It seems that each month brings new social media platforms. It’s hard for busy agents to stay on top of all the platforms, and even tougher to use them for marketing your agency and generating leads.

However, there’s one social media platform that’s well-suited for insurance agencies. As of April 2016, LinkedIn had more than 400 million users worldwide. About 128 million of those users were in the United States, which means that 37 percent of America’s digital users have a LinkedIn account.

More important, LinkedIn is designed for business networking and career development. Most social media platforms put the emphasis on “social,” with plenty of cat videos, recipes for party dips, and photos of that great sandwich someone enjoyed at lunch. LinkedIn tends to be more serious, with activity and discussions focused on business. That’s what makes it a powerful tool for insurance agents looking to grow their agencies.

How LinkedIn® works

The platform is built around developing connections between business people. It uses your email contact list to identify people you know who are already members, and allows you to connect with them. In addition, it automatically analyzes their contact lists to see which connections you may have in common and identify other people who you may know. It’s like attending a networking function with 128 million other people.

When you first sign into LinkedIn and enter your contacts (the easiest way is to give it permission to access your email list), the platform will list the people you know on LinkedIn and allow you to choose those with whom you’d like to connect.

LinkedIn will automatically send connection requests, and if they agree to become part of your network, it will notify you. Once you have a LinkedIn account, you’ll receive connection requests from other members, and you’ll be able to choose whether you want to add them to your network.

As with Facebook and other sites, you can post status updates and read about what your connections have been doing. You’ll receive notifications when connections change jobs, get promoted, celebrate work anniversaries, or make changes to their profiles. And, because you can send messages through LinkedIn, you have an easy way to keep in touch by congratulating them.

If you want to add many connections at once, click on the Add Connections or People You May Know features, and LinkedIn will show you hundreds of potential contacts. You can also display names of people who have something in common with you — for example, who attended the same school or who previously worked at the same company.

Most important: Your profile

Using LinkedIn effectively begins with a top-quality profile. Sure, you can set up a profile with only the most basic information, but you’ll receive fewer connections and be less able to use the platform’s many features.

Your profile should include your name and a description of your current position and workplace. Many people simply list their job titles. That’s okay, but your profile will have a stronger impact if you use a more descriptive title, such as “Solving insurance challenges for small businesses” or “Bringing extraordinary service to personal insurance needs.”

Make sure you include a photo, and unlike what you may use on other sites, it should be a professional head shot. A professional photo makes your listing more likely to be found by another LinkedIn member.

Next comes your career history and other information. Don’t think of it as a resume. Instead, share as much information about your background as possible. List your professional skills, your licenses and certifications, areas of specialty, classes you took in college, and organizations of which you’re a member. It’s also okay to list your hobbies and interests. Remember that LinkedIn is all about building connections. When the platform looks for potential connections, it also examines your interests. In addition, when someone views your profile page, they may discover a shared interest that makes them more likely to call you. (You can also use this to your advantage by reviewing someone’s profile page before an appointment.)

As you include skills and similar information, place them in list format or separate them by commas. That makes them more visible to search engines, so if someone is looking for an agent with your particular skills, they’ll be more likely to find you. In fact, LinkedIn members who include skills information receive profile views than those who do not.

As a LinkedIn member, you’ll also be able to create a personalized URL (website address) for your page. You can include that URL on your business cards, brochures, letterhead, and email signature.

Finally, while LinkedIn has a default page format, you can change the order of items. Suppose you’re a relatively new agent. You may want to place more emphasis on your previous jobs or education. If much of your business comes from organizations of which you’re a member, you may want to spotlight those. The more you personalize the page, the better it reflects who you are and what makes your agency unique. You can also set up a separate LinkedIn page for the agency itself.

Endorsements and recommendations

You can strengthen your connections and your profile by making and receiving endorsements and recommendations. Endorsements are references to particular skills. From time to time, LinkedIn will show several of your connections and ask if you’d endorse them for specific skills. It will also ask your connections to endorse you. Recommendations involve connections writing brief explanations of why they recommend others. You can ask any of your connections to write a recommendation about you, and you can do the same for them in return.

Groups

A great way to increase your visibility on LinkedIn and access more connections is to become involved in a discussion group. There are groups for all sorts of professions, interests, and geographic areas. You can search through the group listings to find one that’s right for you, or you can start your own. As a member of the group, you’re normally allowed to send messages to other members.

Groups are made up of discussion topics. You can jump in and comment on someone else’s topic, or start a topic of your own. Members of the group will receive a summary of current topics, so if you’re a regular commenter, they’re likely to remember your name. One idea for posting is to share information that people may not know. For example, there may be a particular risk that business coverage normally excludes. You can explain why that is and how local businesses can protect themselves.

Share expertise

LinkedIn also gives you the opportunity to share your expertise by publishing articles. Your article may be seen by your connections, and also by people who haven’t connected with you. It’s a great way to explain concepts customers don’t always understand or to share valuable advice. Readers can add comments or questions to your articles, providing a chance to interact with them. Your articles don’t need to be long or fancy. You can write items that are just a couple paragraphs long. However, it pays to create and post articles regularly, because that builds your visibility.

Be active

Most of all, never stop connecting. The more connections you have, the more powerful a tool LinkedIn becomes. As you grow your network, you’ll build visibility that will lead to even more connections. Leveraging those connections will help you make sales and acquire referrals — which will further expand your network. So if you’re not already active on LinkedIn, now’s a great time to start!

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