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LinkedIn Is Still the Key to Generating Business Leads LinkedIn is 277 percent more effective at generating leads than both Facebook and Twitter. So why not fish where the fish are biting?

By Ben Kniffen

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After the initial buzz, interest in LinkedIn leveled out. And then last February, its stock price actually took a plunge to a three-year low of $102.89. That was more than a 46 percent drop, and it went on to cost the company $11 billion in value.

Changes made to some of LinkedIn's base functionalities cooled the fervor even more. No longer could you send countless messages to group members; you were limited to just 15 each month. When this threw a kink into content marketing plans, many startups looked to other social channels to get their content in front of consumers. After all, Facebook has 1.71 billion active users and Twitter has 313 million, while LinkedIn comes in much lower at 106 million.

However, the old adage "quality over quantity" holds true here. A pool of millions does not a good prospect make. People visit more traditional social sites to post pictures, catch up with friends and watch the occasional cat video. LinkedIn is the place people go to do business, expand their networks and learn about new ideas.

Related: 5 Ways to Generate Business Through LinkedIn

And, it turns out, there's nothing wrong with that.

Smaller pond, more professional fish

LinkedIn users have business on the brain, and that overall vibe certainly contributes to the platform's outstanding performance as a business and career development tool. In fact, LinkedIn is 277 percent more effective at generating leads than both Facebook and Twitter, and that's largely because LinkedIn provides companies with so many valuable resources.

Here are four of LinkedIn's most powerful offerings:

1. The top social media platform for lead generation: In 2014, more than 80 percent of social media leads came from LinkedIn. While this number may have shifted over the past couple of years, the platform still trounces all others as far as driving leads for business.

To optimize your efforts on the site, consider developing a drip campaign to help you connect with and start getting your name in front of ideal prospects. Drip campaigns should have three to four friendly, non-promotional messages in them. Share an interesting resource, show off your most-read content or even ask a simple question -- the idea is to focus on building genuine relationships with prospects.

One of our clients found success recently with a drip campaign. Cohen Architectural Woodworking used a mix of status updates and content to position itself as a leader in the industry. With personalized, consistent messages keeping Cohen's name in front of prospects, its connections not only grew, but 30 percent of them also agreed to a sales call.

2. A robust relationship builder: More than 2 million LinkedIn Groups may already exist, but this shouldn't deter you from starting one of your own. You're 70 percent more likely to land an unexpected sales appointment if you join LinkedIn Groups.

What's more, creating a group allows you to focus on developing and sharing high-quality content that your prospects will find interesting. To build your group's membership, you can invite ideal prospects to join, pose thoughtful questions and share industry-related content. If you carefully moderate the group until it's able to grow organically on its own, you'll eventually become recognized by everyone in the group as a trusted expert in the field.

Another one of my company's clients, Swip Systems, used a similar strategy to target its ideal clients by positioning its CEO, Tom Swip, as a trusted leader in the industry. By seeking them out on the platform and asking them to join, he has grown his LinkedIn group to more than 6,000 members, and this has provided a new and effective sales funnel for his business.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Embarrassing Yourself on LinkedIn

3. Advanced people search capabilities: LinkedIn's Advanced People Search allows you to target people by title, company size, industry, location and more. Instead of casting a wide net, you can build relationships with qualified prospects specifically.

Start by filling out a prospect profile and getting down to specific details about your ideal prospects. Do they work in a certain industry? Do they hold certain positions in a company? Should they live within a certain area? Once you've got that nailed down, you can plug this information into LinkedIn's Advanced People Search.

Ensuite Media, for example, puts the power of this function to use in a unique way. The company constantly monitors LinkedIn job listings. If a position meets certain criteria, Ensuite will pitch its services to the hiring company as a better alternative to onboarding and training a new employee.

4. Easy content publishing and distribution: Being able to publish blog posts on LinkedIn allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and experience. If your post is done well, LinkedIn editors might even feature it in a Pulse channel, which will get you tons of views and followers. And with 45 percent of Pulse's readers holding high positions within their industries, you can put your name in front of more decision-makers.

Review LinkedIn's editorial calendar, and post thoughtful, actionable advice on its monthly topics. Most are broad enough to spin for any industry -- just make sure every piece of content you publish is helpful and interesting to your target audience. To illustrate, our CEO, Josh Turner, wrote a post titled "Hands On vs. Delegation: The Leadership Style Your Team Will Respect" based on the topic #HowILead. Although it doesn't directly relate to our business, his post has garnered 12,000 views and 87 comments.

Related: Why You Can't Ignore LinkedIn for Thought Leadership

Remember, just because you can find prospects on Facebook and Twitter doesn't mean they'll be open to learning about your business -- especially when you're talking B2B. People visit those sites to be social, not to conduct business. Instead, head over to LinkedIn and fish where the fish are biting.

Ben Kniffen

Co-founder and COO, LinkedUniversity and LinkedSelling

Ben Kniffen is the co-founder and COO of LinkedUniversity and LinkedSelling, a leader in the digital and social media marketing space. He developed and launched LinkedU's latest offering, Connect365. He's also a father of two daughters and an avid reader.

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