In my last post in this series I covered a LinkedIn profile makeover. Assuming you spent a few hours polishing up your profile, or hired a social media expert for a complete 'kick ass' social media rebrand, you should now be ready to begin building your network.
LinkedIn isn't like most other social media sites. You can't just contact anyone and ask them to be your friend. Contacting strangers can affect your reputation as a real estate professional. It could even get you banned from LinkedIn.
So how do you connect?
Start with who you know. Most of us don't knock on almost every door, in our area, asking people to be our friend. But that's how many networking sites work. LinkedIn has tried to duplicate the natural process we use to connect in business, through an introduction.
Use the search field, or LinkedIn advanced search, to find everyone you already know in the real estate industry. Then look up friends, your alumni and professional associates from previous positions. In the options you have to select from, when you click the "Connect" button, truthfully indicate how you know each person. (If you claim to have done business with strangers you would like to connect with, you can expect a warning email from LinkedIn within a few days.)
Consider the bigger picture. If you want to connect with condo investors in the Vancouver area, for example, who can you think of that already has these people in their connections? Aha... other real estate agents and brokers. You can connect with the ones you know. And who would have these real estate professionals in their list of connections? How about condo developers, home staging businesses and mortgage brokers? Every connection you make gives you potential access to that person's network. You have to think like a chess player, with more than the next move in mind.
Maximize your invitations. When you receive "please add me to your LinkedIn network" invitation request notices by email, these are pure gold. Do not delete them before fully leveraging the power of these invites.
Click the blue "Accept" button in the email. A page will open in your browser, displaying the "People You May Know" list, which now includes introductions to people from your new connection. Look for new faces. Take the time to carefully send out your own connection requests to people on that list you believe are either a) a good prospect, or b) could potentially introduce you to a good prospect.
Take the time to click the profile pages of potential connections. (The link opens in a new page, so you won't lose your place.) Every connection you make, influences your potential future connections, so choose wisely. You're looking for prospective customers, and those that can provide a connection to those buyers or sellers.
With Twitter, there's an element of social proof that comes from having a large number of followers. 15,000 followers is supposed to imply that the person's tweets are actually worth reading. LinkedIn has discouraged building enormous networks of useless, unrelated followers by publishing the message "500+ connections" for larger networks. As a real estate agent or broker, geographic location is usually important. If you connect with people in Vancouver, they will help you network with other people in Vancouver.
How to get more invitations. The more visible you become, the more invitations you can expect to receive. And each invitation delivers another fresh list of potential connections. It's like Christmas! So it's time to stop lurking in the LinkedIn shadows and become very actively involved.
Join relevant groups and contribute. Search LinkedIn Groups for topics your prospective buyers may be interested in, like "Vancouver real estate investing" or "buying condos in Vancouver". Join a few that are on topic and popular. Then contribute to the conversations regularly. If the ideal group does not exist, consider starting one.
Like and comment on the status updates of your connections. When positive and negative changes occur in the lives of your connections, take the time to provide thoughtful and supportive comments. When they post an update, interact and engage. What did you like about the post? Which ideas will you be able to put into practice in your business? The writers love receiving feedback and their connections can read your comments. Always remember that people do business with people they like.
Follow companies. A great way to gain the attention of other people searching for companies connected with the real estate industry is to follow companies that do business in your area.
Create your own company page. If you haven't created your own company page yet, and you have incorporated your real estate business, you should definitely set up your LinkedIn company page today.
Publish regular updates. You should be blogging on your website a few times a week. Each of these posts provides an opportunity for a status update on LinkedIn, with a backlink to the post on your site.
There is a place for making announcements, like the new condo project you listed this week. But you want to keep self-promotion to 20% or less, or you'll risk driving away your audience. So what should you blog about? If many of your ideal customers are real estate investors, how about writing a regular 'how to' column on real estate investment? You can also blog about zoning changes and their impact on local real estate opportunities. If your buyers are young families, looking for a townhouse, your blog offers you endless topics for your area, like daycare, playgrounds and parks, places to walk a dog, etc.
Curate great content. In addition to your own blog post excerpts, you will probably want to curate content from other relevant sources. A tool like Feedly allows you to monitor the feeds of many blog feeds. I like to begin each day with an espresso, while checking the industry news on my iPad in the Feedly app. (Feedly is also available in popular computer browsers and as an Android app.) Anything I believe my readers would like to read, is sent to Buffer, where it is time-released to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Publish articles. LinkedIn now allows you to publish long-form articles. This opens up incredible opportunities for establishing your authority in your industry, for gaining followers to your company page and connection invitations. One word of caution: make sure this content is completely unique, not a duplicate of something you read online, or even one of your own blog posts.
LinkedIn Invitations emails. When people accept your invitations, LinkedIn will send you an email with the subject line: "LinkedIn Invitations." Your new connection will be featured at the top, and you will be prompted to check for other people you may know. Clicking the "See more >" link will take you back to the list of people you may know. Chances are you've already selected everyone that met your criteria on this list, but it's a great opportunity to send out a few reminders.
Over the past few months we've been hearing about LinkedIn Jail. If you are overly aggressive in requesting connections, with too many people responding with an IDK ("I don't know... ") your account could be flagged. What happens in LinkedIn Jail? For some time you may find yourself unable to connect with new people unless you enter their email address. My understanding is that if you back off for a while, you will be able to again request connections freely in a few weeks. Also, top LinkedIn gurus suggest that if you become a LinkedIn Premium member, they'll turn a blind eye to the IDX's.
If you're in sales, definitely, definitely, definitely upgrade to LinkedIn Premium.
- Ted Prodromou, Author of LinkedIn for Business
Most real estate pros crash and burn at LinkedIn. They put up a half-ass profile and wait for it to rain. But with a solid strategy, carefully implemented, and plenty of good old fashioned work, the payoff can be extraordinary.
If you're just starting out or in considerable need of leads, with the help of some coaching, building your LinkedIn connections should be a very productive use of your time. If your days are already full, engaging with prospective buyers and/or sellers, you will probably need someone to handle your LinkedIn lead generation. With coaching, one of your assistants may be able to take on this roll, or you may find it more cost effective to bring on a dedicated expert on a freelance basis.
In the next post, I'll tell you how to begin converting your LinkedIn connections into email leads and contacts in your CRM.
Cole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.
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