The 4 most effective steps to establishing your credibility and influence using LinkedIn and how you can cash in on this huge opportunity.

Building Your Personal Credibility & Influence
One of the most critical currencies in business today is INFLUENCE.  Well, to be honest, it has always been a critical currency.  Why?  Because people buy from people and particularly they buy from people they know, like and trust.  That is essentially what influence is.  People know, like and trust you.
But influence and trust are interesting currencies.  Unlike financial currency which can be gained fairly quickly, becoming an influential person can be very difficult and it requires time to develop.  Like financial currency, it is very easily lost.   And once lost, it is difficult to regain, unlike financial currency.
It is one of those things you can have today and tomorrow wonder where it has gone.
The goal of most marketing campaigns, and in the context of this article, social media marketing campaigns, is to position the business or person in such a way as to foster influence and trust.  Whether the campaign is built for a product, a service or if it is built around the personal opinions of the individual marketer, the aim is generally to influence readers, viewers, listeners to buy into the campaign so that they take a specific action.
Its secondary function is then to try and maintain that trust and influence.  In other words, to keep the customers consuming, the givers giving, the supporters supporting.
The definition of influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of someone or something or is the thing itself.  It is the ability to develop enough trust that people within your market accept you as the authority or an authority and then to take your advice, your direction, your product or service.
So how can you use LinkedIn to develop and grow your influence in your market, gain more clients and profitability?
LinkedIn is perfectly positioned to help you with developing your expert positioning and therefore become influential.  Through a variety of options, for example, updates, articles and groups, you can communicate your value, expertise, knowledge and difference from the rest of the market.
Here are 4 tried and tested steps to get you going and keep you moving.

#1 – Connect

The heart and soul of LinkedIn is the community you are willing to build and the best way to build that community is through your connection strategy.  It does not start with engagement, it starts with connecting.
LinkedIn is the largest data base available to you and is the one place you will find all the contacts you will ever need to grow your business or practice exponentially.  But it does not only contain the potential perfect future clients for your business, it also gives you the opportunity and methodology for connecting with them.
However, before building up a head of steam and connecting with everyone you see on the platform who meets your target market criteria, there are a few things you need to know.
The single biggest mistake most people make on LinkedIn is to click on or press the connect button either on the prospective connections profile or in the search facility.  This sends a generic, bland message to your potential connection requesting they connect with you.
Don’t do it.
Why?  Two reasons actually.
Firstly, if the person receiving the connection request responds by clicking ‘I don’t know this person’ your account may be restricted, suspended, or even closed!  Not a good outcome.
Secondly, even if they accept your connection request, you have not given them a reason to connect, which will make building a relationship so much more difficult.

#2 – Engage

The second biggest mistake most people make with their LinkedIn connection strategy is selling too soon to their new connection.  This mistake is exacerbated by constantly selling when posting or writing articles.  Constant promotion does not work.  It turns most people off you as fast as punching them in the face!
If the focus of making new connections is building your network to grow your business, then selling too soon will be disastrous.  The people you are connecting with need time to get to know you and like what you are putting out through LinkedIn.
The common word for this type of thing is SPAM!
That is why engagement is the second part of this 4-stage strategy.  Conversion comes later.
What then is engagement?
Engagement is the discussion you develop and the relationships you take time and effort to build directly with your connections and how you include them in your posts and articles.  Engagement is developing a two-way interaction through your network.
It stands to reason that not everyone you connect with will want to engage with you on a regular basis or even at all.  That’s OK.  You may find you reach out with engaging messages, give great free information, hints tips and ideas, but you get nothing back from some people.  Again, that is OK.
Simply continue to engage with the people who want to engage with you and occasionally send something to those who are disengaged if they are in your target market.  Things may change over time.

#3 – Educate

If you want to be influential in your market, your community needs to understand your expertise in that space, but more importantly, they want to know what makes you different from every other ‘expert’.  They want to know and understand what your ‘secret sauce’ is.
This sets you apart from your competitors and should be why you become influential and have an impact.
KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, is a familiar name to most people around the world and has been for at least the past 40 years as it has expanded into over 120 countries globally.  The Colonel’s face is instantly recognisable by young and old, from the USA and United Kingdom to South Africa, Australia and Qatar.
However, it is not the face of the Colonel or the logo which is the company’s secret of success.
Fried Chicken, or Southern Fried Chicken as it is often referred to, has been a well-known staple in many countries world-wide for centuries.  When Harland Sanders took his variation to market during the depression years and later in the 1950’s into the franchise space, there was nothing different about his fried chicken from all the other fried chicken around.
Except that is for his ‘secret blend of 11 herbs & spices’!  This became one of the worlds most famous trade secrets and is still a closely guarded recipe.
And that was his market differentiator!  Every other fried chicken maker had their own secret blend of herbs and spices, but they did not educate the buying public.  They did not make a big deal about it and most still don’t today.
But the Colonel did.  He let everyone who would listen know that his fried chicken was different and therefore far tastier and more succulent than any other fried chicken because of his secret blend.
Was it better tasting and more succulent?  Probably not!  It was fried chicken.  But the Colonel sold the differentiator.

#4 – Convert

By the time you reach this point with your connections, you would have built up a reputation with your community and should by now be an influencer in your market.  It is now time to make an impact.
They should have already gone through getting to know you, like you and your community should now trust your advice.  You have earned the right to convert them into a customer.
Ultimately, the point of growing relationships in a business environment is to get to the place where you can ask the yes / no question.  Unfortunately, most people hate this stage.  It makes them feel uncomfortable and, in some cases, sleazy.  However, whether you are a self-employed architect, a solicitor, an insurance sales person, there must come a point at which you need to ask the selling question and your potential client needs to be ready to hear that question.
Unfortunately, I often see businesses, sales people and professionals focus in great detail on marketing, only then to find they have talked themselves out of the sale.  They lack the skill to know when the right time to ask the ‘closing’ question is and the confidence to then ask that question.
Marketing is the process of creating an environment where the sale can take place, but if you are continually marketing, that is in this context connecting, engaging, and educating, you will struggle to convert.
Therefore, you must build into your strategy a converting or selling process, which allows you naturally to move from educating your future perfect prospect to a buying and paying client.
So there are the 4 tried and tested steps to the process of becoming influential using LinkedIn as your preferred platform
However, success on LinkedIn is more than just these 4 steps.  If you are in business, LinkedIn Company Pages are an area in which you can develop influence and showcase your business.  If you are looking for a job, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to turn your profile into a CV.
If you would like to know more about our LinkedIn For Business Growth courses which are delivered regularly in the UK and other countries or would like to find out how you can use LinkedIn in your business, please call +44 1392 980258 or email me directly
Keywords: LinkedIn, LinkedIn Invitations, Connections, Engage
Hashtags: #LinkedIn #LinkedInConnections #LinkedInTips ##SocialMedia #SocialMediaStrategy #Influence #Influencial #SocialSelling