Make LinkedIn business connections count

Cheryl Hall
Dallas Morning News

Dallas consultant Stephanie Sammons credits LinkedIn for her career reinvention.

Now the 46-year-old CEO of Stephanie Sammons Inc. has written “Linked to Influence,” seven rules that can help people achieve similar miracles.

Earlier this year, it sat near the top of Amazon Kindle lists for entrepreneurship and small business titles.

Sammons has never been paid a penny from LinkedIn for her endorsement. But the people at the business-oriented social media site have returned the love, placing her on LinkedIn’s lists as a top social media expert and marketing thought leader.

In 2009, Sammons painfully parted ways with her career in wealth management — or in a way, it parted ways with her. She’d seen the writing on the wall at Merrill Lynch thanks to the deepening financial crisis.

“I’d scratched and clawed to climb the corporate ladder for 15 years, and then I had to walk away from everything,” says Sammons. “I was a complete wreck.”

After nearly a year of “lost mojo,” Sammons reinvented herself.

She decided to focus on financial professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs who wanted to shape their digital brands. She created Wired Advisor LLC in 2010 to help them build blogs and websites and develop content strategies and branding.

LinkedIn was becoming the business world’s version of Facebook. “It became a way for me to get on the radar with potential clients and then cultivate relationships with them,” she says.

In 2011, Sammons started writing for Social Media Examiner, a marketing website, and she often focused on LinkedIn as a career power tool. That led to speaking gigs, which led to her first book.

“LinkedIn saved my life by giving me all kinds of opportunities to make connections, find clients and build my reputation in a new digital world,” she says.

Alex Rynne, associate content marketing manager at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, selected “Linked to Influence” as a book marketers can’t afford to miss. She says even she learned some things about LinkedIn — and she lives and breathes this stuff.

“Stephanie’s book is filled with tangible tips to help marketers optimize their profiles to attract their ideal customers. It will also help them build a smarter network based on quality over quantity.”

Earlier this year, Sammons decided to take her own advice and brand herself. She folded Wired Advisor into Stephanie Sammons Inc., and she’s using the book as a marketing tool for consulting services.

Mike Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner, says Sammons is one of his most popular writers and event speakers.

“LinkedIn has undergone massive changes over the past few years, and Stephanie has helped marketers understand how to best leverage LinkedIn for their benefit,” he says.

Going out on her own is scary. “The fear has never left me,” she says. “I have it every day. I’m just more comfortable with it.”

So why does Sammons believe in starting with LinkedIn?

First off, it’s the most dominant business network by far, she says. So your LinkedIn profile becomes your digital professional identity by default.

“When someone is looking online to learn more about you, unless you have a common name, your LinkedIn profile is going to show up in the top three to five search results,” she says. “It’s the first place to make your first impression about who you are, who you help, how you help them, what your perspective is and what you’re passionate about.”

What are some of her other recommendations?

“You want to weave in these three Ps into your LinkedIn profile — personality, passion for what you do and your unique perspectives — to the extent that you’re comfortable. It can make a huge difference,” she says. “The reason I will often get a client over someone else is because my perspective will resonate with them — my style, my theme, the way I approach business. Or my personality will click with them.”

Spend five to 10 minutes a day cultivating your connections. Choose relationships that you think look most promising. And then set up a meeting. Nothing can replace a face-to-face, she says.

Ins and outs of LinkedIn

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. On LinkedIn, that begins with your profile page, Stephanie Sammons says. Here are her suggestions for making sure you pack a personal punch when people check you out:

■Choose a professional picture that makes you look authoritative yet approachable; make eye contact with face forward.

■Write in the first person. Use your first name if you feel comfortable with that.

■Make a human connection. Share a little bit of your story but don’t overshare. Think carefully so that your story fits the professional personae you want to portray.

Source: Dallas Morning News