Do you want to: identify and connect with new customers; build a stronger, ongoing relationship with existing customers; find new and talented employees; and, raise awareness about your company?  If so, learning how to use LinkedIn can help you become a Social CEO and accomplish many of these goals.

Many Baby Boomer CEOs may be hesitant to use social media. You may not fully understand the business benefits and therefore don’t view it as a useful tool.  However, learning to use LinkedIn and other social media platforms is not unlike the hundreds of other skills you have learned to grow your business. The adoption of new tools, technology and practices always begins slowly as we progressively replace the old with the new, discover new efficiencies and leverage smarter applications.

According to a recent Digital Marketing Report, LinkedIn now has 350 million users worldwide and more than 100 million in the U.S. Plus, LinkedIn adds 2 users every second, and it is the business social network used most by 50-64 year old professionals nationwide. With its growth, it is quickly becoming one of the most useful tools for business communication and marketing.

LinkedIn users most commonly: research companies to learn more about their products and services, network to find new customers and new jobs, share valuable industry information and discuss the latest issues that could impact their business.

How do you use LinkedIn to become a social CEO?  If you are ready to leverage LinkedIn as your launch pad for building your social media presence but aren’t sure how to get started, have no fear. Here are 10 basic steps you can take to become a social CEO:

  1. Create a LinkedIn account
    First go to www.linkedin.com.
    Enter your first and last name, email and password in the “Join LinkedIn” box that will appear on the right of the screen.
    Next click the “Join now” button to create your LinkedIn account.
  2. Setup your LinkedIn profile
    Use key words to make your personal and company profile easy to find and visually appealing.  You can find tips on how to do this by reading this helpful article.
    Create a professional headline. This headline should be concise, compelling, and describe who you are as a professional.
    Add a professional photo to your profile – profiles with photos are viewed 7 times more often than those without a photo.
    Use the 120-character description space to present a concise description of your background and expertise. Make this section as creative and easy to read as possible.
    Include industry keywords (anything you would search for or terms that are frequently used on other profiles in your industry).
  3. Build your professional network on LinkedIn
    Connect with others on LinkedIn that you already know or have met professionally. These may include current and potential customers, employees, industry trade leaders, community leaders, media, recruiters, and colleagues both past and present. These are just a few LinkedIn users you can connect with to begin establishing your LinkedIn presence.
  4. Join industry and professional groups on LinkedIn
    You can find and join groups from the “Groups You May Like” page or use the search field at the top of the LinkedIn homepage.
    There are multiple groups divided into industries, interests and affiliations. You will even find groups for college alumni and industry trade associations. Keep it simple and begin by joining groups that are most relevant and useful to you and your company.
    Joining and participating in groups provides you the opportunity to interact directly with existing and potential customers, employees and others.
  5. Share industry-relevant content and news
    Look for leading-edge articles in trade publications to share on LinkedIn.
    Most websites have a LinkedIn icon you can click to share articles without having to log-in to your LinkedIn account.
    Share content – it demonstrates industry expertise and drives others to view your profile. These could be potential new customers, employees or industry influencers.
  6. Create your own content and share it
    Create your own posts to share on LinkedIn for your connections to see.  These will peak the interest of other LinkedIn users and drive traffic to your profile.
    Ideas for content include: company announcements about new products and services, new staff members, addition of new equipment, news releases about your company, your company newsletter, achievements, awards or other recognition you or your company may have received.
  7. Interact with your connections directly and openly
    Engage with others on LinkedIn to increase your online presence and help extend your professional network.
    You can do this by commenting on posts, “liking” updates or announcements others share, or by joining conversations within the industry groups you’ve joined.
  8. Use new tools to make it easier to share content on LinkedIn
    Tools such as Buffer enable you to schedule content to be posted on your profile. It also makes it very easy to share information from any webpage at any time – even those without a LinkedIn share icon.
  9. Set LinkedIn goals
    Target reaching a specific number of LinkedIn connections by a specific date.
    Set a goal to join at least 10 groups in the first month after you set up your account.
    Target and research potential customers and connect with LinkedIn users affiliated with the customer.  This may include owners or employees.
    Learn one new way to improve your LinkedIn usage every month.
  10. Make your LinkedIn profile part of your daily routine
    Dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to manage, update and share posts on your LinkedIn profile.
    If you don’t have time to do this, ask one of your staff members to handle it for you.

If you would like to see an example of a top-notch LinkedIn profile, check out other CEO profiles on LinkedIn. For example, Amy Power has a powerful and engaging LinkedIn profile. Power is the president and CEO of The Power Group, a public relations agency located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. She has a strong, brief headline accompanied by a professional headshot. In the 120-character description section, Power uses language that captivates and engages, while including several keywords that are relevant to her industry.

LinkedIn is a great tool for professional networking and developing business opportunities. It has the power to connect you directly with employees, current customers, potential customers, industry leaders and others who can impact your company’s performance and ultimately enhance its value.

You can use LinkedIn as an easy, direct way to begin your journey as a social CEO. If your company operates more in the B2B realm, or you want direct, easy, and more interactive access to your employees, customers and others, consider Facebook and Twitter as complementary forums. We will provide some useful tips on how to use those in our next column.