In conversation with my small business colleagues, craft artists or not, most feel that LinkedIn (LI) is baffling and not a platform where they belong. But before you dismiss LI, maybe it’s time to investigate further. According to Shubhomita Bose in her discussion of LI as a branding tool, the focus is shifting from being a place to store your resume for job searching to a tool for marketing your small business. LI claims 500 million users, with about 100 million using the platform actively—that’s a big audience that you don’t want to ignore.
The author’s LinkedIn Profile.
Images courtesy of Margaret Almon
Research who is active on LinkedIn
If your people are there, it makes sense to add LI to your rotation of social media sites. I discovered a portion of my audience for Nutmeg Designs is only, or primarily, on LI. Craft colleagues have connected on LI with art collectors, architects, and gallery and museum directors. Illustrator Jennifer Barrile had freelance jobs come forth through LI, including sales on Etsy. Katie Katz, of Bernard Katz Glass, found potential projects with interior designers and art consultants worldwide. Jean Judd, textile artist and owner of Sisters in Stitches, found gallery representation through LI as well as being asked to join a roster of several art consultants who work in the hospitality and health care fields. She notes that her LI connections, called 1st degree connections, have recommended her to others on LI who she didn’t know, and this has led to new business relationships, as well as friendships.
Free is Fine
Fiber artist Jamie Fingal’s take on LI is if you have a business, this is another great platform in which to share what you make or sell, and a place to post your most recent blog entry. Like myself, she only uses the free version of LI, and has not felt the need to buy the premium version. LI offers premium versions, starting at $24.95 per month, that include expanded features such as access to premium search filters.
Keep up with Industry News
Abby Glassenberg, co-founder of Crafts Industry Alliance, uses the LI app on her iPhone. The newsfeed helps her find craft business articles that don’t come up on other social media platforms. For example, when JoAnn bought Creativebug, she found out about the acquisition while browsing the newsfeed on her phone, and was able to inform her followers.
Stacey Trock, of FreshStitches crochet, like Abby Glassenberg, enjoys perusing articles on the newsfeed. The continuing education aspect is particularly appealing. She learns about marketing, promoting her business and business skills, time-management, and discovering new algorithm changes on social media platforms.
Though Stacey Trock could find all of the blog posts/information elsewhere, she’s finding LI a handy way to segregate the ‘business’ side of her professional life from the ‘maker/creative’ part. For example, she’s not interested in getting time-management tips in her Instagram feed, but when she’s on LI, she feels as though she’s in the right place for business-related context.
Visual images really stand out on LI. The focus on business articles in the newsfeed is a foil for the beauty or uniqueness of craft. You may catch a potential customer’s eye if they see products and services related to their craft passion pop up in their newsfeed. Jennifer Barrile notes that LI seems less saturated than other sites, and she suspects craft artists might have a better shot of getting noticed and having someone buy their items, especially if their followers are similar.
Another Outlet for your Blog or Newsletter Content
Publishing articles natively on LI used to be available only to a small group of influencers. Now, this function is available to everyone on LI. Articles you publish will be visible on your profile, and are a way to position yourself as an expert in your area and tell your business story. Glassenberg has repurposed her website content on LI, and finds it easy to copy and paste to publish there. Her articles become like a portfolio of her writing, easy for her LI followers to find. Articles on LI are reachable through the search function, and if you link back to your website, blog or newsletter, you can build your email list and readership.
Quick LinkedIn Refresh: Taking a Minimalist Approach
Take a fresh look at your Profile
Does your profile represent your business and tell people what you do and who you serve? My LI profile dated back to 2009 when I was a medical librarian. When my library closed in 2010, I chose to focus on Nutmeg Designs, and my network grew as I attended women’s business networking events. My librarian job history dominated my profile, but over time I revised it to reflect my mosaic business.
If you still have your day job, and a craft business on the side, you will need to choose which to highlight on LI. Terms of service do not allow having more than one profile, and the key is to focus your headline on the business that is most relevant to LI. You can include reference to whatever your secondary focus is in your Summary. Both the headline and the summary are keyword searchable in LI, and LI also comes up in Google Searches.
I don’t keep up with posting on my Company Profile page, but I do have one in case people search for Nutmeg Designs. Judd utilizes both the Company Profile as well as the Individual Profile options so she appears in searches on almost a daily basis.
Your Headline is what people see first — you get 120 characters to describe yourself or your business. I revised mine to include my business tagline and copied in some nontraditional symbols for visual interest.
Your Summary is like a mini-website. You get 2000 characters. Highlight the visual nature of your business by adding media such as photos or videos.
Feature your Art or Craft Business in your Banner Image Follow these Guidelines for Size when creating the banner image.
Build Your Network Spend a few minutes searching keywords for your target market and seeing who comes up. Look up people you meet in the course of business and see if they are on LI. One client politely wrote that she only connects with those in her industry, but many others have accepted my requests and have stayed engaged with my art.
Personalize your request for connection. Look at the other person’s profile and figure out if you have something in common, or a way you could help. Don’t send the boilerplate request from LI.
Don’t let LI auto import all your contacts from your address book because it’s entirely too easy to accidentally have LI auto-send mass invitations to everyone. This is where LI has gotten a reputation for spamming. You can choose to only connect with people you’ve met, or like Barrile, accept connections with people you don’t know if they have similar interests.
A quick search can reveal connections.
Post Status Updates Consistently
For the past year, I have been working to consistently post one photo to my newsfeed each weekday. I received a message in my LI inbox from a client who originally ordered something from Nutmeg Designs through Etsy. The title was “Imagining What’s Possible.” The client saw a project I posted, and was inspired to commission a dragonfly mosaic for his daughter’s birthday. This client isn’t a friend on FB, doesn’t follow my FB Business Page and is not on my newsletter list, and through LI we stayed connected.
Consistent presence is the key to any social media site. Daily, I aim to like 2 or 3 posts by my connections and make comments. Barrile tries to post content at least once a day or every other day. She notes, this is not the same thing as constantly imploring people to buy. Jean Judd tries to post a status update once a week to her individual profile and a twice monthly update to her Company Profile. Her mailing list of business contacts are now becoming LI connections. She is in closer contact with them because of her frequent LI updates, rather than only her yearly postcard mailing.
Dragonfly Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs.
Things to post
- Your art in context, installed or in use.
- Process photos
- Your studio
- Events and shows
- Other people’s art if it resonates with your target market and inspires you, assuming the proper permission has been granted.
- Tips of use to your clients.
LinkedIn Can Be Enjoyable
Finally, LI can be a refreshing change of pace in social media, as well as a form of networking more friendly to introverts such as myself. Trock really enjoys seeing different sides of people emerge in the business context of LI. There is a bit of a thrill in the “six degrees of separation” aspect of LI, where it’s easier to visualize how people are connected to each other, what their business interests are, and how you can help each other.
Lisa Caprelli’s Guide to LinkedIn Character Limits