When it comes to promoting yourself in the work world, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful social media tools available. So how do you use it to brand yourself effectively?
Launched in 2003, LinkedIn currently has 875 million members in 200 countries and has become a vital part of the modern workforce. Whether you are looking for clients, job opportunities, or to grow and network your business, this is one platform you can't afford to ignore.
However, many people don't take advantage of the full power of LinkedIn or think of it along the same lines as platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. The truth is that LinkedIn is unique and shouldn't be approached like other social media tools.
So how do you take full advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer?
First and foremost, remember that the purpose of LinkedIn is to network with professionals. So be professional.
Many people make the mistake of approaching LinkedIn as just another social media platform and create a profile that is casual and, at times, even silly. While it can be enjoyable, LinkedIn is not the place to post photos of your food, parties, or political opinions.
Your profile is going to be seen by potential employers and clients, as well as headhunters and recruiters. If you are looking to advance your career, it is important that you show you are a professional.
In addition, LinkedIn is a platform that is primed for search engines, even more so than others like Instagram and Facebook. So when people search for you or your industry, your LinkedIn profile and what you posted are likely to pop up at the top of search results. Make sure what people discover is the representation of you that you want them to see.
Also, remember that LinkedIn is often a direct connection to your place of employment. With a single click, visitors can see where you work or the business you operate. So it is vital that the presence you put on LinkedIn reflects positively on your company. A growing number of companies are paying close attention to what their employees put on social media and even firing people for inappropriate posts, so your public image is more important than ever.
Optimize your profile
LinkedIn may be the very first time a potential employer or client sees what you are all about. So it's important that you take advantage of everything LinkedIn offers to put your best foot forward and make yourself look as good as possible.
When you are creating your profile, use a clear, professional, and pleasant photo. A headshot is best. Avoid pictures of you with other people, participating in an activity (unless it has something to do with your career), or images that aren't you such as a cute cat or scenic shot. It should go without saying, this isn't the place for a photo of you out drinking with friends, at the beach, or from your 7th birthday party.
LinkedIn offers a secondary background banner which you should use to your advantage. Don't just post random images of scenery or designs - don't be boring, like this one. You may think they are eye-pleasing, but you are wasting valuable real estate. If you work in a visual medium, use the banner to post images from your portfolio. You can also get creative and post your business name, motto, or other information, but make sure it's clear the photo is connected to your work or career.
Create an eye-catching headline for your profile. Use words and phrases that will not only grab people's attention but are true and accurately describe you and your career path.
The LinkedIn about section
The About section can be a valuable tool for you. Don't just cut and paste your resume; that's what the Experience section is for. Use the About section to add details and interesting information about you in a biography format. You don't need to be overly personal and list your hobbies, but this is where people get to know you. Write about the reasons you got into your career, successes, awards, and honors (although there is a section for this as well), or mention the charitable groups you support. Like all parts of your profile, it needs to remain professional.
Don't forget keywords
Also, make sure you use high-quality keywords that will raise your discoverability not only on LinkedIn but other search engines. First of all, the keywords in your profile and work history are what the platform uses to suggest jobs, work opportunities, and potential connections. Also, LinkedIn is heavily browsed by search engines, so it's important that the keywords you use assist with discovery. Use descriptive and precise terms that accurately represent you and your career.
The experience section
In the Experience section, be clear and concise. This is where the platform is able to parse out your resume and connect you with potential opportunities, so it's vital you take advantage of it. Make sure to connect your skills to your experience as well as a link to past and present employers. LinkedIn offers an intuitive system to network all of this information.
Many job applications now not only ask for your LinkedIn profile but allow you to use it as part of your application. You can sign in and have your entire profile and LinkedIn resume exported as your application. Yet another reason to make sure your profile is kept up to date.
Your profile has a section for you to upload videos and images related to your career, so make sure you take advantage of it. If your line of work is visual, there are great opportunities to show off your products or creations.
Interact with the LinkedIn community
One of the best ways to use LinkedIn is to be active because, like the real world, success is all about networking.
The platform breaks members down into three connection levels. This allows you to see people you may know closely but makes it a bit difficult to connect with members with whom you don't have a natural business connection. The site will even ask how you know people that it doesn't see a natural connection, which cuts down on spam.
Connect with people the right way
Connect with people you know in your industry. However, it's not advised that you blindly send out invites to connect to people you don't know. In fact, you can get reported, and there is the potential of being banned. If there is someone you don't know personally, but do have a natural connection with, make sure to mention it, such as if you saw them speak or have a mutual acquaintance. Even better, if you do have a shared connection, ask them to introduce you on the platform.
