A first step to using LinkedIn is to create a complete and compelling profile.
A reason for this is that having a presence on LinkedIn will help get your name, Website, and profile to the top of the search engines. So you want your profile to be a strong selling point for your company, product, or service when people first come to your site. Even if you already have a strong Web presence, build your LinkedIn profile. Moreover, the more information and key words you put in your LinkedIn profile, the more that will help you with search engine optimization (SEO).
For example, my own LinkedIn site, which I'm using to illustrate how to use LinkedIn, comes up 5th, but that's because I already have a very active blog site, Wikipedia entry, and books on Amazon. If I didn't, my LinkedIn profile would be in 2nd or 3rd position.
Another reason to have a completed profile is that when someone goes to your profile to learn who you are, whether they're a potential client or prospective employer, you want to put your best foot forward. Your LinkedIn profile is like having a resume or posting your credentials online.
For example, at workshops I have repeatedly heard that researchers have found that 85% of employers before extending an offer will review a candidate’s LinkedIn profile in doing a background check. So you want to make sure you have as much information in your profile as possible.
Creating Your Headline Your name and your headline are the first thing that people see when they go to your LinkedIn profile. First they see your name and then they see a second line which is your headline. Don't use the headline to list your title and the name of your company, which are already listed under "Current." There is no reason to waste space with a headline that tells someone what they will find when they look down and see the same information at your current position.
Also, use your headline to convey something about your business, since LinkedIn is a business networking site. Thus, if you want to promote what you did this past weekend or let people know that you like to ski or surf, use Facebook or another site that features fun activities. The purpose of LinkedIn is to promote business networking to build business relationships.
Accordingly, in writing your headline, you might write something like: "Entrepreneur, Social Media Expert, and Business-to-Business Marketing Specialist." Use three or four descriptive terms to create an eye-catching headline, so when people see your profile, they will see what you specialize in right away. Think of it this way: in business you typically have about 5-10 seconds to catch people’s attention. So use your headline to do just that.
To enter your display name and your headline, go to the Edit My Profile tab, and fill in the Basic Information boxes with this information.
Creating Your Summary As part of completing your profile, complete your summary, too. Consider this summary a snapshot to draw people to want to do business with you.
For example, in your summary, you might highlight you the professional but include a little bit about you the person. You can be unique in your summary, as well as provide details to feature the main things you do in one business or a number of businesses. Thus, you might note some of the specific services that your company provides or promote your multiple businesses. Avoid having an incomplete summary, so fill it up with as much information as possible.
It's best to update your summary once a month with fresh content, just as it's preferable to keep your Website current. Keeping your summary updated regularly will not only provide information for clients, but help with your SEO, so you optimize your opportunities for search engines to find you. The process is the same as adding new content to improve the SEO for your Website. If you don't have time to keep your profile updated yourself, find a local or virtual assistant to post new information, such as new products, services, or news about your company or yourself.
In short, think of your summary as a way to engage people to want to do business with you. Thus, don't only talk about yourself, but talk about how you can help people, since people want to know how you might assist them in making their own business grow. Then, if they think you can help them, they will want to know more about you. So always try to find ways to give value and help people.
Describing Your Specialties The Specialties section is where to put the main types of products and services you provide. Use as many common keywords as possible, since this will not only help prospective customers and clients see what you offer, but it will help the search engines find you. When they do, you will come up higher in the rankings when prospects put in these words in a search.
If you have specialties in different fields, include them all. For example, one woman at a workshop had one business offering health services and a place that could be used for meetings. Plus she assisted with party planning and special events. In listing her specialties, she should include a number of terms related to health and to her party and event planning business. In another case, a man specialized in accounting and taxes, but also was proficient in Excel and database management. So he should put all of that in his list of specialties.
Describing Your Work Experience Ideally, include your past five years of work experience in your LinkedIn profile, and some people even go back 10 years. The reason for including this detail about your past work is that when people search for you, they may look for you by the company where you worked. So suppose they know you from when you worked at XYZ Company, though now you’re with the ABC Company. If you don’t have the XYZ Company in your profile, when they do a search by your name, they may find multiple people with the same name as you. So they won't be able to tell whether someone with your name is you or not unless you have the XYZ Company in your LinkedIn profile.
Thus, go back at least five years, and if you're looking for work, it's even more important to have as much work experience in your LinkedIn profile as possible. Consider LinkedIn like having a second resume.
