As both a Personal Branding and LinkedIn trainer, I get a few recurring questions in my workshops and seminars. I thought I would compile a little list with questions and answers here, hopefully they will be useful to you. Most questions are related to sales, marketing and recruitment which is basically the type of professionals I tend to train.

Here goes the 21 LinkedIn questions and answers:

1. How do you boost your LinkedIn profile SEO?

LinkedIn operates a bit like Google did 10 years ago, the more keywords the better ranking you will get for a while. The algorithm of the search rankings are that you will be bumped up and if people actually take action – click on your profile in the search results – that tells LinkedIn you are relevant for those search terms. IF users don’t click on you, you will be sent down to page 16 in no time and classed a spammer by the LinkedIn search engine.

To get better ranking make sure to insert relevant keywords in your headline, in your job title and in your summary. Use keywords such as industry, location, company names (if that’s allowed), and even names of people. Bring it down to a micro level with versions of software and even post codes.

See more at How to Make Google Love Your LinkedIn Profile.

2. How to use advanced X-Ray searches to find anyone on LinkedIn?

On LinkedIn, you can only see the people that are three degrees away from you or members of the same group.

One of the worst kept secrets on LinkedIn is that you are able to see every public profile via search engines such as Google. LinkedIn make sure these profiles are indexed in Google as they want to be the first search results for people’s names.

You can use this by entering a Boolean search string searching every LinkedIn user, this typically renders quite a lot of results so throw in more keywords in the search to narrow it down to a nice shortlist.

See Glen Cathey’s post to get the lowdown on the X-Ray strings.

3. How do you advertise for free on LinkedIn?

Anyone can advertise on LinkedIn but it comes at a price.

One way of doing it for free is of course your status update; another way is to post it into groups. These are in theory good ways but the trouble is that most people see those updates as adverts and tend to ignore them.

One more creative way is to use a SlideShare or Google presentation where you put your presentation on, integrate this on your LinkedIn profile and share it with your network. This will actually get clicks and if it’s done well it could go viral.

Check out Slideshare on LinkedIn for more details.

4. How do you use the events section on LinkedIn?

The events section is one of the most underutilized sections of LinkedIn. We all attend events, and so do your customers. Search for these events on LinkedIn and you’ll be able to see who is coming, so that you can plan your conversations way ahead of the event. The attendee list is sometimes a great place for identifying buyers, if ten people are attending a LinkedIn meetup – I would expect a few of them to be interested in some training.

Whether it’s your breakfast briefing on new regulations or networking drinks you are hosting – be sure to list these in the LinkedIn Events section.

When you list an event, your entire network gets notified. You can then share it again to anyone in your network by LinkedIn messages. Every time someone clicks ‘attending’ or ‘interested’ – their networks get notified as well.

Events is one of the best places to build up some buzz around your company.

Also check out How To Use LinkedIn Events To Promote Your Meetup, Workshop or Seminar.

5. How to categorize connections and send group emails?

Another very underutilized feature of LinkedIn is the ability to tag people. This means you can categorize your connections according to company, position, location, where you met or whatever you choose.

When doing some sales calls, you can tag everyone you speak to. When your next sales session comes up you’ll have an instant shortlist and you are able to send a group email to everyone in that category (let’s say HR managers in Liverpool) to get it out quickly.

More about tagging at Managing Your Connections By Using Tags.

6. How do you connect with people in Groups?

Another worst kept secret on LinkedIn is that Groups normally allow you contact and connect with anyone direct on LinkedIn. Sometimes you find a perfect prospect but have no way of contacting them, what you can do is see what groups they are a member of and join one of these. From there you can either invite the person to your network direct or you can look them up in the group and send a message.

Note that users are able to turn this off, it’s enabled by default but if someone gets spammed they are likely to opt out of these contact settings.

7. Who should you connect with on LinkedIn (and who shouldn’t you)?

LinkedIn is all about connections, the more you have the better visibility your profile will have and more people you will be able to search for. But it’s also about quality connections, it’s worth identifying the so called ‘super connectors’ in your field and start connecting with them – if they have 1000 relevant connections that will save you a lot of leg work.

