How Franchise Professionals Should Use LinkedIn
Put out the welcome mat through a clearly communicated LinkedIn profile.
For the last several years, an ongoing conversation in the franchise community has centered on how best to leverage LinkedIn for our various needs. Whether franchisor, franchisee or supplier, we all see an opportunity with LinkedIn, but arguably, no one has completely cracked the code.
There are prospective franchisees and customers in LinkedIn’s database of more than 238 million individuals, but there is no magic bullet or one specific strategy that works best. As much as we’d like, there is no simple answer. Many of us have tried various strategies and tactics, some have worked and others have failed.
Now, let’s work on one relatively simple step that everyone in the franchise community can deploy. It starts with you and your profile page.
And let’s make this interactive, so go ahead and pull up your LinkedIn profile, read it and leave it open as you read the rest of this article. Go ahead, I’ll be right here.
Now, does your profile read like a resume? If you’re actively looking for a job, I guess that’s okay. But if you aren’t, you should immediately rewrite the profile to be targeted to whichever prospect or customer or prospective employee you would like to engage.
Each day more and more prospective customers who are considering doing business with you, buying a franchise or going to work for you − are using LinkedIn as a resource to better know you. If you are trying to sell franchises and your LinkedIn profile reads like a resume, it could communicate that you are not necessarily committed to your company. So why should they?
Buying a franchise, changing jobs or doing business with a stranger can be big step and you must establish trust and credibility to increase the odds of success. If you are a franchisor in a leadership position, you want to communicate the same commitment and integrity whether it’s a prospective employee, an industry peer, a supplier or a future or current franchisee.
As you read through your LinkedIn profile, ask yourself whether your profile answers these questions that the reader may have:
- Should I pay this person money?
- Can I trust this person?
- Can this person help me with my objectives (franchise ownership, employment, doing business)?
- What benefits do this person and his company provide?
- Does this person have the ability to help me make a significant decision?
- Does this person look trustworthy and credible?
Let’s go through the LinkedIn profile checklist:
1. Does it have a picture? LinkedIn says you are seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a picture. If you don’t, upload one right now from your computer, but make sure it’s professional.
2. Do you have a strong compelling headline that clearly communicates what you do now?
3. Summary. Typically this is the first paragraph of content read on your profile page. Make sure that you have completed this section with succinct keyword-laden text, in the first person. Again, unless you are looking for a job, run this through the filter of the prospective business partner, franchisee or employee.
As an example, if you are in franchise sales, rather than tell the world you are yet another “seasoned sales professional with 15 years of experience, a self-starter and highly motivated,” why not communicate that you are “an ambassador for your brand, helping individuals explore your franchise concept with transparency and attention.”
If you are a franchisee, you may want to write your summary to communicate that you have “been a (add brand name) franchisee for 15 years serving hundreds of homeowners with integrity, honesty and focus on quality.”
LinkedIn recommends at least 40 words.
The rest of your profile should list your accomplishments and work history so if the prospect wants to really dig into your past it’s there. Many viewers will likely not go past the summary, unless it’s compelling, so make every word count.
4. The next section is your experience. Certainly expand on your current position, again using keywords to accomplish the goal of trust and integrity. If your past positions are relevant to your current position, you should include details that add credibility to your experience and reinforce keywords you’ve put in your summary.
inkedIn also now gives you the ability to add rich media to each section. You can add a video or presentation, if applicable. More than 2.5 million pieces of rich media have been added by others to their profiles.
5. Organizations and certifications are another good way to show more of your professionalism.
6. Recommendations and endorsements are, in my opinion, the third most important part of your profile (after a picture and a well-written summary). Here’s where a reader can get a perspective about you from others’ viewpoints. If you display current recommendations from individuals to confirm the messaging you’ve placed in your summary and profile, this is where your credibility can solidify.
For example, franchise development professionals should have three to four recommendations from recent franchise candidates they brought into the system. Personally, I like when the recommendations take some of the fear out of the franchise award process and give prospective franchisees a sense of comfort that they will get the transparency and information they need to evaluate the opportunity.
A few other items you should check for freshness:
- Contact Information. Besides your email and phone, include your Twitter handle, company website and blog if applicable.
- Activity. This is the first visible section on a typical LinkedIn profile. You can post relevant Internet content or a personal message that is helpful to the audience you are trying to communicate with.
- Groups. While I personally don’t find these to be much value (too much self-promotion and noise), being a member of groups relevant to your role at least creates an impression of engagement within your profession.
- Set your custom LinkedIn vanity URL.
- Make sure your company LinkedIn profile is updated and has all relevant sections completed so it reinforces what you’ve done with your own profile.
Finally, as you are constructing or updating your profile, LinkedIn gives you a completeness score, called “Profile Strength” that is visible on the right side of your profile edit page.
A couple of good resources are a “how-to” book titled “LinkedIn for Business: How Advertisers, Marketers and Salespeople Get Leads, Sales and Profits from LinkedIn” by Brian Carter. I also find the LinkedIn blog at blog.linkedin.com to be a helpful source for tips and tricks.
There are more than 238 million people using LinkedIn and it’s becoming more common for prospects to “check you out” (see your LinkedIn’s “Who’s viewed Your Profile” page). If you want prospective franchisees, customers and employees to feel comfortable with the prospect of doing business or working for or with you, why not put out the welcome mat through a clearly communicated LinkedIn profile.
People want to do business with people they like and feel at ease with. Having a proper LinkedIn profile won’t get the job done alone, but it will help the process get off to a better start.
Todd Leiser, CFE, is the director of franchise sales for Valpak Direct Marketing Systems and vice chairman of IFA’s Marketing and Technology Committee. View his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/toddleiser (LinkedIn member #113,225) and find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.