You know that LinkedIn is the place to be for online professional networking. It can be one of the most productive tools available, but it can also hurt you if you are not careful. Use this check-up to be sure that you are using the platform to its potential. Here is an updated check-up for 2013.
- Your Headline: Get creative here, using the few words that you have to build your brand. Rather than limiting yourself to a simple job title, think about how you could use this space more effectively. Before: Accountant. After: CPA and Client Magnet. Have some fun!
- Your Picture: This is not Facebook. Make it professional. Use a picture that shows you in your grown-up clothes. Smile. Make sure that you have a picture. Studies have shown that people view profiles without pictures as “suspicious.”
- Your Profile Address: Did you know that you can customize this so that you don’t have all of the random letters, numbers and slashes tacked on to the URL? Do it. It will separate you from the LI rookies.
- Don’t Stalk: Everyone hates the notifications that an anonymous LinkedIn user viewed her/his profile. Be public. LinkedIn is for professionals seeking to network. Going stealth does not help you do that. If you view a profile for someone you don’t know, you just might make a new connection.
- Spelling/Grammar: LinkedIn is your professional face to the 225 million-member universe. Also, remember that your public profile can be viewed by non-members too as it is searchable on Google and other engines. Spelling and grammar errors are the equivalent of showing up at a business function wearing different color shoes. Spell check and proofread before posting. Use a word processor with spell check to write your copy and copy/paste into the profile.
- Formatting: You can’t use special characters and graphics, but you can use spacing and ASCII characters to make material >>> POP! <<< You can do something ##> SPECIAL with a few basic characters and an extra line or two.
- Summary: Remember that LinkedIn is a social media platform. Write a summary that lets your personality come through. Use the first person as you write. Remember that this is not a résumé. You can even give your readers information on why they should contact you. If you are looking for a job, mention that. If you aren’t, you can say something like this: “I welcome conversations with others in the industry so that we can share ideas and explore business opportunities.”
- TMI: Be careful about sharing too much information about your current gig. You should not be sharing confidential material unless you are seeking an involuntary departure. Loose lips…you know the rest.
- Results: Here’s a reality check. Does your profile read like a job description? If so, nobody is going to read it. Bor-ring! Give us one or two accomplishments from each job. Share some details. Pay attention to #8 above. Don’t forget your volunteer work.
- Files & Links: You can add samples of your work and links to other sites to your profile. If you did incredible work of a project for which there is a credible link, share it. Did you create a killer PowerPoint deck (good killer, not bore-to-death killer)? Do you have a writing sample? Are there pictures somewhere? Share it all here. Get creative.
- Recommendations: One of the best features of LinkedIn is the recommendation feature. Your connections can write in-depth recommendations for you that you can approve for posting to your profile. Be proactive and ask for recommendations. Be specific when you ask, reminding your connection about the work that you did together and what you would like to recommendation to include.
- Personal Invitations: As you think about and search for people with whom to connect, send invitations that are personal and will help the other person remember you. Bad: LinkedIn form-letter invitation. Good: “I enjoyed working with you at the NSA and I look forward to re-establishing our professional relationship.” Better: “You did incredible work of the XYZ project when we worked together at IBM. I am looking forward to reconnecting and sharing ideas.”
- Introductions: You know and are connected to Jane (1st level). You want to be introduced to John (2nd level). Ask Jane to make the introduction, explaining why it would benefit all involved.
- Groups: Explore your interests and connect to like-minded professionals. Search for groups that are related to your profession and interests. Check out the groups that LI recommends. Once a member, get involved in the conversation. The invitations to connect will flow when you engage professionally, intelligently and constructively.
- Follow Companies: Even if you are not looking for a job, there might still be companies that you admire or think about. If you didn’t work where you are anymore, where might you want to work? Follow them.
- Jobs: That’s one of the reasons why you are spending time here, right? Check the jobs link and set up monitoring alerts for jobs that you might consider. Check out companies that are actively recruiting through the site and see if you know anybody there. You might find that you have multiple 2nd level connections that are just an introduction away (see #13).
- Posting Quantity: Once or twice a day is plenty. A few times a week is OK, too. More than that and the value of your posts will be dubious and connections will start to tune you out. This is not Facebook. Nobody wants to hear about your tough commute, your lunch choice, or how hard you worked out today. Quality professional updates are the rule.
- Speaking of Quality: Remember that you are logged into a professional networking platform. You should conduct yourself here, with constructive, well-considered comments just as if you were at work. You can make a great impression or a bad one. It’s your choice.
- Give Recommendations: Make someone’s day special. Write an unsolicited recommendation for someone you’ve worked with or have done business with. Make it sincere and specific. OK: “Bob is a great guy.” Much better: “Jane completed the Flux Capacitor project two weeks early and $15,000 under budget. Her work allowed us to launch early and beat competitors to market.”
- Follow Thought-Leaders: Some of the biggest names in business write for LinkedIn. Richard Branson, Jack Welch and others are there. Follow them and read what they are writing. If you have an intelligent comment to add to the conversation, go for it. Your network will see it and might learn something about your interests and professional thoughts. Don’t forget about your connections; give them some love for their posts, too.
- Endorsements: Don’t spend a lot of time here. You might find that people who don’t know you well (or at all!) are endorsing you for things that they can’t possibly know. Take the endorsement pledge: I will never endorse anyone for anything that I don’t have first-hand knowledge about. My guess is that endorsements will be removed, though I have no reason for knowing that. That opinion is an awful lot like some of the worthless endorsements floating around.
Bonus: See 10 Social LinkedIn Things to Do Now for a quick list of activities you can be doing right away to build your reputation and grow your network.
There it is! Work through this check-up and you can earn the coveted “All-Star” rating for your LinkedIn profile.
Do you have other tips to share that aren’t included here? Please comment and share!
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