It’s annoying, all those #hashtags and @signs are #messy and #confusing to #people who don’t use #Twitter, and you’ll just cause your network to hide your comments, which effectively hides YOU from sight. Not what you’re looking for in a network that’s all about connection, is it?
An early adopter who joined the network just five months after it launched, Anita once introduced herself to a LinkedIn executive as member number 34,435. That’s early, considering there are now more than
120 500 million members!
To put it bluntly, if you’re not on LinkedIn, you don’t exist, Anita told the group.
“It isn’t the sexiest tool, but it is the most useful,” she said. It’s great for personal branding, maintaining an up-to-date contact database, identifying decision-makers, and helping rank your company higher in Google searches.
Anita advised the group to be active and visible on LinkedIn, using these 10 tips for optimizing LinkedIn profiles:
- Upload a great photo.
“Great” means a head-and-shoulders shot with a neutral background where you are smiling and dressed in business attire.
- Write a compelling headline.
Don’t just use a title and company name. You have 120 characters to create a sound bite that conveys the value you offer. This is also a place where you want key words that help you turn up in searches.
- Tell your story in your summary.
You have 2,000 characters (although as Barb Sawyers pointed out, you’d be doing readers a favour by taking fewer). Write in the first person (“I”). Use key words. Be conversational. Showcase your expertise without boasting. Highlight your achievements over your responsibilities. Avoid the most overused buzzwords like passionate, strategic and creative.
- Add your current position.
Make sure to describe it with key words and two or three accomplishments. Note that you can now have multiple current positions, and you can drag and drop to put the one you want listed first.
- Add any volunteer positions.
Recruiters look kindly on this! It also opens up conversations. Go to your profile > Add profile section > Volunteer experience.
- Add your education.
This is great for networking because it opens up alumni connections. Anita has her MBA listed here because many people use this as a search qualifier. Go to your profile > Add profile section > Education.
- Customize your links.
Don’t list the generic “website” but brand it with your company name (choose profile > Contact info > website).
- Personalize your public profile URL.
The default has a bunch of numbers and letters. Make yours clean and crisp by personalizing it. From your profile, click “Edit public profile & URL” on the top right > Edit your custom URL. If your name is common, add your middle initial or some other identifier.
- Add certifications and credentials.
Do this under your profile > Add profile section > Licenses & Certifications.
- Add skills.
You can have up to 50, but aim for 12-15 (who will believe you are good at 50?).
Once your profile is in good shape, work on building your network:
- It’s not a popularity contest or a numbers game; only add people you know and trust.
- When asking to connect with someone, use “we’ve done business together” rather than “friend.”
- Be sure to personalize any requests to connect with how you know the person or where you met or who you have in common.
- To use your connections for prospecting, search for the person you want to reach, and see how you are connected. Rather than use the LinkedIn tools, though, pick up the phone and call your connection.
- Check in at least briefly once a day. Be sociable, share business-related updates, comment on other people’s updates.
Anita also told the group that company pages are underused, and this is also a good option if you don’t have a website. If you add a company page, link it to your personal page under websites. Anita considers Microsoft an example of a company page done well.
For more on LinkedIn:
- Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You,” Fast Company (on the importance of branding)
- Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone (on building a strong network)
Note: Updated in January 2020.