1. Complete your profile.
Only 50.5% of LinkedIn users have complete profiles. By filling out your profile completely, you will automatically stand out in the crowd. Using a professional photo of yourself on your profile goes a long way. That one with you drinking a cocktail in Maui is better suited for Facebook (if at all), not for connecting with future clients or employers. Stop using the buzzwords that were on the resume for your first job. According to LinkedIn, words such as ‘motivated’, ‘creative’, and ‘responsible’ are being severely overused. If you want to stand out, stop using broad jargon and start telling your network what it is that you can do for them. Do include key words related to your industry or profession in your summary to make it easier to be found in searches. Finally, create a headline that will make a great first impression. Again, avoid generic buzzwords and take a creative approach to selling who you are and what you can offer.
2. Connect with people.
Once you have a profile which successfully sells you as the amazing professional you are, it is time to connect with people with shared interests. Start off by connecting with colleagues, friends, old managers, and anyone else who can attest to your work. Reach out to prospective customers and follow relevant company updates in your field. Interaction is important here as well, don’t be afraid to reply to updates or share them onward.
3. Join groups.
There are currently over a million user formed groups on LinkedIn covering everything from broad industries such as ‘Information Technology’, which has over 1 million members, to niche markets, such as ‘Crochet Contracts’, which has 355. Joining groups is one of the best ways to expand your network and increase your credibility. Be an active member by engaging in thoughtful discussions and sharing information relevant to the group.
4. Update regularly.
You should update your profile regularly with new projects, accomplishments, and even articles you think might be of interest to your network. Although LinkedIn differs from other social media networks in its exclusivity, at the end of the day you still need to be social for success. Post updates, recommend and endorse colleagues (they will likely do the same for you!) and keep putting yourself out there. As people come across your profile they will see that you are an active professional and it will increase your first impression value.
5. Enhance through applications.
Enhance your profile with LinkedIn applications to pull your network into your other platforms. If you are active in social media, consider adding your Twitter profile to your account. You can also add your personal or company blog through the WordPress app or share documents and slideshows with the slideshare.net app. Be mindful with the posts you share, and don’t connect a blog or account that doesn’t enhance your professional image.
LinkedIn is a terrific resource for professionals looking to expand their contacts, find new clients, or recruit prospective employees. In a world where advertising space is at a premium, why not market yourself and your company for free?