So You’re On LinkedIn — Now Use It

You don’t have to be a super-user of this social-networking site to get leads from it. Here’s how to use it lightly and still make it work for you.

February 12, 2014

Jon Sterling scored a new client in a peculiar way. He didn’t capture a lead through paid online advertising or through social marketing. He simply made a new connection with someone on LinkedIn who happened to have gone to the same school he did — and before Sterling knew it, the person became his client.

Sterling, an agent with Chase International in Tahoe City, Calif., had been looking on LinkedIn for San Francisco residents who work at technology firms. When he came across his soon-to-be client’s profile, he sent a personalized invitation to connect. And as they began talking, Sterling came to realize that his new connection was also shopping for real estate in Northern California.

“One of my posts about the Lake Tahoe market got his attention. He reached out and told me he’ll be ready to purchase in a few months,” Sterling says.

That should show other real estate professionals that they would be wise to scout LinkedIn for business. Even if you’re not a social-networking genius, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to make connections and drum up new clients.

“LinkedIn is a platform for practitioners to establish credibility through their professional identity and demonstrate their deep subject-matter expertise,” says Alan Wang, an agent with Keller Williams in Cupertino, Calif., who also heads up LinkedIn’s new market development and operations for the Asia-Pacific region.

It starts with creating a compelling profile. The key is to set it up as an online resume with a professional photograph. Put awards and alma maters high up in the profile, Wang says. Making your headline a catchy tagline or call to action, like you often see on business cards, is powerful.

Take, for example, Nick Ratliff’s tagline. Ratliff, the principal broker at Cypress Residential Group in Lexington, Ky., states on his LinkedIn page: “Using Technology to Change My Market.” His summary begins with the small town where he was raised (Mount Sterling, Ky.), then segues into alma maters, professional degrees, and his favorite sports teams. He ends his five-paragraph summary with a bit about why he decided to get into real estate, as well as his specialties.

“I’ve found over the years that I’ve had a number of potential clients call and simply say they called because of my bios,” Ratliff says. “Some have been engineers or similar trades who feel comfortable working with me, while others are just big University of Kentucky fans and enjoy talking with me about that.”

Though some professionals downplay the relevance of endorsements since they’re easy to do (connections can check off skills they think you have in a pop-up window when looking at a colleague’s profile), Wang thinks otherwise.

“It’s a good sign when I see 200-plus endorsements; it’s a validation of who you are, what you are doing,” he says. Endorsements also encourage prospective clients to read your profile, look at your status updates, and more, Wang adds.

Many practitioners use LinkedIn to check out prospective clients, and they encourage their clients to do the same. Ratliff uses it to stay up to date with connections. “For instance, if someone I know gets a new job and changes it on LinkedIn, then I can reach out to them to congratulate them on their new job,” he says. “That allows for a soft sale by finding out what their plans are and reminding them we are here if they need our services.”

Slideshare, a platform that allows for sharing content, business documents, and presentations, is one little-known new feature on LinkedIn that’s gaining popularity. Wang uses the platform for a “building a business on referrals” presentation to theSilicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. But Washington, D.C.-area agent Leslie Woods-Hulse uses it for listings. Slideshare allows her network to see the listing information and photos all at once without having to navigate away from LinkedIn. Other social media sites, such as Facebook, don’t offer the same capabilities to show contacts as much information about listings.

Even a passive presence on LinkedIn can be lucrative. Relationships matter, so Wang does what he calls “no-strings-attached networking,” engaging his connections through status updates, sharing important articles, or simply being involved in conversations or activity around another member’s profile (such as promotions, job changes, and questions). That networking has paid off with 15 to 17 LinkedIn connections who bought homes using his services in the past year. Wang boosts business with a quarterly blog post focusing on the economy and local housing market, which he e-mails to his network. Email recipients tend to take a peek at his LinkedIn profile later, he says.

Members of the National Association of REALTORS® can also join NAR’s official LinkedIn group or other related groups for free.

“The forums are good places to identify service providers, potential clients,” says Bruce Ailion, an agent with RE/MAX of Georgia in the Atlanta area. “I’m currently looking for remodeling and new-home contractors. Most are happily employed, but they may know someone looking for work, and this is a good way to find people.”

Ailion has also targeted likely investors for a property expo in Tel Aviv with a small paid ad on LinkedIn. He set up and launched the ad following prompts in LinkedIn’s Business Services section. Fifty investors responded to the ad, and one expo attendee purchased three $200,000 properties.“Advertising and networking on LinkedIn works,” Ailion says.

freelance writer

Mary Beth Klatt is a freelance writer with a passion for architecture and home design.