If you are a company or small business looking to hire new staff or employ a contractor to do some specific work, or if you are a freelancer looking to expand your client base and take on new projects, then it is a good idea to join LinkedIn.

The company’s mission statement reads: “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful,” and canny use of the site will help to do just that.

LinkedIn is a social networking site that allows businesses and professionals to use the skills they have developed as a social networker and apply them to their profession, with the goal being to secure more business or expand their knowledge.

LinkedIn is a great tool to expand your brand awareness, or sell yourself as a thought leader. The interface is very easy to navigate and you can use the site for free. It’s unlikely you will gain any benefit from the site unless you flesh out that profile as much as possible. This means that the more information you supply, the better you will be found.

  • Full work history
  • CV
  • Any work samples, such as published articles
  • A good head and shoulder shot
  • Recommendations from others
  • Endorsements from others

So what is a thought leader and thought leadership?

A thought leader is:

An individual and business that possess extensive expertise in a specialised area and is considered an authority on the subject. In business, said thought leader is able to successfully use this expertise and recognition to turn significant profit.

Thought leadership is a business approach, which is used alongside content marketing and company publishing. Effective thought leadership permeates the culture of a business; thought leadership is not just about specialised and sought after expertise, but a business culture that’s inspired and believes their idea will change the world for the better.

The next obvious question is:

How does this concept fit within LinkedIn?

Digital culture is massive and the online universe is polluted with billions of similar ideas, which are presented in a mediocre style, that can overwhelm and dishearten a user, a client or customer. An effective thought leader and effective thought leadership not only requires internal inspiration, but external creativeness; this is where LinkedIn’s Company and Groups pages come in useful.

A successful thought leader may be discovered by ability alone, but a brilliant thought leader or a company with exceptional thought leadership, generates interest through self-promotion. Thought leaders put ideas out there into the business community and generate the energy and inspiration needed to get financially cautious companies and individuals excited.

LinkedIn and the Company

The Company section of the site, listed in the interests tab allows you to view profile pages for businesses or create your own. Note that if you want to add your own Company page you need to have your own domain name and company email address, otherwise LinkedIn will not accept your request for a Company page.

Anyone can start a company page, not just executives and for the best results, all employees should have full profiles and contribute to the page. The same goes for groups, which we will come on to later.

The Company page is where you can really sell your company brand and ethos with both your employees and prospective clients, customers or investors. Like the profile page, first impressions are everything, so when you are setting your page up make sure your branding (logo) is uploaded and striking, that you fully fill out the services provided, the company bio info (website etc).

Fill every part of the Company pages with relevant information. If you’re looking to secure a reputation for good thought leadership, then this is your chance to sell your vision to your peers and competitors. Your Company profile also needs to be exciting and engaging and should list your premium products.

People pick up on passion, if you’re passionate about your idea, a true embracer of the values of thought leadership, this will translate through the text your write and the images you upload. But it doesn’t stop there; keep your company profile active by regularly posting information and updates. An active profile will not only attract new viewers, but retain them too and it’s also useful for being picked up in a Google search.

LinkedIn and Groups

LinkedIn Groups

As a company, and an individual user, you need to invest time and energy in the Group section of the social network. The Group section is the community side of LinkedIn. Here, you can join a variety of groups relevant to your industry, groups with a number of different purposes. Some of the groups are designed to provide professional advice and information, whilst others are more communal, groups formed after a conference, post University, or for employees of a company. Essentially all these groups are forums where you can read and exchange information.

For business, Groups are a valuable resource that can prompt product discussion, appear in Google search results and allow a company to network with like-minded individuals in their industry in order to raise brand and persona awareness.

LinkedIn + Thought Leadership = Success

LinkedIn Influencer

LinkedIn embrace the idea of thought leadership to the extent that you can find and follow companies and individuals that LinkedIn recognises as Thought Leaders. They also have an Influencers section, where strong, leading news and blogs are posted by LinkedIn for their users to read.

So how do you become recognised as a thought leader or a business with strong thought leadership?

If it was that easy everyone would do it! However, if you have the qualities to become a thought leader, then you need to make your personal and company profiles zing, post interesting, innovative and relevant content and interact with the group forums. It’s also worth sharing your articles and ideas with your followers, linking your web content to your LinkedIn profile and keeping LinkedIn in the loop by communicating with LinkedIn’s Business development team.

A thought leader has to have an expert tone and should always try to come up with discussions that spark engagement by:

  • Debate
  • Humour
  • Industry news discussions

The idea is to provide an authoritative voice and over time, become someone that your industry trusts to provide accurate information and discussions that pique interest and prompt debate.

Pull it off well and your company will reap the rewards.