As more and more professionals continue to jump on the social media bandwagon, LinkedIn is becoming an integral component for job searches, networking and new business prospecting. LinkedIn, the quiet giant in the social media universe with 161 million users worldwide, trails only Facebook, Twitter and just recently Pinterest. In fact, every two seconds, someone new joins LinkedIn.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter where you show your personality, LinkedIn is where you show your professional face, so keep in mind proper “netiquette” and use of the online space wisely. Here are three tips for taking your account to the next level, maintaining your online credibility and building your professional brand.
1. Create the right profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your chance to make a first impression with your future customers, or a recruiter for your dream job. As a result, it’s important to have a flawless profile to capture people’s attentions. You want your profile to be professional, but also provide a glimpse of your personality. Facebook and Twitter are great resources to instantly share photos of your Caribbean vacation, but remember LinkedIn is your professional brand, so don’t take your LinkedIn account too far with the personal updates.
When setting up your account, start with your Headline – think keywords, not job title. That’s what the subsequent Experience section and your resume are for; your headline is what makes people interested in you. Your goal is to be catchy and intrigue the LinkedIn crowd. What sounds more interesting–left and right brain strategist or marketing manager?
The same rules apply for the Summary section – provide an interesting description of your abilities to stand out from the crowd. Include keywords a recruiter might use in a search to find the ideal candidate based on your skillset, and resist the temptation to jump into resume mode. There’s plenty of room for that later in your profile. One bit of advice: avoid starting every sentence with “I”.
In Experience, include any relevant jobs you’ve had. There really isn’t a need to list your summer job at the local movie theater popping popcorn unless it contributes to your story. This is where your profile will most resemble your resume, and outline job descriptions and achievements.
When you get to the Specialties section, put back on your SEO hat and optimize, optimize, optimize. Do some research to come up with a list of terms based on your job description, profiles with similar experience, responsibilities and even look at some posted job descriptions to see what’s on the market.
Finally, make sure you optimize your LinkedIn URL like mine, www.linkedin.com/in/ericrutin. This is a great opportunity to make sure your profile is highly ranked by all major search engines.
LinkedIn research shows that you have a 40% greater chance for networking success if you have a complete profile. So fill everything out, profile picture and all.
2. Integrate complexity of content. So far we’ve discussed the basics of your profile, but there are many additional tools that take you from a generic to a dynamic profile.
There are also many apps available to add content to your profile. Utilize SlideShare and allow connections to have access to your case studies and white papers. How about sharing what you are reading with the Amazon App? You can even post events and trips on your account. You never know when a prospect you’ve been trying to connect with just may be attending the same event.
Another great source of content is recommendations. Of course this is social media and the best way to get something is to give first. When giving a recommendation, remember your name and your credibility are on the line. Make sure you’re sincere and honest. If you just completed a great project that you’re proud of, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation from your client and supervisor. If you’ve mentored someone, ask if they wouldn’t mind recommending you. A handful of sincere recommendations from a variety of people in different roles go a long way in promoting your credibility.
3. Interact, Connect, Network, Repeat. LinkedIn is a social medium, so be social. No one wants to visit your profile or add you as a connection if your page is stagnant and lacks interesting information. This is your opportunity to establish yourself as thought leader in your industry and differentiate yourself from your competition.
It all starts with creating a connection. When sending an invitation request, do make it personal. Don’t send an invite with the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. That might as well be spam. Treat connection requests with as much importance as you would when conversing over an email with other professionals. More and more business deals are going down as a result of LinkedIn, and you don’t want to miss out because of an impersonal approach.
After you connect, make sure you stay engaged. Start each day by scanning the Updates section to see what’s going on with your connections. This is an open invitation to interact with them, so do it. When one of your connections is promoted or accepts a position at a new company, it’s a great time to congratulate them or share some relevant research that may help them in his or her new role.
You’ll also want to join some groups based on your professional and personal interests and connect with people that share these same interests. But don’t just join groups – participate! Participating in groups is a great way to accomplish several goals: you will further build your thought leadership within the community, create new connections and learn from others. Go one step further and create a discussion. This is an excellent opportunity to see what customers find important or what the latest trends are, all with a thoughtfully crafted discussion. Consider it free research.
Be sure to share relevant information with your connections, but don’t ever spam your connections. Never. Ever. And certainly don’t automatically subscribe them to your newsletter or connection-seeking messages on other websites that might end up spamming them. You want to be perceived as a thought leader and not a nuisance.
So there you have it, a crash course on a few of the do’s and don’ts to help you get your LinkedIn account up and running. And now that you have your account set up, stay engaged and set aside 15 minutes each day to looking at current discussions, contributing to the ones that pique your interest and scanning updates for opportunities to reach out to your connections.
What are some practices you use on your LinkedIn account that have brought increased interactions or success in your professional field?