Listing Your Websites LinkedIn also helps to drive traffic to up to three of your Websites. It has generic fields for Websites, which are “My Company,” “My Blog,” and “My Personal Website.” While you can use these three, you can readily adapt them to list the most important Websites for you, if you go to “edit my profile” and choose "Other." But if you have a blog, keep that.
Since LinkedIn allows you to have three Websites on your profile, take advantage of that option, even if you only have one site for your business. In that case, use the other sites to refer to the most important organizations you belong to. For example, say you belong to a rotary chapter or a Business Network International (BNI) chapter. Put that organization in as one of your Websites. That way, even if someone isn't interested in your business, they may be looking for other resources, and this listing will help them find that. This way you are giving them value, which can help them think well of you and might lead to their business or to a referral to their contacts in the future.
Including Your Interests Just below Websites, there is a section for including your interests. Include anything that is relevant here, and again, the words you use can be picked up by the search engines to help people in finding you.
Listing Your Groups and Associations Here's where to include the groups and associations you belong to. List the ones that are most relevant to your business, and include the most important ones first. I've included an example of how I filled this out in the previous screenshot.
Listing Your Honors and Awards Now if you have any relevant awards include those, again the most relevant and most important first. For example, I included an award I won about five years ago for obtaining a client who used my services connecting a client from Hong Kong to film producers and agents in the U.S. at an export event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Export Division. But I left out awards I got for books over 15 years ago.
Using the Network Updates and Status Bar The Status Bar is located on the LinkedIn Home Page, under Network Updates. I have found that this Status Bar is frequently underused, but it is important because this is how people in your network can track what you’re doing on a regular basis. The larger your network, the more people will see your status update. In turn, you can use the Status Updates to track what others are doing.
The Status Bar is also especially useful, since many people are very busy and usually don't have the time to follow up with all the people they know on a daily basis. But if you read your contacts' Status Bar updates and click on “Show more” for additional information, you can keep up with them. Moreover, seeing these updates may lead you to recognize that this is an ideal time to contact someone to seek their business or get a lead from them because of what they are doing now. The update is a reminder to help you stay in touch at a good time for making contact.
Adding Network Updates You can regularly let people in your immediate network know what you are doing by adding a short update in the box next to your name or picture box. Generally, the initial description is short -- up to 140 characters, though you can add additional details, which will show up as "Show More." After you enter the update in the box next to your picture and click "Share" it will appear under your box and be sent to people you are directly connected to in your network. Also, if you have a Twitter account and check the box next to the Twitter logo, your update will automatically go to your Twitter followers, too.
If you also are on other social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Plaxo, you can update all of these sites at the same time through a site called www.ping.fm. Through Ping, you can include all of the social networking sites you belong to in a single platform and update them all with a click of a button. You can easily sign up if you click the Signup button and then provide your email address and password.
Once you have your account, you simply list all of the social media sites you are a member of, type in your message of up to 140 words, and send it. Just click on "Add Social Networks" to see a complete list of the major social media you can participate in, and once you have an account with that social media site, you can send your message to that site as well as to LinkedIn through Ping.
Ways to Use the Status Bar Use the Status Bar to get more free promotion for you. You can use it to let people know what you are doing, announce new products and services, and refer people to interesting articles, Websites, and news, which adds value and helps people pay more attention to you.
Some people update their Status Bar frequently, even 3 or 4 times a day, though 1 to 2 times a day is more common. A good rule of thumb is to spend about 1/2 to 1 hours on LinkedIn in the morning and 1/2 to 1 hours in the evening. Or if you are more limited for time, you can spend only 15 minutes in the morning to note what you’re looking forward that day and 15 minutes in the evening to indicate what you accomplished or found especially interesting.
Also, it helps to build relationships if you start replying to some of these status updates from others. You can reply privately or add a comment. Again keep the focus on how you can help the other person, rather than just saying what you have accomplished.
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Gini Graham Scott, PhD, is the author of over 50 books, specializing in work relationships, professional and personal development, popular culture, and social trends. This article is adapted from USING LINKEDIN TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS OR YOURSELF, which is published by Arrow Publishing for the Apple iPhone and iPad and by ASJA Press/iUniverse as a paperback. She is also the author of DOING YOUR OWN PR, 17 TOP SECRETS FOR KEEPING YOUR JOB OR FINDING NEW WORK, and SELLING YOUR BOOK, SCRIPT, OR COLUMN. She is the host/producer of the radio show CHANGEMAKERS and a script writer/film producer, with several projects in development and post-production. She writes books and scripts for others, and consults with writers on how to write, publish, and promote their own books. Her Websites are at www.ginigrahamscott.com and www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.