Gershbein: Tell your Business Tale on LinkedIn

Developing a business communication style is not an outgrowth of happenstance; it evolves over time. The Internet has revolutionized the way that mankind communicates. The words we use, how we write and speak them, and the energy associated with their delivery dictate how we will be perceived and received in the world. In business, those skills are put under even greater magnification. And, in a politically-correct forum such as LinkedIn, each word and phrase must match its emotional counterpart in order to achieve the intended result.

On LinkedIn, our written communication becomes a permanent component of our branded content.

LinkedIn achievers know that effective LinkedIn communication is, in essence, digital storytelling. It is about making an impact and getting people to take notice. To that end, they structure their LinkedIn profiles as a story, weaving in any and all pertinent elements that will heighten their business persona, drive a positive impression, and fuel an engagement. But without the successful leveraging of the interactive space, your LinkedIn profile is merely a billboard sitting idle at its URL, only accessed serendipitously by others, and not attracting anyone of relevance. Good communication is the cornerstone of building a robust presence, catalyzing professional relationships, and establishing a thought leadership platform on LinkedIn. Without it, there is no hope of monetizing your efforts on the site.

Success Secret #8: Communicate with Purpose, Influence, and Integrity on LinkedIn

When participating on the interactive space on LinkedIn, you should:

• Obey the Laws of Etiquette
Much has been written about etiquette in social media, a trend that will surely continue. My esteemed colleague, the great Chris Brogan, blogs and speaks frequently on the ground rules of social media etiquette. Your conduct on LinkedIn is much like that in the office or boardroom—rooted in formality and steeped in protocol. Roll with professionalism, conviction, and ethics on the site and you will gain a solid reputation. Be obtrusive, forgetful, and alienating, and you will undermine your credibility and destroy what you are trying to accomplish. LinkedIn achievers communicate to build trust. They use their words to influence others. They don’t spam or use excessive sales-speak, and they always respect their audience. That is what buoys you in the minds of others, builds thought leadership, and converts prospects into clients.

• Practice, Practice, Practice!
It takes time to learn the subtle nuances of idea exchange and correspondence on social media. Remaining fresh and original in what you say is a daily challenge. Digital communication has its own subset of errors, gray areas, and black holes. Like any skill, you have to work at it to become proficient. Everyone has taken a bullet or two on an E-mail with questionable motives, or has had expectations of a positive result shattered by poorly conceived messages or failed follow-up. LinkedIn achievers are, in fact, stellar communicators. They work very hard at the craft and care deeply about the content they provide. They are always expanding their vocabulary and messaging strategically, knowing that a few simple actions or edits can mean the difference between staying top-of-mind and plummeting down the vortex.

• Always Be Leveraging
Of course, not all LinkedIn communication is digital storytelling. In social media, we are concerned with initiating and driving a conversation. Therefore, on LinkedIn, you have to first gauge the gravity of the exchange. Everything you say should be viewed as strategic and geared toward advancing that conversation to a business dialog. There is no practical roadmap for arriving at that point where trust and credibility take over, but consider each interface with a connection a touch point that can spark interest and create value. LinkedIn achievers are experts at bridging the digital divide, interpreting what they discover online, and applying their knowledge in a business setting. Whether you’re composing an introduction, steering your network to your latest blog post, thanking a new connection for meeting with you, or offering your insights in a LinkedIn group discussion, never lose sight of the fact that you are always communicating your value. Reciprocally, you always want to acknowledge when your network has provided value for you.

• Become a Virtuoso LinkedIn Listener
So much of communication is non-verbal. This, too, applies in the digital world. LinkedIn achievers are virtuoso listeners, constantly surveying the LinkedIn landscape, monitoring the conversations in their own network, recognizing opportunities, and translating their knowledge into revenue-generating activities. This underscores LinkedIn’s value as, arguably, the most powerful and versatile marketing research tool available to business professionals today.

Communicating on LinkedIn requires critical thinking and is inexorably linked (pun intended!) with your brand. This is a collection of learned behaviors that, for the LinkedIn achiever, becomes an extension of a personal, real world communication style. Writing clearly, answering E-mails in timely fashion, posting relevant content on updates, following up conscientiously, and even having a bit of humor are all pieces of personal brand that extend well beyond the computer screen.

How do you communicate on LinkedIn? What does and does not enter into your conversations with others?

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