If there is one social media platform that is widely accepted in the professional services, it is LinkedIn—with good reason. With its large and growing base of professionals and its killer demographics, LinkedIn makes a great foundation for your social media marketing efforts.

We have covered the basics of a LinkedIn strategy in previous posts, and here we want to zero in on lead generation.

The following five lead generation strategies have proven effective used both individually and in combination.

1. Research and Develop Contacts with Target Clients

LinkedIn Follow Company ButtonThis strategy works well when you can identify a limited number of potential clients. For example, you might be targeting the 100 largest banks for your IT security consulting services. LinkedIn enables you to search for potential contacts within these firms and “network” your way in. LinkedIn also allows you to follow the firm’s activity by clicking the yellow “Follow” button in the upper right-hand corner of the firm’s page. When an opportunity develops—for example, they make an acquisition where your services are well suited to help solve a problem—you can use it as an opening to contact them.

2. Network within Selected Groups

LinkedIn offers such a vast number of groups that there are probably at least a few containing a high concentration of your potential clients. Use the groups search function to locate relevant groups. Spend some time just getting to know the flow of topics and comments discussed there. If you see potential opportunities, begin to participate in the group just as you would at a networking event. Don’t be pushy or promotional. Be a helpful colleague, and you will establish relationships with potential clients, referral sources, and marketing partners just like in the “real world.” Not finding a relevant group? Consider starting your own.

3. Skim for Relevant Discussions or Questions and Join In

This strategy works well when you offer a specific service that is relevant to a wide variety of individuals or firms, such as accounting services or IT support. Using this approach you look across a wide variety of groups or monitor the “Answers” section (under the “More” tab in the navigation bar) for discussion topics that are related to your service. Many people pose questions such as “Does anyone have an IT support firm they would recommend?” or “What is the best way to manage IT for a start-up firm?” Be helpful and professional rather than self-promotional, which can easily come across as “spammy.”

4. Position Yourself as an Expert

This strategy strengthens all other approaches to lead generation on LinkedIn. It starts with ensuring that your LinkedIn profile supports your expert status. Make sure your profile is complete, easy to skim and understand. Also, it should clearly highlight your expert status through the use of headlines and keywords. Don’t try to be an expert in multiple areas. Focus on a topic that will attract the kinds of clients you want, then support it with thoughtful comments. Not an expert yet? Focus and specialize to get started in that direction.

5. LinkedIn Pay per Click

Lead generation on LinkedIn is not limited to organic networking. You can also use LinkedIn PPC advertising—it's similar to Adwords advertising on Google search. LinkedIn has a nice feature that allows you to target advertising to groups, specific job titles, demographics, geography, or even a specific company. As with any PPC campaign, you need to have well-crafted offers addressing issues that your clients care about. It is essential to drive ad clicks to a landing page and to test multiple offers and creative. One word of caution: our experience shows that if your PPC campaign isn't highly optimized, it's not likely to generate significant returns.

These five strategies can be used individually or in combination to turn unfocused activity into new business. Lead generation on LinkedIn is a practical reality for many firms today. Why not yours?