It is currently considered one of the most important social media sites. It is designed for and relentlessly marketed toward business professionals. And it floods your inbox with spam. It is the worst and the best of employment-driven social media, all rolled into one. I'm talking about LinkedIn.
Is LinkedIn critical to your professional success? We'll discuss that here, as well as look at what elements are included in a good LinkedIn profile, and how often should you maintain or update your profile. We'll get into how you can boost your visibility, and whether sharing or posting articles moves the needle. And we'll talk about key pointers for LinkedIn newcomers.
To give you a better sense of who's telling you all of this, I should explain that I use LinkedIn so much that I don't often consider whether (or to what extent) I really leverage it for my networking and professional success. It's always with me.
Before sitting down to write this article, I hadn't given much thought to what "mastering" LinkedIn really means. I believe one of the keys to mastering it starts with your mastery of your own individual profile. Nail that down first, and then you'll have some bandwidth to consider how to use each connection to your advantage.
Your profile is your best LinkedIn friend
My first and maybe most important piece of advice is to update your profile — and keep it current. I consider a LinkedIn profile a main component of your professional brand, and certainly the face of your public persona. Manage this with care and pay attention to how it looks to the outside world.
There are a few attributes associated with an excellent profile. They are easy to adjust for and easy to spot when you find them. First of all, be human. Credentials and experience are important. They are the table stakes that get you into the game. Without them, you won't be considered for a new role or a business partnership.
But when it comes to deciding who we want to work with, people want to work with other people, not their credentials. A profile filled with amazing experience and accolades will work against you if it's devoid of personality. Be you, be open, and be real. Your profile can't read like a robot or a cookie-cutter rendition of corporate America.
What do you want to do today (and tomorrow)?
The second thing you really need to focus on in your profile is being authentic and aspirational. Volunteer and share what you learn. Share articles that reflect how you feel about the work you are doing. Include information about your interests and aspirations. Keep your photo current. Anything that show the real you.
Your profile can make you look like a senior leader of a large team even if you're a junior middle manager. But that likely won't fool too many people. People can tell when you're blowing smoke. And what you put online is more likely to be scrutinized by a wide audience: LinkedIn has more than half a billion members.
When discussing your professional aspirations, think about where you will be in five years, or what you want to do when you retire. While your profile needs to be rooted in who you really are, it also needs to position you for where you want to go next. When crafting your profile, you need to be clear about what your objectives.
If you haven't identified your career goals, then your profile will waste away, along with your aspirations.
Proofred, er, proofread your LinkedIn content
I believe that LinkedIn is a key to success and good management of brand. So it needs to be clear and error-free. Grammar should be excellent, photos and links should be up to date. If you don't trust yourself to get everything right, have a family member or colleague read it over and check for clarity, concision, accuracy, and so forth.
Don't stress too much about the elements of a good profile. This part is simple: Fill everything out! All your certs, all the articles you have written or contributed to, every volunteer experience, and every professional association. Fill in every blank.
To keep things on track, check in at least once a week. Accept all friend invites, use your own 100 free invites and update anything you experienced that week. It's important that you manage your brand. The best way to do that is to make sure your profile is up to date and maintained.
A good first impression
A strong headline is the most critical part of your profile. You can increase your chances of showing up in search results by including keywords within your headline that you want to be found for.
More than that, however, your headline must speak to your target market and inspire them to learn more about you. That's the goal of your headline: to get your prospects to click through and learn more about what you have to offer — learn more about you.
First impressions are everything, especially online. Use a professional profile image where you are recognizable, professionally dressed, smiling and looking straight at the camera against a neutral background. I always use my headshot from my company.
Along with your headline and profile image, your cover image is the first thing people will see when they land on your profile. It enables you to convey more about who you are personally and professionally. A professionally designed cover image will help you stand out and make a great first impression on recruiters or hiring managers.
Stand up and stand out
Some of the ways you can boost your visibility on LinkedIn are simple: Ensure that your profile is public. Also, engage with your network. Engagement, whether that's you engaging with other LinkedIn members, or them engaging with you, will ultimately increase your visibility on LinkedIn.
When you engage with updates and articles posted by others, or with people who've engaged with your own updates, then you'll be seen by more people, automatically increasing your visibility on LinkedIn. Your interactions with others will not only help your prospects find you, but they can also act as a form of social proof, increasing the likelihood that a prospect will click on your profile to learn more about you.
The trick to maintaining consistent engagement is to find enough reasons to engage with enough people. And for that, you need to expand your network. The larger your network, the more opportunities you'll have to engage with your potential prospects.
Size, however, is not everything here. The quality of your network matters too. This may sound silly but making sure people can see you is not the default when you start out. Make sure your profile has relevant postings. Resharing links and starting your own really move the needle.
A well written introduction card, your bio, will help people key-word search you. Don't forget, as a newcomer, you can edit your public profile URL. Having your name, rather than a number and your name or — heaven forbid — just a number is a great tip.
No matter what you think about it, LinkedIn is here to stay and is a critical tool to your career success. Use it wisely and have some fun while doing it. Your future self will thank you!