While most non-profits realize the benefits of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, far fewer organizations fully realize the inherent power of LinkedIn.
As one of the original social networking platforms geared primarily toward professionals and businesspeople, LinkedIn can provide your organization with networking and marketing benefits, no matter the size of your non-profit. Here’s how to effectively use the LinkedIn platform to increase your organization’s reach and profile:
Establish a Presence
Non-profits should establish a solid presence on LinkedIn by creating a “Company” page with up to date information on the organization. Some examples of well written non-profit company pages include The American Red Cross and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Be sure to upload your logo and include current information on the page.
In addition to setting up your company page, appoint a key employee as your LinkedIn “voice,” the person who will, through their LinkedIn profile, moderate your activities on the site.
Start to Network
After your home base is set up, it’s time to start networking on the site. The first thing to do is to encourage your current supporters, board of directors, staff, volunteers, donors and friends to “connect” (the LinkedIn version of “friending”) with the staff member you appointed as your on-site point of contact, and to “follow” your company page.
In addition, use the “Groups” feature to join several groups that are closely related to your mission. You should also consider joining local business and non-profit groups in your geographical area.
Finally, search the “Questions” feature to find LinkedIn members who are asking questions that your organization is uniquely qualified to answer. Serve as a good resource on the site, and seek to connect with the people you help for a longer term relationship on the site.
Market Your Page
As with any social media outlet, you’re non-profit will reap the most benefit from LinkedIn if you actively market your LinkedIn page to people who are interested in your organization. This means asking people who stop by your website, read your e-newsletter, or otherwise show that they are interested in you to “connect” with you on LinkedIn and follow your company page.
You should also ask your supporters and those who are already connected with you on the site to spread the word to their colleagues and friends.
Using Status Updates
LinkedIn allows your organization to write short, Twitter-like status updates that will appear on your profile and on the update pages of everyone who is connected with you or following your company. This is one of the most powerful features of using LinkedIn for your non-profit. Use it wisely.
Remember, each status update cold be read by hundreds or thousands of people. Resist the urge to update your organization’s status ten times a day. Instead, use the status update line to push relevant facts and asks to your supporters. Reach out to them once per week, twice per week, or once per day to keep them informed and to ask them to take action (such as visiting a certain page on your website).
Starting Your Own Group
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, gotten your supporters involved and connected, and reached out to build new relationships and networks, it’s time for the LinkedIn coup de grace: creating your own group.
Using the “Groups” feature, create your own LinkedIn group specifically for the use of your supporters and friends. Post relevant information there, ask questions, and upload pictures and logos. Invite all of your followers to join you there and get involved in the discussion. Starting your own group is a great way to open your LinkedIn network up to a real dialogue with your supporters and friends.
How You Benefit
What can your organization expect to gain from the time and effort you invest in the LinkedIn platform?
First, LinkedIn will allow you to draw your current supporters closer by engaging them on yet another level and in another place where they congregate.
Secondly, and more importantly, LinkedIn will help you in gaining access to your supporters’ own networks and Rolodexes. As you engage on the site, encourage your supporters to start helping you reach their own connections on LinkedIn.
Joe Garecht is the creator of The Fundraising Authority, a free source of fundraising advice and tutorials for non-profits of all sizes.