The start of a new year typically prompts a multitude of commitments and promises to one’s self and business. Ever notice how some people manage to set themselves up for failure? Allow me to assist you in a sure-fire resolution that will put you on the fast track to improve your networking and your business. Now is the time to embrace LinkedIn as the powerful branding and marketing tool that it is. Many professionals have established a LinkedIn profile, but they don’t know what to do next. Every member can benefit by doing a little bit more on the site.

What is important to know about LinkedIn?

Here are a few stats from the LinkedIn® Corporation Quarterly Reports, LinkedIn News, and LinkedIn Blog:

  • LinkedIn now has more than 590 million users in over 200 countries
  • 3 out of 5 CEOs use LinkedIn on a regular basis, 3-4x weekly
  • LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the Internet ➢ LinkedIn is one of the most effective platforms for lead-gen marketers
  • Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second
  • LinkedIn has become an invaluable resource for the HR Industry globally

For a long time, the site was known as ‘the job seekers network.’ LinkedIn does earn over 60% of their annual revenue from their Talent Solutions and the HR Industry. But with all statistics aside, here is the real message: Every business needs to network. Every business needs contacts. Every business needs to continue to grow. LinkedIn enables all members to grow an incredibly valuable network of Connections that will either lead you to business or become your business later.

Get started…

Initially, establish a LinkedIn profile that has the most professional presence possible. This is, after all, the world’s largest professional network. Your goal should be: I want to be found on LinkedIn. People go to Google to find people, products, services, talent, and everything else. If you have a LinkedIn profile, it might appear at the top of searches if you have what is known as a keyword optimized profile. The person searching will be taken right to your profile if they are a member of LinkedIn. Otherwise, they will be prompted to start a free Basic Membership to view your profile in its entirety.

Six key points to consider:

  1. Do you have a professional-looking Headshot? Note: Using anything other than your likeness in this field (graphic, logo, cartoon) will eventually cause your profile to be Restricted for not following the LinkedIn User Agreement. Make your first impression a good one. Another note: Selfies do not belong on LinkedIn… period.
  2. Do you have a Summary? Yes, this requires writing, but it’s a golden opportunity to share your story: what you do, why you’re passionate about it, and how you can help the Viewer. Please remember to include a CTA (call to action) to make it easy for the Viewer to reach you by phone, email, website.
  3. The Experience section should include your current work plus at least two previous positions. Let the Viewer know how you progressed to your current role/position – even if what you do now is totally different from the past work you have done.
  4. Skills – Be sure to max out the 50 allowed. This becomes a glossary of keywords that can bring up your profile. It is appropriate to be a bit redundant with your list as you are guessing at how these keywords might be typed into the Search field. Example: Nonprofit can also be listed as NPO, Non-profit, or Not for Profit. VP can also be included as Vice President, etc.
  5. Include images & videos whenever possible. These can be added to the Summary, Experience and/or Education sections and will help to increase the number of Views on your profile. Videos are extremely effective in attracting attention. Keep them brief!
  6. Education – The relevant year of your educational accomplishments is not a required field. Without the year entry, multiple school/college entries will be listed alphabetically.

It is always advisable to revise your Summary occasionally to keep it fresh. Be mindful of new advancements in your work, business, or industry. Your Summary should tell the Viewer just enough to pique their curiosity so that they want to know more.

Engage effectively…

The best strategy you can embrace, once your profile is established, is to focus on consistently building your Network with Connections of value. Do this by striving to connect with people you know, like, and trust. But also connect with members you do not know who can add value by their industry, Connections, or business. When someone you do not know invites you to Connect, do not hit ‘Ignore’ without first spending a minute on their profile to seek value. Do you have Mutual Connections and are they trusted professionals? That is a ‘plus’. Does the person work in an industry within your target market? Might they know people that you need to know? Do they have lots of Connections? I choose to Ignore Invitations on two occasions:

  1. No head shot = no Connection
  2. Absolutely no synergy = no Connection.

TIP: When you choose to Ignore an Invitation, it simply goes away, and the initiator is not notified.

Inform and educate…

Your Activity on LinkedIn will also help to determine your success on the site. Scan your Home Page feed and look for posts that resonate with you. Like, Comment or Share them to help the originator and yourself to be more visible to your Network. When you post your own content, be sure you are educating and informing… not pitching! LinkedIn holds a world of prospective clients but do yourself a favor and show restraint. As with in-person networking, you must engage with your Connections, develop a relationship, and earn their trust before you can offer solutions to their pain points.

LinkedIn Groups, I believe, are the most underutilized feature of the site. The lead-gen aspect of Groups is almost limitless. With over 3M Groups, you will surely find several that cater to your target market. They offer an excellent opportunity to directly engage with a large audience. The amount of Activity you do within Groups will directly affect the number of Views to your profile.
LinkedIn is a tool. And, like any other tool, it must be used to realize a return. With a focused strategy and about 20 minutes a day, you will not be left behind!