LinkedIn is an untapped tool for many sales professionals, especially those within the insurance and financial services industry. 

That’s according to Amy McIlwain, a social media marketing specialist and author of “The Social Advisor.” She spoke today at the annual NAILBA annual conference, where she shared her insights into LinkedIn and why it’s a good tool for every professional, but especially those looking for new leads, sales and contacts.

The following are takeaways from her presentation:

tradeshow

LinkedIn is like a tradeshow

Not doing anything on LinkedIn is like going to a tradeshow and not talking to anyone. Participate in groups, ask questions. LinkedIn is like a giant tradeshow and your profile is your booth. Tell your story.

“Decision-makers now ignore cold calls,” McIlwain said. “You have to find a different way — a better way. And a better way is through LinkedIn. LinkedIn emails are five times more likely to be opened than traditional email.”

It’s true. Many now rely on social media when determining their needs from different types of businesses. In fact, 75 percent of buyers now use social media to conduct research. 

LinkedIn has more than two billion member updates per week, 300 million members and billions of professional relationships. Essentially, as McIlwain continuously stresses, if you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re letting opportunities pass you by.

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Tips to optimizing your profile

Create a custom URL, such as www.linkedin.com/in/amymcilwain. This makes it easier to find you on LinkedIn and just looks nicer, more professional. 

Upload a professional photo. “Even though you like hiking or guitar, this is not the place to share this,” McIlwain said.

Use keywords

  • Create a list of keywords that people may use when searching for you or someone in your field
  • Use a combination of short- and long-tail keywords. For example, “insurance” or “insurance marketing executive”
  • Weave your keywords into your current job titles, past job titles and personal summary 
  • McIlwain used one man’s profile as an example. He used “annuities specialist” in his title and it’s woven into different pieces of his profile. “LinkedIn is not like Google; there’s no hidden algorithm as to how they rank you in a search,” McIlwain said. “So just find those keywords and repeat them often.”
  • Your headline, title, summary and skills are where your keywords should go.

Create a powerful headline 

As McIlwain notes, the headline is what shows up in everything so use words that will get people to click on your profile. You should describe what you do, of course. But also leverage the real estate available and don’t just list your current title. If you’ve ever been published, then you’re an author. Do public speaking here or there? You’re a speaker. Use these keywords to your advantage.

Maximize anchor links

Link to websites. Take advantage of this tool and drive people to different pages. Link to your company page, and if you don’t have one, start one. And start discussions on the page. Share status updates, webinar information and news.

Summary

“Your summary is all about you,” McIlwain said. “Tell a story: what are you passionate about, what moves you and motivates you? Draw your visitor in with your summary. Your summary also includes what you do in your role, what your company does and allows space for embedded video and dynamic content.

Video and dynamic content

This could mean many different things. As McIlwain said, it usually includes content such as introduction videos, how-to videos, breaking news, reports, TV appearances and slideshare presentations. But of course, it’s not limited to just these types of content. Like other aspects of LinkedIn, dynamic content helps you make a connection with those visiting your profile.

Connections

“A big question I get is ‘who do I accept invites from … everyone or just who I know?’” McIlwain said. “Even if I haven’t met them personally, I look at their profile and see if we have things in common or if it would be good to network with them. If so, then I accept.”

McIlwain also offered more advice regarding connections. “Before you travel for business, go to the connections tab and choose the location you’re going to,” she said. “Reach out to people and invite them to a meeting with you at the hotel where the conference is. I do it all the time.” 

Groups

Groups: Possibly the most underutilized feature on LinkedIn. “Leads are sitting right here on LinkedIn groups,” McIlwain said. “Share your content on these different groups.

Some life insurance-related groups on LinkedIn include Insurance Referral Solutions, Creative Uses of Life Insurance, Life Insurance Agents and Insurance Professionals of America.

Another opportunity is to start your own group. 

Tools for LinkedIn

Evernote

With Evernote, among other things, you can digitally import business cards and integrate them into LinkedIn contacts. You can snap a photo of a business card and Evernote synchs the information with LinkedIn. And you get connected immediately and can follow up right then. “This is a great app for your phone.” McIlwain said.

LinkedIn Connected

This application connects to your calendar and tells you who you’re meeting with and whether you’re connected or not. You can also browse new potential prospects.

Photofeeler

“This is a fun one that I discovered recently,” McIlwain said. It crowdsources your profile pic and other people rate you on your photo, on how competent you look and how likable and how influential you are based on your profile photo.”

As Warren Buffet has said, “In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” And this holds true for the insurance industry.

“We can’t do business like we did 10 years ago,” McIlwain said. “The choice is yours, whether you change vessels or go down with the ship.”

LinkedIn, along with other tools, can help you change vessels.