In general, connect with business contacts of all levels. Juniors become seniors within companies, they move companies and remember you…

Don’t connect with your competitors unless you know they have more useful connections than you do. Yes you can hide them from browsing your connections but your connections will still come up in search results so be wary of connecting with competitors.

See more about Super Connectors on LinkedIn.

8. How do you integrate Twitter and LinkedIn?

If you tweet, or if your company tweets, you might want to integrate Twitter and LinkedIn. This is done through an application called Tweets. It’s fairly straightforward to install (see how here) but the important thing here are the settings.

We have all seen users with more than ten updates on LinkedIn per day, these updates typically come from Twitter and probably do more harm to your brand than anything else. The setting you want to use is to only share tweets on LinkedIn when you use the hashtag #in inside Twitter. This allows you to selectively share on LinkedIn as opposed to blanket bombing your network with conversational updates.

For more on this pet peeve of mine, see Dear Tweeters, Stop Cluttering My LinkedIn Homefeed!

9. Recommendations – do’s and don’ts

The recommendation engine on LinkedIn is one of the keys to LinkedIn’s success. Whereas you used to get recommendations on a CV or a website, these recommendations are fully transparent and people can click their way through to actually scrutinize who wrote the recommendation (and event check that person’s recommendations).

Given that people check out the recommender, don’t get recommendations from your mates, don’t do back-to-back recommendations and don’t get recommendations from people who are obviously indebted to you (that graduate candidate you placed on an internship). Instead focus on quality recommendations from C-level executives and former bosses. Just get one from each company and don’t get more that 5-10 recommendations in total – any more defeats the purpose. If you are in the US, the norm is to have double that.

Check out How To Get More LinkedIn Recommendations as well.

10. How do you detect that a friend is on the job hunt?

Recruiters are very keen on finding out when anyone goes from being a ‘passive’ to an ‘active’ candidate on LinkedIn. If you are a bit nosy and or want to help your network you can do what they do and look out for the signs. We all know the very obvious people who actually post “I’m looking for a job” in their status updates. But how can you figure out the stealth job seekers who might just need your help?

Look for any of these signs: a number of new recommendations on the profile, tinkering with the headline, the summary or even a new picture. Contact details in the open and crucially, the LinkedIn email address changed to their webmail from work email.

Go ahead an contact these people but do it in a subtle way, as they are obviously a bit jumpy and wouldn’t want anyone to know they are on the hunt. See how you can help them and they will remember your kind assistance when your turn comes to explore opportunities.

11. How do I remove annoying users from my homefeed?

Whether someone is plugging their own services every day or tweet on LinkedIn a bit too much, you can easily hide these people from your home feed. Just to the right of their update there is a little grey text reading “Hide” – click that and you won’t see this person on your feed again. You can un-hide them later if you so please.

If someone is even more annoying, you can remove them as a connection altogether on the My Contacts page and click ‘remove connections’. They will not be notified that you have deleted them from your network.

See this post for more about removing connections on LinkedIn.

12. Why is LinkedIn the best job search tool on social media?

LinkedIn is the place where you can find professionals on social media. Yes, Facebook can be great for graduates and Twitter for media recruitment but LinkedIn reaches people who haven’t got time for every social network under the sun. A lawyer, banker or accountant will check their LinkedIn profile periodically but very seldom would they even have a Twitter account. So from a mere reach perspective LinkedIn is your best bet.

This means most recruiters and HR departments are using LinkedIn to find candidates already. So you can actually be found via one of their searches, or you can actively network your way to opportunities within companies. And you can of course have a look at the Jobs section to make it really easy on yourself.

13. How can you scan what anyone on LinkedIn is saying about a company or topic?

Another virtually unknown feature of LinkedIn is what’s called LinkedIn Signal. It’s basically a search tool for status updates on LinkedIn. You can search for your company name, your field or location or even a combination of them all. LinkedIn will tell you who is talking about the keyword, including people up to 3 degrees away from you. If someone is talking about Java programming on LinkedIn but the profile says ‘consultant’ – chances are they are actually a Java developer with a misleading profile.

Check out this post from LinkedIn about how Signal works.

