LinkedIn is the #1 business networking site. It’s a great way to build a network of referral partners and prospective clients. The whole purpose of LinkedIn is to do business with or through the contacts you make.

One way to build your contacts on LinkedIn is to view the connections of your connections (usually 2nd connections). You are able to connect with these connections – they will be on the right hand side of your connections profile under “Also Viewed” – and you can continue to build your network. It’s a great way to see who else is an influencer in your space as well as a prospective client.

A better way to find leaders, influencers or prospects in your space is to use #hashtags…

Hashtags were popularized by Twitter as a way for users to follow certain keywords to track items of interest.

As with Twitter, hashtags allow for keywords to be searched, and you can use keywords pertinent to your industry or niche in your hashtags to increase your chances of not only finding but being found by your target market.

A hashtag is simply a way to index articles and posts into a category of interest by keyword.

You can now find status updates or posts by people that are not currently in your network (right now you will only see out of network posts if one of your connections likes, shares or comments on it) so you can dig deep on LinkedIn. With over 500 million users, there is a deep pool to search from for new connections and start conversations with them.

This also means that YOU can be found by placing hashtagged words in your posts – putting yourself in front of prospective clients.

By searching for a keyword, you may find an update by a prospect or influencer in your space, and then comment on the post (make sure it’s more than just a like – make a comment that adds to the discussion and shows your knowledge).

Let’s say that you’re a Quality Edge distributor and want to find a conversation about siding on LinkedIn; you can enter #siding in the search field and you will then find a list of people using the hashtag #siding in their post or article.

The results for #siding brought back a number of posts – mostly by contractors, builders and roofers – that give you the opportunity to connect and comment on the post, allowing you to engage with a prospect. Some posts have more than one hashtag which will give you an opportunity to explore other hashtags that are common to the posts (#roofing #windows #framing) so you can also search those keywords for more connections and prospects. This is a great way to find out what your clients or potential clients care about. This also allows your sales team to create a list of prospective customers to call on. Leveraging social sales tools in this way helps your sales reps work smarter.

The hashtagged posts give you a way to connect with the company as well as the decision makers of the company. When you search the keyword and then engage (don’t pitch right away! Add to the conversation and let the sales conversation happen organically), make sure you have a good LinkedIn profile that helps you create your own sales funnel.

When you add to the conversation, you will be much more likely to gain trust and be seen as a distributor who can help the contractor grow their business and improve their bottom line.

In a word: add #value

Try it for yourself by searching an industry keyword with a hashtag. How did it work for you? Let us know your results!

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