By Elaina Smith
In the payments industry, we are fortunate to have several great publications that help us stay current with the latest trends. The Green Sheet is no exception. These publications are great for disseminating information, but not as much at sparking conversation since most articles offer the viewpoint of an individual.
But what happens when that article is shared on a social platform and perhaps introduced through the lens of another person's perspective? Then, we can open the dialogue to engage in meaningful conversation and, even more exciting, easily reveal opportunities for potential collaboration.
Social platforms like LinkedIn can be the medium that publications can use to transition an article from print on the page into a meaningful, open dialogue. A social platform like LinkedIn can also be a productive networking tool for professionals whether they're working independently or for a big company.
LinkedIn is most likely the appropriate social platform for professionals in the payments industry. At the time of this writing, LinkedIn has nearly 740 million users and over 55 million registered companies. However, it's estimated that only around 1 percent of LinkedIn users actually create content. There is tremendous potential for professionals in the payments industry to unleash the full power of this platform by sharing content.
Once you're active on LinkedIn, you will hear rumblings of the LinkedIn algorithm. This is the formula LinkedIn uses to decide how many of your followers and extended network (connections and followers of your connections) to display your content to.
No one really knows the magic formula that makes the algorithm lean in your favor, and you shouldn't believe anyone who tells you that they do. But there are some certainties: LinkedIn rewards engagement on its own platform. The more you engage with the content of others, the more engagement you should expect to see with the content you share.
The easiest way to get started on LinkedIn is to connect with a few other professionals who are active on the platform and start engaging in their posts. What does engaging mean? You can like their posts, comment on their posts, or even share their posts on your own timeline.
The worst thing you can do on LinkedIn is only scroll. Scrolling is like walking into a networking event, standing in the corner of the room and staring at the crowd. If you only like posts, that's just like waving from across the room. Instead, comment on a post and start a conversation. Then watch the magic unfold.
Even if you don't know the person who shared the content, they'll be flattered that you took the time to read it as well as offer your feedback. The best way to turn a LinkedIn stranger into a possible networking connection is to start engaging in their posts.
If you immediately start with a message to someone asking for a meeting, you'll likely be declined. But if you send a similar message to them after you've engaged with several of their posts, they are much more likely to accept your invitation or at the very least respond to you personally.
If you've spent a fair amount of time on LinkedIn, you might notice that there is a lot of sales-driven content on the platform. If you're scrolling through your feed and seeing ads for a free POS program day after day, chances are that you will never do anything to act on that advertisement. Indeed, you might just become so annoyed that you unfollow that person completely as well as avoid them at the next tradeshow.
What would happen if that person instead started sharing features of their favorite POS devices, as well as describing the verticals those devices work in with specific examples from real businesses? This would position the person as a subject matter expert, and you'd be much more likely to reach out to them to collaborate on a future business opportunity.
Flip your mindset from trying to self-promote to instead think about what value you can give to your following. I use the notes application on my phone to write posts or ideas as they come to mind, and then it doesn't feel like work at all to copy and share these as posts at a future date.
I write about a variety of topics, but I try to stick mostly to the niches I know well within payments so that my following is familiar with my content. If you don't feel comfortable posting your own content, engaging in other people's posts works, too.
Sharing external articles is also a good baby step before becoming an active poster, but be sure you add your perspective about why you're sharing the article and what you found interesting so that your connections are motivated to take the next step to open the article.
The whole point of LinkedIn is getting to know others, so don't be afraid to share what makes you tick. I think that the right mix is somewhere around 75 percent professional and 25 percent personal. We're all human after all, and we like to do business with others when we feel a human connection with them.
Don't be afraid to be bold, especially in the first line or two of your post. If you want to encourage engagement on your posts, you'll have to do something to stop users from scrolling to grab their attention. You can do that with a great headline, an image, a video, or by asking an intriguing question. Mix up the content to keep your followers coming back for more engagement.
My favorite thing about sharing content on LinkedIn is that the platform gives every individual the ability to establish their professional identity, regardless of their employer. What do you stand for? What do you stand against?
Invest the time in establishing yourself as a subject matter expert, share your personal viewpoints as they relate to your payments niche, and you will be well on your way to defining your personal brand. This is important because it's yours and yours alone, regardless of what company you're currently employed by or the position you hold. You are defined by the things that make you uniquely you on the LinkedIn platform.
Your timeline is populated based on the people that you've invited to connect with as well as the ones that you've chosen to follow. Be selective with the connections and followers that you allow to populate your feed.
LinkedIn can be a time-waster like many other platforms. Dedicate a small amount of time per day. I try to find people who are sharing relevant content and unfollow those who post blatant sales pitches or irrelevant memes. Curating your timeline makes it easy to engage in quality content, which will have a flywheel effect of increasing visibility and engagement on your posts.
As you start to spend more time on LinkedIn, my hope is that you will see the same benefits that I have. Reading content from payments professionals who work in other areas will equip you with a broader perspective, which will ultimately help you to solve the problems that you may have struggled with in the past.
You will also likely learn that it's not only okay to talk to your competitors, but it can be incredibly productive. When we collaborate with the goal of providing the best possible service to the businesses we serve, we elevate the culture in payments and the industry as a whole.
And finally, as you establish your personal brand, you'll likely notice that new connections start seeking you out versus the other way around. The most interesting business opportunities started presenting themselves as soon as I started becoming an active LinkedIn contributor. I hope that you have the same experience.
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