Profiles in Progress
Seven Steps to Using LinkedIn to Promote Yourself EffectivelyHave you Googled your name lately? When you do, you’ll likely find that your LinkedIn profile is near the top of the results. That’s how powerful this social network is. So why would you fail to take it seriously and neglect its potential as a mighty self-promotional tool?
Statistics published by Quantcast Corp. in October show that nearly 17 million U.S. LinkedIn users visit the site at least once weekly, 70% of them are age 35 or older, 75% of them have undergraduate or graduate degrees, and 68% have incomes exceeding $60,000. This proves that LinkedIn users are generally affluent and well-educated.
So what are all these people doing on LinkedIn? Another study by Lab42 in August said that top-level executives use it primarily for industry networking and promoting their own businesses, while mid-level executives use it for keeping in touch and industry networking. Entry-level people use it primarily for job search and co-worker networking.
Unfortunately, some people join LinkedIn simply because they were invited by a colleague and felt obligated to do so. They entered the minimally required information, and bam, their profile was created. From that point on, their account remains neglected, and they demonstrate that they’re not serious about this social network and perhaps convey the message that they’re a luddite who isn’t up to speed on contemporary networking techniques.
How can you use LinkedIn to your best advantage?
Determine Your Goals
Perhaps your goal is to find a new job. You may feel stagnant, undervalued, or bored in your current situation. If you want to find a new job, LinkedIn can be your golden ticket. Recruiters and human resources personnel have become adept at utilizing LinkedIn to search for and find qualified candidates, and they are reaching out directly to people who indicate that they are open to job inquiries. Two key components to successfully leveraging LinkedIn to land a new job are having a complete and impressive profile and making sure that your profile is open to accepting messages from everyone, not just your connections.
Perhaps you want to promote your services or company. LinkedIn is the professional standard for online networking these days, so it is the perfect venue to promote yourself. But a word of caution: beware promoting your company at the exclusion of yourself within your profile. Your profile is the place to show what you personally bring to the table. Even if you’re a consultant and you are the company, make sure that viewers know what you can do for them with action words that speak in terms of ‘you’ instead of ‘I.’ The tenants of basic marketing messaging apply here, so if you don’t understand how to craft a proper marketing message, find someone who is good at it to help you.
Perhaps you are unemployed. LinkedIn is a no-brainer if you’re in this situation. It’s usually the first place most recruiters and hiring managers go to check someone out, so it is imperative to have a 100% complete profile. Take the time to create a summary that sells you on your merits, draft descriptive narratives for all your past experience, and list your complete educational history, so people from your past can find you. Remember that, when people search, their results come from their expanded LinkedIn network only, not all of LinkedIn, so it is also especially important for you to expand your network, because everyone is a potential job-referral source for you.
Enhance Your Profile
LinkedIn is not the place to be humble. Provide concrete proof of the value you can bring to a new organization by listing past key accomplishments. For example, don’t just say that you can save an organization money; demonstrate it by listing specific actions you took, the positive results they generated, and the timeframe in which all this occurred.
Use a current photo that shows you dressed the way that people see you in your employment environment. Bankers and accountants should be in suit and tie if that’s how people see them. A chef should be in her coat. If in doubt, dress for the position you aspire to rather than the position you currently have. Remember that this is a professional network, so unless you’re a baseball player, don’t display a photo of you in a cap.
Use the line under your name to highlight the benefit you can bring to an organization. Surely, “experienced leader with 15 years developing top-notch sales teams and growing businesses an average of 30% per year” will gain more attention than “sales manager.” Use this prime real estate to tell a prospective employer or client what you can do for them rather than simply listing a boring job title.
Your status is another easy way to remind people about your core competencies and remain top of mind. Whatever you put in that box lands in your connections’ newsfeed and in their e-mail digest, so make sure that it demonstrates your professional capabilities. “Cleaning my desk” is an irrelevant and improper message here, while “drafting an updated will for a newly divorced mother” lets people know specifically what you do.
LinkedIn has sections that you can add to highlight awards, additional languages, patents, projects, certifications, and test scores, in addition to other things. There is now a section where you can list your charitable and volunteer experience. You can add videos, presentations, reading lists, and articles. You also have the ability to customize your LinkedIn profile by rearranging the sections so that your most important credentials appear at the top. This can be helpful, for example, for a recent grad with little work experience to highlight relevant courses.
Few professionals are hired these days without a reference check, so consider the upfront benefit to a prospective employer when your peers or employers sing your praises on LinkedIn. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about how wonderful you are, but when someone else says it, there is extra credibility. Recommendations are also a point of distinction, as many LinkedIn users don’t bother to solicit them.
LinkedIn is, after all, a social network, and being social means engaging with others, not just lurking or broadcasting. LinkedIn provides plenty of opportunities to communicate with other members, so read your news feed, and comment on and like connections’ statuses. Reach out with a congratulatory note when someone gets promoted or changes jobs. Join and participate in Groups. This means reading the discussion items, posting relevant topics, and participating, not just collecting logos to decorate your profile.
You should also check out the Answers component. You can find it under ‘More’ in the site’s primary navigation. Once there, you can ask and answer questions posed by your network. This is a great way to demonstrate expertise and solicit advice, and it helps to raise awareness of you within the LinkedIn community.
Fact Check and Update
Spelling errors and improper punctuation and grammar on LinkedIn make you look bad, so carefully proofread everything before posting it, and correct any errors promptly. If writing isn’t your strong suit, make sure you have an editor review your profile for problems. LinkedIn allows you about 15 minutes to change your discussion entries, too, so use this time wisely. Also, be sure that all referenced dates, accomplishments, and facts are accurate. Toot your own horn, but don’t lie.
Keep your profile updated, and remain an active participant within the network. The value of LinkedIn lies in its innate ability to connect people, so if you don’t participate, you’re not adding value to your network. In addition, keep your profile updated. Review it regularly, compare it against competitors or people who have the job you want, and continue to refine it.
Along with all the good suggestions above, it is also easy to damage your reputation on LinkedIn. Here are a few things to avoid:
Don’t spam your network. Unsolicited communication is considered spam by most recipients. Don’t be the guy who interrupts his network with unwanted promotional messages. Everybody is on LinkedIn to sell something, but overt sales are generally not welcome. It’s better to demonstrate your expertise and generate desire for your skills via engagement.
Don’t use a logo or graphic for your photo. This is prohibited in LinkedIn’s terms of service. LinkedIn wants real faces of actual people connected to its membership.
Don’t argue, abuse, attack, or use foul language anywhere on LinkedIn. Such activity is not tolerated, and you can be reported and kicked out of the network. Can you afford to be ostracized from the largest and most influential professional network online today?
LinkedIn is too powerful for professionals at any level to ignore these days. There is a general expectation that you are there, and if someone is looking to fact-check or gauge your credibility and ability to perform in a particular capacity, you’d better have a strong presence there, or LinkedIn makes it really easy for them to find your competitors and move on down the line.
Christine Pilch is a partner with Grow My Company and a social-media marketing strategist. She trains businesses to utilize LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging, and other social-media tools to grow, and she collaborates with professional-service firms to get results through innovative positioning and branding strategies; (413) 537.2474; linkedin.com/in/christinepilch; growmyco.com