After considering the goals of your personal branding, you may decide that your target audience and marketing strategy includes social networking. If you’ve decided that LinkedIn would be a great way to build your network, increase exposure for your skills and talents, and create more visibility for your personal brand, congratulations! You will be joining a large group of busy professionals, who take advantage of LinkedIn’s easy-to-use tools and apps to drive their personal brand to a large potential network.
LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that also serves many dynamic business purposes. I recently experienced a great benefit from building a dynamic and timely LinkedIn profile: I was interviewed for an article in Fortune Magazine because they found me on LinkedIn and vetted my credibility through the network and my website. That’s a great success for my personal brand strategy!
Other benefits professionals are finding from LinkedIn, include:
- Colleagues, prospective business partners, investors and vendors can check your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you: where did you go to school, what is your career path, what topics/areas are you interested in and who are you connected to?
- Media can use LinkedIn to vet and source resources for articles, timely information and expert commentary on key projects.
- Employers may use LinkedIn to ensure their teams are staying on point with key messaging and loyalty to the brand, as well as to ensure discretion and confidentiality is kept with projects and clients.
- Potential employers scour social networks, primarily LinkedIn, to identify and recruit talent.
- Global collaboration between professionals with different skill sets, talents and geographic coverage is happening all the time through LinkedIn. Whether the conversation begins on a post in a Group, or as a response to a Question, or as an Update to someone’s status, the scale and reach of LinkedIn connections is broadening each day.
If you decide LinkedIn is the right platform for you to make connections, share content and promote yourself, here are some things to remember:
- Nothing is private. Anything you post online (regardless of privacy settings) is public information. Since LinkedIn is a business tool, keep specific client information, project details and confidential information off your posts and comments. They are searchable within the site, and are indexed by Google to be searchable outside of LinkedIn.
- Project a good image. Pay attention to your headshot and the tone of your profile. Are you projecting an image of someone who is welcoming, approachable and professional? Or, does the absence of a headshot and the tone of your profile send the message that you are standoffish and aloof? Are you engaging and welcoming or confrontational and angry?
- Use all the features. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to fill out a robust and informative profile. Take advantage of as many of the apps and plug-ins as make sense for you. For instance:
- Include a Summary of your experience in your Profile. Be sure this isn’t just resume-content. Use the Summary to describe who
you are and what you do (what are you passionate about?
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- Add the Amazon app plug-in to share your favorite books with your connections. Be sure to include a review of the book and whether you would recommend it to others. This gives your connections more insight into your interests.
- Include your past career experience – not as a resume. What were your successes at that job? What contribution did you make? What did you learn? What did you enjoy the most?
- Seek recommendations. Recommendations are a great way for others to see how you work and how you contribute. The beauty of LinkedIn recommendations is that they must be attached to another person’s profile, which adds to the credibility of the comments. Additionally, you have an opportunity to view and edit the recommendation before it is posted. Pay attention to how you want to be perceived. Then ask yourself, “Does this recommendation support the perception I want my network to have of me and my work?” If necessary, go back to the endorser and suggest key phrases or key words to help strengthen their recommendation of you and your work.*** Always follow your company’s social media protocol when considering whether to offer a recommendation to a colleague. Many companies do not approve of employees endorsing or recommending staff or colleagues, for legal and human resources reasons.
- Use keywords. LinkedIn is highly searchable. Consider key words in your summary, title, and experience descriptions that make your profile more findable to prospects, colleagues and partners. I used several key “tags” or words to make my profile more findable to someone seeking “personal branding” “personal branding for executives” or “reputation management.” Under a search (people) for “reputation management” there are almost 150,000 results returned. I enjoy my position as #1!
- Join Groups.LinkedIn offers you hundreds of groups to chose from, where you can become engaged and involved in conversations around areas of interest, alumni groups, causes and business initiatives. Chose the groups wisely – you build your own reputation in part through the groups with whom you associate.Once you join a group, post and comment where appropriate and comfortable. Ask questions, offer insight and share information around the topic of the group. Be aware of posting guidelines (often shared at the outset by the group administrator) so you don’t inadvertently post a job opening to a group that prohibits such posts.Be aware that groups are highly conversational and participatory. If you make a post about something you are passionate about, expect to receive feedback, input and possibly even negative comments from others. If this becomes uncomfortable, speak to someone in your company’s marketing department before engaging in an online (public!) conflict.
- Research. Consider adding LinkedIn tools to your research arsenal. For instance, suppose your business involved real estate development. A search for “land ownership” returned over 9,000 results under “people”, 234 results in companies; and 10 in groups. Imagine the connections, data and resources you could uncover. The information, connections and awareness that can be harnessed by using LinkedIn as a research tool are amazing!
- Get connected.Sending a request to a professional contact or colleague is easy with LinkedIn. If you know the person well, send the invitation. If you do not know the person well, be sure to personalize the invitation beyond the default language the system generates. Identify where you met them, how you know them (“we share a common interest in environmental sustainability,” or “we both worked for XYZ Company”) so the recipient can quickly identify the connection. A personalized invitation is always preferred to the standard, cold default message; “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”Similarly, apply discretion to accepting invitations to connect on LinkedIn. Most of the time, invitations will come to you from people who see a mutually beneficial professional relationship with you, or appreciate your posts and comments and would like to be connected. There are, however, spammers and companies/people who use LinkedIn as a tool to build databases. I recommend you review and evaluate each invitation and weigh the merits of the connection for yourself rather than connect with just anyone who wants to link with you.
- Update regularly.Sending an update to either your LinkedIn status or profile, groups or apps ensures you stay top of mind with your network. When someone signs up for LinkedIn, they have the option of choosing how often they want to hear from their contacts. Most people opt for once a week, or once a day (can be quite a lot!) Rarely do people choose not to hear from their network, since the point of LinkedIn is to stay connected. Posting something relevant every 7-10 days increases your odds of being top of mind in the digest of most of your contacts. This average seems to work well for most busy professionals.Some ideas of things to post: updates on your career, professional interests or business, links to articles, blogs or news that would interest and inform your network, comments or ideas or celebrations about trends, happenings and topics of interest that relate to your business, industry or professional circle of influence.
- Be authentic. While LinkedIn doesn’t have the social appeal of a network like Facebook, the need is still very strong to connect with professionals who are genuine and approachable. Showing your authentic enthusiasm, passion, talent and interests create a well-rounded profile of yourself and what others can expect to experience if they work with you. In the online world of social networking, strive to be authentic in the content you post and comment on, particularly in LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a vibrant business resource for busy professionals. It affords many tools to build your visibility, share your interests, promote your talents and connect with like-minded individuals around the globe.