LinkedIn is ‘the’ professional social media network. Launched in 2003 growing to now having over 100 million active users and being listed in the top 20 most popular websites. LinkedIn is only used in the professional context, not for embarrassing pictures or competitive parenting which are the bread and butter of some other social media channels. If someone Googles your name, your LinkedIn profile is likely to appear in the top 5 listings. For employees, the self-employed and entrepreneurs it is a vital tool to manage your own personal brand.
Step 1: Improve your LinkedIn Profile
First things first, get your LinkedIn profile up to scratch. There are lots of sections to complete, and while a ‘100% complete’ profile is a good place to be it doesn’t actually mean that the content of your profile will be helping not hindering you! A few key pointers to getting your profile to be noticed for the right reasons:
- Spell check, grammar check. And again and then get a friend or colleague to check!
- Be consistent, especially with dates and job titles. Explain any gaps in your employment history. You must add in your Jobs in the Work Experience section just like in your CV. Without it there is no point having a LinkedIn profile.
- Include details for any mentoring, volunteering, or other roles that are not your main work. Add these in the specific LinkedIn area: Add new profile section and choose Volunteer experience.
- Make your profile easily searchable by using relevant and specific keywords in your headline and your summary. For example Director of…and not just Director. The more often a keyword is used, the more likely it is your profile will come up in searches.
- Your summary should not only be a list of specialities but a proper summary written in the first person. I not she.
- Separate keywords (your specialities) in your summary with | (on a Windows keyboard this is just to the left of the Z).
- Don’t try to make your summary sound dry, write it much as you would talk. That is not to say write it informally but remember to sound like a unique human and avoid boring the reader.
- Your photograph should be of you and preferably taken by a professional photographer. It needs to look professional, and pay attention to the background (keeping it clean and monochrome at least avoids unfortunate or distracting backgrounds!). A good photographer will ensure that while professional the resulting shot is interesting, fun and conveys your personality.
- Add your skills. Include English in your languages even if it seems obvious.
- Do not make your profile private. This makes you unavailable to people searching for your skills.
- Use a URL (web address) that makes sense – in your profile view, click on edit Your Public Profile and choose Edit public profile URL; try to get a URL with just your name in it and no extra numbers. If your parents did not give you a sufficiently unique name, and changing it via deed poll seems excessive then aim for as few numbers as possible.
- Journalists do look for people to talk to on LinkedIn. To help them find and choose you, it is great to upload to your profile some examples of your work and a short video of clip of you talking or presenting. If it’s immediately obvious that you know your subject – and are a good talker – journalists are much more likely to want to talk to you.
- Never make change on the platform, instead do these in Word (or something similar) and then when uploading to your profile switch off ‘save updates’ so that changes are only made when you are ready.
- Recommendations and endorsements are great collateral, so ask for them from clients and colleagues. Avoid family members though as these have little value.
- Hide endorsements for skills that are not relevant to what you want to do.
- If you have a blog or website, create a ‘Public Profile Badge’.
Step 2: Use LinkedIn to network
It takes time to build your LinkedIn network, but start with your contact book. Search for people you have worked with and for your clients, then send them an invitation – personalised if possible. Set aside 15 minutes a week to look for more contacts (you can search in a specific area, for job titles and skills).
Then once you have made connections, interact with these people. It is a social network after all. Read their posts, make comments on them but don’t like every post be a little economical. Find influencers in your domain; these are people with widely recognised brands who are active on LinkedIn with large network (Richard Branson is a good example but there will be slightly less well known relevant individuals!)
Post your own articles, perhaps linking to your blog or asking a question (for example ask for recommendations for a piece of software, or for a book keeper). Remember to respond to any responses.
When people ask to connect who you don’t actually know, check their profile before accepting including their recent activity. If they are not compatible, don’t accept the connection. If you have already made a connection with someone and they are clogging up your timeline or are not relevant to your professional life, remove the connection.
Step 3: Engage with LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn Groups are communities of like-minded individuals covering a specific interest. For example ‘Discuss marketing, sales, financing, operations, hiring and any other startup or small business related topic.’ – this is a large and active group which is well worth joining to start gaining an understanding of how groups work – click here. Groups can be used to find information and over time build your network externally to your direct contacts. To find suitable groups, click on the Work icon (top of the page) and choose Groups then Discover Groups – LinkedIn will then make some initial suggestions.
After applying to join a group and being accepted (on the basis of your LinkedIn profile quality!), then monitor the posts and engage where appropriate. Don’t just like an article, make a comment. Then when you are feeling sufficiently confident, post a question – ask for advice or recommendations. If a group has little or no activity over the course of a couple of months, leave it!
When you have something interesting to share, write an article (just like a blog article) for the group. Do not submit a sales pitch. It has to be useful content.
Another option is to start your own group, but this will require significant regular time to keep it active and engage with your members. However, it can be an extremely valuable tool in your marketing plan.
An excellent in-depth article about using Groups can be found here.
Other Linked In tips
- Include a link to your profile on your email signature, on your website, on your CV. To find your public profile URL, click on edit Your Public Profile and choose Edit public profile URL
- Once your profile is up and running, spend some time creating a company page for your business.
- To avoid having to come back time and time again to an interesting profile, export it as a pdf (drop down menu under ‘send a message’).
- No need to upgrade to a Premium susbscription, although recruiters and head-hunters use the additional features, most others won’t.
Refresh your profile, get networking and engage with your connections
Let me know how you get on and other LinkedIn tips which would be useful.