14. How can you stand out against the other millions of [insert job title here] on LinkedIn?

By being useful to your network, by sharing interesting and valuable information and by not selling your products and services at any given moment. Your network probably knows what you do and they are likely to let you know when they have a referral for you, so it’s better to get mindshare – creating daily awareness and staying visible.

15. What’s a good daily LinkedIn routine?

Most active LinkedIn users I know have a LinkedIn browser window open all day but they mainly use LinkedIn as a database. I would make a habit of sharing an interesting piece of content every day, checking out the events section for relevant networking dos, engaging with other users in Groups and generally keeping an eye on the homefeed to keep my finger on the pulse. This only takes 15 minutes per day but it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose the bigger picture.

16. How do you run a successful group on LinkedIn?

There are over a million groups on LinkedIn, many of these were set up by recruiters. If you look at what makes a group successful it’s all about creating a strong community. When it’s set up it’s ideal to make it ‘exclusive’ in some way – i.e. only open to Java developer in Manchester, this just makes more of them want to join. Assign a team to run the group and to seed conversation, moderate discussions and sharing interesting content.

The number one gripe people have with groups is that they get too much spam emails so make sure you vet all members, only ever send relevant email updates and do not tolerate any blatant promotions from members.

More on Groups at How To Run a Successful LinkedIn Group.

17. How to use your company page to attract customers?

The LinkedIn company page is your company’s number one branding tool on LinkedIn. There are lots of things you can do here such as write up a proper description of the company, add contact details, insert your Twitter feed, link your blog posts to the page, add your products and services, ask for company recommendations and check out the visitor statistics.

Prospective clients are likely to check out your company page so make sure it represents your brand fully.

For employer branding, check out How To Build a LinkedIn Company and Careers Page.

18. What are the essentials on your LinkedIn profile?

There are four essentials on an individual’s LinkedIn profile; they are the picture, the headline, the summary and the keywords.

Your picture should look professional and reflect your brand, people like dealing with faces as opposed to just text – studies show you get 30% more clicks in search results when you have a picture (see more at How To Choose a Picture for Your Personal Brand).

The headline (along with your name and picture) is what comes up in search results and based on this the user will decide whether to click on you or the competitor. Make sure the headline talks about what you do and not who you are, i.e. you recruit Java developers to top tier consultancies in Manchester and not Consultant and Recruiter X – which means very little (more on headlines at How To Write Your Killer LinkedIn Headline).

Your summary is where people go to see what you are all about and what your track record in the industry is. If you get someone to take their time to check this out you will want to add you contact details at the end and not leave them hanging.

Finally, you have to get the right keywords on your profile or you will not come up in any searches. Yes you might come up in searches for your name but let’s face it if someone already knows your name you already have a foot in the door. It’s better to come up in the search for “Java recruiter Manchester”.

19. How do you connect with people outside of your network?

There are lots of ways of connecting with people outside of your network. You can join the same group as this person which allows you to connect direct (most of the time). You can do an introduction through a common connection, this can take a bit of time but usually works. If you have a premium account you can send an inMail or you can actually buy inMail credits on a free account.

But let’s forget the online world for a while, I think the best way to connect is actually outside of LinkedIn. Pick up the phone and ring the person up, or if you don’t have the number you can probably guess the email address and try that. It’s all about being creative and just because you found someone on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you have to approach them through LinkedIn.

20. Do you need to upgrade your LinkedIn account?

It really depends on how you are using LinkedIn, most people don’t use inMails, Profile organizer and require additional search results. If you do pay for an account make sure you make the most of it, paying a monthly fee is not a silver bullet to success – you actually have to understand what you’re doing first.

See more at LinkedIn Job Search Premium, Worth the Dollar or Not?

21. What applications should you use to attract business?

You can use SlideShare to share presentations of your company or about specials or promotions you have on at the moment, you can use the Amazon Reading list to show off your extra-curricular interests, use TripIt if you travel a lot and actually want people to contact you to have a coffee in various locations. You can use Google Docs to get video going on your profile and if you blog you should definitely integrate the Blog Link application. Remember that every time you make any changes to your application, your network gets notified which is usually a good thing.

That’s it for today, do let me know what other tips and tricks you have!

And please check out our LinkedIn training as well if your company is interested in harnessing the power of LinkedIn!