In recent years, the popularity of LinkedIn has grown exponentially. What once started as a digital CV website has now grown into one of the most popular professional networking platforms in the world.
With over 562 million users from over 200 countries and growing at a rate of two new users per second, the social network for businesses represents a significant opportunity for small businesses to make connections, engage in conversations, and grow their business through increased conversions.
Niamh Taylor is an award-winning Digital Marketing Consultant, and founder of digital marketing agency, Digital Twenty Four. Having developed and delivered a range of digital transformation programmes for a wide range of businesses, including local councils, Niamh is highly experienced and well-versed in the use of LinkedIn for business growth.
Here are Niamh’s key takeaways:
1. Custom Privacy and Functionality Settings
When it comes to using their LinkedIn profile Niamh said a lot of people just work off the settings that are automatically assigned by the platform.
She added: “There are small adjustments and tweaks that you can make to improve your LinkedIn experience. Most of these can be found in the settings of your LinkedIn page, so go in there and see what you can change to make your LinkedIn experience more relevant and beneficial to you.”
Niamh’s key points around privacy and functionality were:
LinkedIn assigns a unique identification number to each user profile. However, you can edit this to include your name in your profile URL, which is important for search engine optimisation.
You can edit which sections of your profile are visible to the public (all LinkedIn users), or just to your own connections. Turn off sections that are not relevant to you, for example languages if you only speak one, and recommendations if you have not received any from fellow LinkedIn users.
Within your account settings you can choose to turn off the automatic play of videos in your newsfeed. This is purely a personal preference but can improve your experience of using LinkedIn if you find automatic play to be annoying or distracting.
Settings also allow you to disable features such as posting/notifying users when you make changes to your profile. If you are reviewing and editing your profile, you may want to disable this feature, so all your contacts are not notified about each individual change you make.
2. Optimising Your Profile
In order to optimise your profile Niamh pointed out some straightforward steps you can take to make sure your profile is as complete and professional looking as possible.
“Some of these steps may seem like a minor detail, but they can make all the difference when someone is debating reaching out and doing business with you” said Niamh.
Her key points around optimising your profile are:
You may not need or want to do this, but you can update your name to include more than just your name. For example, you can include a very short description of what you specialise in, or any accreditations you have with industry bodies. For example, Niamh’s name on LinkedIn includes Digital Marketing Consultant, FCIM (Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing).
Update your headline to something that is useful for others to know about you or your business.
Make sure all relevant sections of your profile are completed and consider turning off or hiding sections that are not relevant.
Use a professional head shot or image for your profile photo. Profiles with a good quality picture, as opposed to a logo or something that is difficult to make out, get more engagement. If you have lots of employees on LinkedIn, consider getting head shots for all the team or using the same background for the photos. This will increase brand awareness and present a professional image for the business.
Update the education section to include any training courses that you complete.
Reach out to your connections to ask for recommendations on the platform.
When building your network and sending out connection requests, include a personal message where you can.
Feature any professional bodies that you are a member of and add in some interests in the relevant section – including interests is a quick way for others to get to know more about you.
Niamh added: “LinkedIn carried out research to identify the key attributes employers look for on the platform. To really make your profile stand out, refer to these or find ways to illustrate that you have these skills – adaptability, positivity, resilience, proactivity and confidence.”
3. Contagious Content
Whether you are sharing a post, writing an article, or engaging in a conversation on LinkedIn, Niamh said users should aim to provide advice on a common problem, be amusing, inspirational or provide interesting information.
“The aim with LinkedIn is to engage and be engaging. Good quality imagery is a must, as well as catchy titles to draw attention” she added.
Niamh also pointed out that generally, the best times to post content are between 7am and 9am, 12pm and 2pm or after 4pm, all on weekdays. The platform gets less traffic at the weekend.
An important note to the audience from Niamh was that company pages have not taken off yet on LinkedIn, with the platform announcing regular changes to try and increase the use and visibility on these pages. Where you do have a company page, encourage all employees to share any content you put on it to increase engagement.
Check out Niamh’s full Lunchtime Learning on the Cathedral Quarter website: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/whats-on/lunchtime-learning-linkedin-for-business/
To see more Lunchtime Learning sessions go to: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/lunchtime-learning
One Week Left To Go To Apply For This Year’s Boardroom Apprentice
There’s only one week left to apply for this year’s Boardroom Apprentice programme online via the official Boardroom Apprentice website.
All applications are to be submitted by 3:00pm on Tuesday, May 24.
Now in its sixth year, the Boardroom Apprentice is a UK first 12-month unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain experience through in-depth training and support.
Founded by Eileen Mullan in 2017, the programme has helped 223 candidates from across Northern Ireland to begin their Boardroom journey thanks to its support from the Department of Finance.
Applications are open to those aged 16 or over from all backgrounds and abilities as the programme aims to enable a wider diversity of individuals to sit on boards and help move their board member role from aspiration to reality.
Eileen Mullan, Boardroom Apprentice founder, said: “I decided to create a programme that brings together three key elements – knowledge and understanding, experience and support.
