LinkedIn Best Practices For You and Your Business
LinkedIn is a professional, business networking tool that is too easily lumped into the social networking service. Even though many of the same modes of operation are employed, the focus is on professionals, professional dialog, professional opportunities, and companies.
This list of LinkedIn best practices was compiled from my work with clients, colleagues and friends who are trying to maximize their professional opportunities. I hope it is also helpful for you.
If you are working, you need to be LinkedIn. If you are not working, you really need to be LinkedIn (however, it would have been better to be LinkedIn when you had a job). If you are a college student, you need to be LinkedIn. The president of the United States is LinkedIn... just do it.
Add Your Picture
A photograph not only personalizes your profile, it completes it. Even though LinkedIn may no longer use a faceless silhouette like other social sites, as shown here, you must keep in mind that this profile is about you, put a face on it.
Finish Your Profile
If you are currently using LinkedIn, or at a minimum signed up for it, finish your profile. Your profile should display 100% Complete, if not LinkedIn makes it easy with a profile wizard. Typically, you can click on anything green and the wizard recommends ways to increase your profile completeness. It will suggest things to do like; write a recommendation, request a recommendation, add more people, add another job, add educational info, etc. The wizard helps get you to a point of basic critical mass; displaying your completed profile (education & job information) and about 20 connections.
Personalize Your LinkedIn URL
Which looks better to you?
- or -
Of course the second (green) one is more marketable, more professional, and easier to remember. More importantly, you need to get your personalized LinkedIn URL before someone else, with a similar name, gets it first.
Now that you have a personalized URL, add it to your business email signature so that everyone who gets an email from you 1) knows you are using LinkedIn, 2) may request to connect to you, and 3) helps your business associates/customers better know your capabilities when they review your profile.
This is a great way to build credibility and expertise points. When you answer a question on LinkedIn, the person who asked the question can mark the best answer. The more "best answers" you have, the more expertise credit you receive in your profile. This is also a great way to connect with people of similar interests or issues.
Asking questions is a good way to receive help from other industry experts and colleagues. It is also good for informal polling. Just do not make it a sales promotion. You will chase people away.
Ask Others if They Use LinkedIn
When you meet someone that you would like to maintain a professional connection with, ask them if they are using LinkedIn and if the would mind if you sent a connection request. This is generally a good question after trading business cards.
Grow Your Connections
Once you have your account to 100% with 20+ connections, you will have created a little momentum. To help keep that going, review your connections' connections. Chances are you will know a few of those people. Then each time someone connects with you take a quick look at their connections... you may find one or two that you have a relationship with as well. Send a link request.
Important - Do NOT send invites to people you do not truly have a relationship with. If you receive too many "I don't know this person" clicks on your request, you will be required to know everyone's email address to request a connection in the future. Bad juju.
Give and Get Recommendations
LinkedIn is like a living, online professional resume/vita. What makes LinkedIn better than a resume that says, "References available upon request", is that references are displayed for all to see. These recommendations are written in the words of the sender, you cannot edit them. If there is a problem with a recommendation, you can easily request a revision or choose not to display it. Note: you can only request a recommendation from someone who is currently using LinkedIn.
Your profile allows you to have three outbound links with labels like "My Company", "My Website", "My Blog", etc. I recommend you change the label to "Other" for all three since you can add personalized keywords to the label enhancing the SEO for the target sites. For example, I could link to this article with the label text "LinkedIn Best Practices Article" to help with my search engine rankings for that keyword phrase. You can also use the "Other" label for Facebook & Twitter links.
By joining Industry and interest-related groups you are connected with a larger group of professionals within that sector. This makes it easier for you to invite others in the same group to connect without the need for knowing their email address. Again, you need to be careful here, unsolicited invitations could get you hit with a few "I don't know this person" clicks.
The jobs area is not only for people looking for work. It is also an excellent place for businesses to list job opportunities. Our small company does not use Monster, Career Builder, Ladders, etc.; it would simply be too overwhelming. When we are looking for someone, we only use LinkedIn Jobs. Not only can I review the person's professional profile and associations, we can get an idea of how closely we are connected. Job postings can be sent directly to people in your list of contacts and they usually have good recommendations for potential candidates.
If you are a business owner add your company to the Company's area. If your company is already listed make sure the information is accurate and up to date.
Install the Toolbars
LinkedIn has both a browser toolbar and an Outlook toolbar. The former works well with Gmail with both IE & Firefox and of course the latter works with Microsoft Outlook. The toolbars add a LinkedIn icon next to a person's email addresses in your mailbox. This enables you to see their profile information and makes it easier to send an invitation to connect.
Bottom line, the more you give the more you get back. The more information you share about yourself, the better the search feature will return you or your company as a result. The more recommendations you give, the more likely someone is to give you one. The more questions you ask or answer the more likely you are to connect with people of similar interests that you may never have had the opportunity to meet.
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