice firms'.

    Don’t forget too to include your target client types as keywords.

    Then, put those dozen keywords in order of importance and add the top five keywords into every section of your profile. It's worth trying to include one in your personal URL/address on LinkedIn as well.  Include the remainder of your dozen keywords throughout the different sections of your profile – but put the main focus on the top five.

    Try and take the time to get these keywords right, and similarly, don’t rush completing your profile.

    A couple of hours' work on this is guaranteed to pay dividends and you will see an immediate and measurable improvement in your visibility on LinkedIn. This in turn will support your initial goal of what you want to get out of the site.

    Tip #3 Don't be lazy

    It’s true, most people on LinkedIn are incredibly lazy in how they communicate with others.  ‘Lazy’ in so much that they often can’t be bothered to communicate in the same way they would when meeting face-to-face.

    Out of every 100 connection requests I receive on LinkedIn (with most of them from advisers), hardly any take the trouble to customise the message.

    I would recommend always customising the message with, at the very least, the person’s name. Ideally, read their profile and look for something in common that you can mention in the message.  You’ll usually find something if you look hard enough.  After all, why would you want to connect with someone in the first place if there wasn’t a link or connection of some sort – even if it’s a potential link?

    Also, send a personalised message of thanks back when you agree to connect with someone.

    Finally, take the trouble to thank people who look at your profile.  Figures suggest only about 1 per cent of people take the trouble to do this – but when you do, amazing things can happen.

    Put it this way. I’ve had advisers come off my LinkedIn course and subsequently tell me they attracted valuable pension and investment clients the very first time they thanked someone for looking at their profile.

    This is important because ultimately it’s what humans do – they connect and engage at a personal level.  My Dad taught me that ‘people buy people’. They always did and always will, even online.

    So don’t skimp on the ‘human’ aspects on LinkedIn. Look for areas of common interest and avoid going into sales mode.  All you’re trying to do is to start a conversation, which may lead to a coffee, and which may in time lead to a business relationship.

    Overall, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by advisers about LinkedIn is whether they should pay for premium membership.

    There are of course benefits to having premium membership, but you can achieve a lot without it.  Each of the three tips I’ve listed above do not require premium membership.

    For more tips on getting the most out of LinkedIn, click here 
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