With more than 100 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is more than a digital resume database. It’s the world’s largest online professional network. Many meeting planners swear by it, ahead of Facebook and Twitter, and with good reason. The ever-evolving site has various applications and functions to promote events, engage with attendees, and strengthen the relationship between your brand and your audience.
Be focused and selective when first creating a profile. “People want to quickly decide on [whether or not] you’re worth their time,” says Eve Mayer Orsburn, CEO of Social Media Delivered and author of “Social Media for the CEO.” “It’s up to you in the top portion of the profile to tell them who you are, why you’re important, and what you can do for them.” Try capturing attention with compelling data: your location and expertise, the most significant event you’ve planned, or details on an event that exceeded your client’s expectations.
Get the most out of recommendations—the function that allows colleagues, clients, and supervisors to endorse your work publicly. When asking for a connection for a reference, include a brief, personal note mentioning how much you’ve enjoyed working with the person and politely request a recommendation. “Make sure recommendations come from people who [can] tell the story of how amazing you are to work with, what incredible events you plan, what kind of ROI those events had, and what kind of branding you achieved,” says Orsburn.
LinkedIn has applications that can be added to a homepage and profile to enhance the service’s functionality. If you’re on Twitter, consider adding the Tweets application to sync tweets and status updates. “I suggest including the hashtag [#] and ‘in’ at the end of the tweet,” says Orsburn. “Only those tweets with the ‘in’ tag also will display on LinkedIn.” She warns against putting too much personal information on the site, though. It’s OK to share something about the 5K you’re running this weekend for a nonprofit, but the professional networking site is not a place for the details of a girls’ weekend in Florida.
Planners also can set up profiles for their organizations or businesses. If you’re marketing your business as an independent planner, decide whether you need a separate page or if your profile serves as its business page.
LinkedIn can be helpful during multiple stages of event planning. Early in the process, an event organizer can do an advanced search for industry experts to find qualified speakers. “Often you’ll identify perfect speakers who aren’t listed in a speaker’s bureau,” says Ian McGonnigal, senior vice president of client strategy and brand performance for Jack Morton Worldwide, a marketing agency.
When you begin marketing, create an event on LinkedIn to invite connections and enlist them to spread the word. “Tap into the client base and ask clients to respond as ‘attending’ so that they are also showing this synced event on their profiles,” says Orsburn.
Built-in site features and applications help with marketing efforts. “Pose provocative questions [with Answers] and start a conversation around your event,” says McGonigal. “Populate that content before, during, and after events by surfing the answers relevant to the event’s subject matter and posting answers leading people to your event.”
Gail Martin, author of “30 Days to Social Media Success,” recommends MyTravel and Portfolio applications. “MyTravel lets you see where your network is traveling and when you’ll be in the same city.” She suggests using Portfolio to post YouTube-sized clips of keynote speakers and energized crowds at events as a permanent reference point. “People who can’t attend get the highlights, photos, and video, and if they think that’s valuable, [it will] go on their mental calendars,” she says.
McGonigal encourages planners to “max out” on groups. Belonging to a group allows you to view other members’ profiles and message them directly—two things you usually can’t do. This offers an advantage when looking for industry peers, vendors, or keynote speakers. “Use groups as an ongoing touch point between your brand and representatives of relevant associations and groups,” he says.