You have probably already encountered LinkedIn members "cold-calling" you with messages offering sales leads, promotions, or other services. Don't fall into the trap of doing this. It is not only a low rate of return; you risk being disciplined or banned by LinkedIn for spamming.
LinkedIn has a special feature where people can endorse you for work-related skills or talents. This is an amazing way to not only stand out but to show that you have skills that are backed up by members. Instead of a resume that merely claims you can do something, this allows you to have a real person behind you that says you are indeed good at a certain skill. Make sure that you endorse others as well and it will pay off in visibility.
Follow relevant people, groups, and companies
Another important part of being involved on the platform is following relevant and prominent people in your news feed. There are some you may choose to follow simply because they are interesting or motivating, but others may be in your industry or potentially involved with a company you would like to work with. By following these people, you can keep up with what is going on with the company and they may post potential job leads. You can also enter into conversations in the comments with other members and potentially the person you are following themselves. This is a wonderful way to be noticed, get your foot in the door, and expand your network.
Join LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn also has groups that you can join on a near-endless list of topics. Some of them are more general such as news and current events in certain industries, while others are more focused on specific topics within a discipline or business. There are also a number of groups dedicated to finding jobs and networking. Again, make sure you stay on topic in these groups or you might be reprimanded and possibly removed.
Generate business content
LinkedIn has developed a very robust newsfeed, but as we mentioned earlier, there are those who use it the same way as Instagram or Facebook. Some people even go as far as posting personal political statements, which is a bad idea. You are breaking a cardinal rule about bringing personal feelings into a work-based arena.
Even LinkedIn has learned lessons about this. A few years back, they developed a stories feature similar to Instagram and other platforms, with the thought that people would want to post casual and informal videos that wouldn't stick around. However, they quickly learned this was not the case. Users wanted to share their professional accomplishments and don't want them to vanish, instead having the ability to share them as part of their careers. So the LinkedIn stories feature was phased out.
Show your subject-matter expertise
Posting news stories & information and commenting on them in an informed way helps show your expertise in a subject. Over time this works to develop your online reputation in a subject or industry, opening up new opportunities. You could create an article about your industry or comment on exciting news in the field. LinkedIn also offers surveys, which are a great way for people to interact with you and open up new discussions, contacts, and networking possibilities. Just make sure the surveys are relevant to your business or industry.
Consider posting your success stories. If you spoke at a convention, won an award, or your company released a new product, this is the perfect place to share the news. Unlike Instagram, it won't get lost in selfies, fashion, or food. A corporate posting will be seen by people in your industry and open the door to opportunity. LinkedIn also uses hashtags, so make sure to add relevant ones to your post.
Promote your profile elsewhere
Because you can show so much of your professional life on LinkedIn, it's important that you drive traffic to your profile.
Create a vanity link through LinkedIn that has your name in the URL and it will not only be easier for people to remember, but it will be simpler to share with others.
Include your LinkedIn link on your website, other social media platforms, and in the signature of your email. If you take advantage of what the platform has to offer you can use it as a portfolio, giving potential contacts the opportunity to do a deeper dive into your experience and career. Also, don't forget to include your link on applications and cover letters.
Consider going Premium
If you find that LinkedIn is giving you what you need but you want more, consider signing up for the paid service, LinkedIn Premium.
While the free version of LinkedIn does provide basic analytics, they are limited. If you go for the paid version you will be able to see exactly who is looking at your profile and where they work. This is a great tool to see which companies are checking you out and if they are responding to inquiries and applications.
Also, Premium can help you with job searches because LinkedIn will show you where you rank as an applicant for certain jobs. It will even notify you of positions where you would be a top candidate based on your resume and profile (another reason to make sure you use good keywords and fill out all the info.)
Joining Premium provides you with InMail tokens, which gives you the ability to contact people outside your connections. The feature allows you to reach out to someone you might know, but the algorithm has determined you aren't in the same circle. The InMail service is also very useful when you are applying for employment because you can send a personalized message to hiring managers, versus a cover letter that is connected to the application. You should still be careful about reaching out to people you don't know and without reason because you may still have your email deleted without them reading it.
Premium also gives you access to specialized classes, courses, and seminars. After completing the courses, you can post them under your skills and the platform will take these classes into consideration for searches and job openings.
LinkedIn Premium offers free trials, and the monthly cost is $29.99.
While you definitely should make your LinkedIn profile reflect you and your individuality, make sure to follow these rules:
- Be professional
- Use all the offerings of LinkedIn you can
- Post content regularly and make sure it is germane to your industry or job
- -Be involved in the LinkedIn community and support others through comments and endorsements
- Consider using the premium service for help finding jobs, connecting with people, and gaining further skills