The following is a guest post by Chris Rush. He is a fellow online teacher and TEOC member. Take it away, Chris…
When I first started teaching online, I was bursting with excitement. I was ready to build a website, create a business, and make a huge difference in the world, all by working from home. It seemed too good to be true! There was just one teeny tiny obstacle in the way:
I didn’t have any students.
At first I started freelancing, which allowed me to build some online experience (and which I still recommend for those just starting out), but I wasn’t teaching my own students. I was a contracted teacher, and as such, I was teaching at strange hours and earning only a fraction of what learners were paying for their lessons. I tried posting my profile on a few of the ‘find an English teacher’ websites, both the free and the paid ones, but it just seemed like a crowd of teachers offering lower and lower prices in an attempt to compete for students.
After a lot of time and frustration, it got me a grand total of zero lessons. My luck wasn’t any better on social media either. Sure, buying some Facebook ads to get people to download my free ebook was growing my email list, but it wasn’t actually leading to clients. My excitement was long gone. I had a dream of making an impact in the world, but I was making hardly any difference at all.
Then I launched a LinkedIn strategy. And everything changed.
LinkedIn, it seems to me, is amazingly undervalued in social media strategy. It has 100 million members all over the world, and people who use LinkedIn are professionals who are often in a position to, primarily, need English and, secondly, have the ability to pay for quality lessons. I’ve had much lower instances of people asking for free help (and in turn getting negative with me if I refuse) since switching my primary marketing efforts to LinkedIn. I’m going to share with you the five best ways to get students using LinkedIn. Using these strategies has generated for me thousands of times the return on my time investment more than any other social media platform.
Before we get into the strategies, I offer you a disclaimer and a prerequisite. First the disclaimer: Nobody likes a spammer. I’m going to talk about how to grow your LinkedIn network (and, therefore, your base of possible students), and your first point of contact with a connection should never be a sales pitch. Not only is it sleazy, it’s against LinkedIn policy. People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust, and it takes time to build a relationship. Trust me, it’s worth it. Secondly, the prerequisite: to use these strategies properly, you must know your niche — the type of learner you’re targeting, and the key is to be as specific as possible. I’ve seen English teachers resist this because they feel like it somehow limits their base of potential students, but marketing messages that are highly targeted are always more successful than ones that are broad. So let’s get started!
1. Cater your Profile to Potential Students
Many people use their LinkedIn profiles as online resumes, and that’s great — if you’re looking for a job! However, a profile optimized to show your work history is definitely not the same as one that’s designed to attract English learners, and you need to create your profile with that in mind. Your personal headline is a great place to start. For most people, it just has their job title, but this is usually the first thing that a potential client sees after your name and photo. It should be simple and results oriented. Mine is “Coaching Business English Online to Give you more Opportunities in Business and Life.” It says what I do, and it promises a result for you if you hire me.
A profile hack that very few people take advantage of is creating call to action links right on your profile using the “Projects” section. For me, one of my projects is my free sample session (and by the way, never refer to it as a “free sample session,” because that doesn’t appeal to anyone). Instead, make it into an irresistible offer. My ‘free sample session’ is actually a link to “Schedule a Free Personalized English Action Plan, a one-on-one session where we make a step-by-step plan to improve your English in the next six months!” When someone clicks on it, it takes them right to my free (and highly recommended) booking system, Calendly. It takes an interested prospect about 15 seconds to book a session with me, and it integrates with Google Calendar so I’m guaranteed to be available. And because you can drag sections of your LinkedIn profile around, this link is right at the top.
2. Grow your Network
Having an optimized profile, unfortunately, won’t do much good if nobody sees it. In order to get people to see your profile, you need a large network, and that means joining groups (strategy 4), and sending connection requests. This is where having a well-defined niche comes in. Have an idea of the type of people you want to target, and then search for them. See what works (who signs up for your sample lesson) and adjust accordingly. I search for people with one specific job title in one specific country (remember when I said to be as specific as possible)?
Sending the connection request is another place where people make mistakes. When sending connection requests, almost everyone uses the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” How impersonal! This is your first point of contact with a possible student, and a little effort goes a long way. It only takes a minute to write a sentence, use their name, and mention that you’d like to connect to them (do not try to sell them anything). Sometimes, though, you can get lucky and the person will want to buy from you immediately. I’ve gone to bed after sending out a big batch of connection requests and gotten up the next morning to see sample sessions on my calendar — it’s like Christmas!
‘Internet Marketing 101’ has long advised that you use social media to drive traffic to your website. Well, LinkedIn’s publishing platform is turning that on its head, and giving new writers immediate access to an audience of millions. If you’ve got an optimized profile and grown your network to (at least) several hundred prospects, it’s time to start publishing. Every time you write a post, it notifies everyone in your network, and your posts stay at the top of your profile where they’re immediately accessible to your connections.
It’s an amazing way (perhaps the best way) for you to distinguish yourself as a leader in your field. Being recognized as a thought leader is when the real revolution happens because that’s when 1: You don’t have to chase clients anymore — they come to YOU, and 2: they will happily pay you a premium price. My initial break happened because a CEO (that doesn’t read business English blogs) saw my third ever post and contacted me the next day asking for 500 English lessons for his employees, and paid the price I asked!
4. Join Groups
You should join as many groups as you can. The limit used to be 50, but now it’s even higher since LinkedIn recently changed how subgroups work. Joining groups helps grow your network (since every member of the group is added to your network) and it allows you to build trust. Instead of joining groups full of other English teachers, you should join groups full of your prospects. This is where both the disclaimer and the prerequisite come into play. You need to know your niche to find the right groups, and then once you join them, you should never post about English lessons.
People will see very clearly that you’re an English teacher — there’s no need to remind them. Instead, focus your efforts on offering helpful and relevant content specific to their field or industry. Set up a google alert and RSS aggregator for keywords related to the industry of the group, and every day you’ll have a list of potentially helpful articles from across the internet to share. Offering value in this way can build an incredible amount of trust and goodwill, and you can be sure that when someone in the group needs English lessons, they’ll come to you.
5. Share ‘top of mind’ Content
In addition to the publishing platform, LinkedIn also has a Facebook-like ‘news feed’ where you can post status updates, photos, videos, articles, and links. You should take advantage of this strategy to share relevant information that’s perhaps not important enough to become a published post. This is where you can express some of your personality, as long as you make sure your updates are professional and not overly promotional. Very few people buy on the first contact. It usually takes many repeated points of contact, and you want to make sure that when they think of English lessons they immediately think of you.
LinkedIn helped me go from a struggling freelancer to a successful Business English Coach, and it’s already helping me take the next step in my success.
Chris Rush is an Online Business English Coach. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Chris goes into this strategy in-depth in our exclusive 25-minute interview inside TEOC. In addition to getting this method in full, you will also get access to the 101 video lessons, resources, worksheets, bonus tutorials, and community. Sound good?