When I ask Australian B2B firms if social media and LinkedIn in particular has a place in their communications and marketing strategy I generally get a look that could best be described as worried or hesitant and occasionally dismissive.

If I go on to ask them if they think LinkedIn can generate real leads for their business, that worried look disappears and is replaced with looks of disbelief and guffaws of (usually) well meaning laugher.

Many B2B firms are struggling with what to do with social media. They know they need to do something, that they should probably have a policy, someone should probably be tweeting, that their Linkedin profiles need work…but its all very half hearted the smaller you are, and the less relevant it appears to be.

But I would beg to differ.

LinkedIn is quickly becoming a powerful lead generation tool for Australian B2B Marketers and sales people. The statistics for LinkedIn usage and membership are increasingly impressive and the tools and capabilities of the platform are becoming genuinely useful.

Here are my top tips for using LinkedIn for generating genuine leads.

  • Treat everything you say and do on LinkedIn with care and respect at all times. This is you and your employer’s public online profile. Always aim to add value with everthing you do, say and post. Avoid cheap promotional tricks, spammy comments and overt self promotion. There is NOTHING more off putting and you will quickly lose any social media traction you have managed to amass.
  • Take care to optimise your profile. In particular, pay attention to your blog and website descriptions. Take the trouble to customise them to your firms blog and specific relevant pages on your site. Be as descriptive as possible. Optimise your profile description to include your keywords so they are upfront and centre. When prospects are searching for experts to help them, you want them to catch you in their filtered searches and see your capabilities at a glance.
  • Use the applications LinkedIn provides- add relevant content to your profile. For example use slideshare to display a webinar or Powerpoint slide deck of how your firm helps solve your prospects problems and challenges (Note: Not a sales presentation or overt product pitch!).
  • The power of LinkedIn Groups is key to developing leads using LinkedIn. If you’re a member of the same group as another user, you can bypass the need to be a first degree connection in order to message them. In addition, group members are also able to view the profiles of other members of the same group without being connected. Take some time to search for groups to join where your targeted buyers are likely to be members (you can be a member of up to 50 groups!). Start contributing to conversations, be helpful, answer questions, provide links to assets you have on your site that might help members of the group (always be mindful of bullet point one above.) Put your most valuable assets behind a short form on your site to capture LinkedIn vistor’s details. You now have a new lead.
  • Build connections using the People you may know feature. Its a great, quick way to connect with your tier 2 connections. If there is someone who you think would be useful to know, ask a Tier 1 connection to introduce you , or simpler still see if they are a member of any of the same groups as you.
  • Use LinkedIn Answers. Search for questions that are in your field of expertise and take some time to answer those questions helpfully. Then ask that person to connect. If they say yes there is a good chance you have a lead.When you’re on the question’s page, click “Share This” beneath the question. You then have the option to share the question via a LinkedIn message with up to 200 of your connections.
  • Take advantage of advanced search options. LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature provides a much richer search experience. For example, say you want to find out if you’re connected to anyone that works at a specific company. Type the company name in the company field in Advanced Search, then sort the results by “Relationship” to see if you have any first or second degree connections to any employees.
  • If you are targeting a specific firm, use the companies field to search for LinkedIn members. If you click on the follow button on the top right box you will get regular updates. Similarly, you can see your first and second degree connections and all other employees on LinkedIn as well. Once again find who you are looking for,  see to whom they are connected that you know, or to what groups they belong.
  • When your write a blog, release a new white paper, develop a new piece of thought leadership, release an exciting new feature that will genuinely solve a prospect’s problem, make sure you update your status in LinkedIn. You can automatically link your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts together to spread your message as far and wide as possible. Use shortened URLs with a link back to your site to generate inbound trafic and leads.

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Chris Fell is the Managing Director of g2m Solutions, and an accredited align.me Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the g2m Solutions blog.