Over a twelve-month window Boardroom Apprentices will get practical board experience, a suite of learning days and support to fully equip them to serve on a board in the public or third sector after completing the programme,“Being a Boardroom Apprentice is a gift. You get the programme as a gift with the expectation that you give it back. Being a Boardroom Apprentice is about preparing you for public service, which is about you playing your part.”
Throughout the 12 months, candidates are required to take part in regular learning days on topics such as finance, governance along with a board placement on one of this year’s 58 Host Boards, matched by both Eileen and a selection of former apprentices.
2020 Boardroom Apprentice Magdalena Bisewska revealed the experience is for everyone.
“I would encourage anyone to apply. It’s about creating opportunities for everyone. We’ve all got something to contribute.
“I think everyone from any nationality, any background, all walks of life, should apply as it’s given you the confidence, the knowledge and the skills to make a difference.”
This year’s programme will run from 01st September 2022 – until 31st August 2023 in adherence to all relevant Covid-19 guidance.
“If being on a board giving your time and sharing your skills is something you aspire to do, but are not sure how to do then Boardroom Apprentice will enable you to do just that,” said Eileen.
UK Wide Industry Standard ‘We’re Good To Go’ Restored Faith In NI’s Hospitality Sector
The UK wide industry-standard, We’re Good to Go, which has supported businesses throughout the pandemic has been phased out following a successful campaign.
The standard which was introduced in July 2020 when organisations were struggling to adjust to new regulations allowed businesses to demonstrate the Covid-19 protocols they had put in place to keep both staff and visitors safe while the hospitality sector moved to reopening.
“It has been tough, we had to adjust and review our operating procedures and various range of risk assessments,” said Pim Dalm, the Managing Director of Clandeboye Lodge Hotel in Bangor County Down.
With the help of the ‘We’re Good To Go’ accreditation, Clandeboye Lodge Hotel was able to maintain a safe environment for its staff.
“We felt it was very important to make sure that our staff felt confident that as business owners we had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the environment in which they were either interacting with guests or interacting amongst each other was as safe as could possibly be.”
Looking back on the unpredictability the tourism sector was facing at the time, Dermot Friel, owner of Friel’s Bar and Restaurant explained the importance of safety for organised trips.
“Tour operators wanted to know if their guests and visitors were going to be looked after in a safe environment. That was one of their first questions, were we ‘Good To Go’ accredited?” he recalled.
Fortunately, the success of the initiative allowed many local businesses to safely reopen their premises and welcome visitors and guests after a long period of uncertainty.
For Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, the We’re Good To Go accreditation meant that Northern Ireland’s primary royal residence could start planning for the future.
“Being declared Good To Go was peace of mind that you were safe at work and that you can provide a safe experience for your visitors.
“The We’re Good To Go campaign was an incredibly important part of our discussions with international vendors about our 2022 calendar and for trying to build back up to our pre covid business levels,” said Christine Grant, Palace Host Team Leader of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.
Examining the consumer confidence, propensity to travel and consumer concerns at the time, Tourism NI’s Consumer Sentiment Analysis gave exceptional insight into the success of the We’re Good To Go initiative.
Only a few months after launching the initiative, by March 2021, almost a quarter of NI consumers (23%) were aware of the ‘We’re Good to Go Mark’. For the vast majority (92%) who were aware of it, this mark gave them confidence that a business was safe to visit. The same research confirmed that when restrictions eased, two-thirds of NI consumers would be more inclined to visit a business that displayed the mark over one that didn’t.
Tourism NI’s CEO John McGrillen said: “The ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme was vital for businesses as it reassured visitors that they had put the necessary arrangements in place to deal with Covid safely. That consumer confidence was a critical part of driving consumer demand.
“I am exceptionally proud of the industry for their collective effort and investment to ensure guests felt safe when visiting their experiences and attractions. This is testament to the resilience and strength of character of the wonderful people we have working within the sector across Northern Ireland.
“This tenacity and giant spirit throughout the tourism sector contributes to the positive outlook as we move towards economic recovery following the pandemic.”
Throughout the campaign, all businesses operating within the visitor economy including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and more were encouraged to apply for the accreditation. In Northern Ireland, a total of 2,148 businesses took part and displayed the green logo on their premises and online.
By the end of summer 2021, NI holidaymakers felt more confident to book further in advance than ROI visitors. This could partly be attributed to the success of the We’re Good To Go standards of which 50% of consumers were aware.
Since Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland were officially lifted in February 2022 and consumer nervousness around travelling lessened, VisitEngland, VisitScotland, Visit Wales and Tourism Northern Ireland have agreed that the initiative has achieved what it set out to and drew the scheme to a close.
With nationwide restrictions behind us, Tourism NI acknowledges the support of the industry for taking the proactive step in helping visitors feel safe when travelling within, or to Northern Ireland.
The organisation is looking forward to welcoming both domestic and international visitors and guests in the coming season and seeing the tourism and hospitality industry restored to pre-pandemic levels.
Whilst the ‘We’re Good To Go’ scheme has closed we would like to encourage businesses to stay connected with Tourism NI for other supporting activities.
For more information on how Tourism NI can support your business visit: www.tourismni.com