Just Google the words “Optimizing your LinkedIn profile,” and you’ll find dozens of articles about how to create the perfect profile, whether you’re looking for a job or striving to become a thought leader among your customers, prospects and the industry overall.
While the sidebar article (below) reviews the basics of an optimized profile, just creating one and parking it on LinkedIn won’t produce the results that are possible if you regularly update your profile and use its elements to expand your reach and perception as a leader.
Good habits bring success
The novelist John Irving once said, “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” He couldn’t be more right when it comes to LinkedIn.
If you want to expand your reach and your spheres of influence, then you have to grow your 1st degree connections. And one of the best ways to do that is by joining LinkedIn groups. Now reporting more than 2 million groups, LinkedIn offers plenty of opportunities for you to expand your reach. Begin by using LinkedIn’s search bar and enter key words, based on your geographic location, industry, prospects, community/charity organizations, hobbies and interests.
Hobbies? I worked with a client who asked me to research and request membership into half a dozen groups of Porsche enthusiasts. That’s right, Porsche as in the car! He said to me, “You’d be surprised how many great professional connections I’ve made with other guys who love to race Porsches.”
LinkedIn used to allow members to belong to 50 groups and 50 subgroups, but the concept of subgroups failed, so a member can now belong to 100 groups. To begin, shoot for 20 to 30 really solid groups that meet your criteria and have at least 1,000 members each, if not more!
Once you belong to the groups that fit your criteria, begin posting “curated” (found) content and sharing it with the members of your groups. Doing so couldn’t be simpler, because most trade journals, news articles, videos, Infographics, etc., offer share icons. Simply click on the LinkedIn share icon attached to the content and a box will pop up, allowing you to comment on the piece of content and type in the names of all the groups with which you want to share that content.
Posting curated content at least once a week, if not more, will raise your leadership equity in the minds of group members.
Another critical habit — once you’ve joined plenty of groups — is to conduct “Advanced” searches within those groups for 2nd degree connections, asking them to become 1st degree connections, again expanding your spheres of influence. If you click on the word Advanced next to the search bar at the top of the LinkedIn screen, a box pops up and you’re on your way. For those who want to narrow their searches, you can use the Boolean method; read more about it here: http://talent.linkedin.com/assets/Product-Pages/Training/TipSheet-BooleanSearching.pdf
I try to spend at least 10-15 minutes a day connecting with others in the groups to which I belong, and it has paid off. But, again, you have to make it a habit, and make it part of your business development routine.
Start your own group
Starting a LinkedIn group is a great way to connect with people in our industry — more importantly, in your target markets — and raise your profile as a thought leader and expert. Choose a group name that will resonate with your customers and prospects, such as a topic of interest or a profession (rather than your brand name), as more people will perceive your group as a source of learning rather than promotion.
It is important to spend some time building your group membership. Invite your connections to join the group, and promote the group (and its content) on your website, email signature, newsletter and social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.
Until members begin initiating “Conversations,” as LinkedIn calls them, you should post at least three times a week. A good strategy is to post conversations that ask questions and include a link to a related article. Once your group members start posting content, be sure to “Like” and “Comment” on their content.
Regularly update your LinkedIn status
Updating your status is a priority when building your followers on LinkedIn. Posting regular, valuable and interesting curated content using LinkedIn Pulse is the best way for your connections to perceive you as an expert in your field. Ideally you should post at least once a week to start building your thought leadership.
The process of selecting content needs to be done in a thoughtful and strategic way. Your content must offer more than veiled self-promotion. The idea is to educate others because that’s what leaders do: they share their knowledge and educate. Creating original content such as long-form posts, Infographics, videos, Slideshares and more is a great way to demonstrate thought leadership. Visuals work really well in LinkedIn and can greatly increase the level of exposure and engagement you have with your targets.
Employees, ‘link backs’, vanity URLs
Your company’s employees are a great (and likely underutilized) resource. First, everyone in the company should have an optimized LinkedIn profile (again, see the sidebar). Not having a LinkedIn profile in the 21st century is like not having a business card or a resume.
Their profile — like yours — should include a “link back” to your website. Doing this helps to improve search engine optimization. The more times a search engine sees your website’s URL, the higher you appear in the rankings when prospective customers go looking for your products/services.
A vanity URL for your LinkedIn profile is akin to a vanity license plate for your car. So why do it? Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn rank at the top of search engine results because of their credibility. Since search engines like Google comb through URLs for keywords, having your business’s name, or your own, will provide a boost to its visibility online. Also, you can promote your vanity URLs across all your marketing. Include the links in email footers or signatures, newsletters, your website and online ads.
To customize your public profile URL, go to your LinkedIn Profile page and select “Edit Profile.” Click on the blue box under your profile photo that says “View profile as” and scroll down to “Manage public profile settings.” In the upper right hand corner of your public profile, you’ll see a blue pencil next to your existing profile’s URL. Click on the pencil and change the URL! (Don’t forget to click Save when you’re done.)
LinkedIn also only has two restrictions regarding how you can customize your vanity URL:
- It must contain between 5-30 letters or numbers, and
- it cannot include spaces, symbols or special characters.
So get busy leveraging your LinkedIn presence to become a genuine thought leader. By investing just a few hours a week on these ideas, you can jump to the head of the pack.
The Basics of an Optimized LinkedIn Profile
Following are the absolute “musts” of a strong and credible LinkedIn profile. Anyone you’re doing business with or want to do business
with will check your profile, so be sure it includes:
- A professional looking headshot (called a profile photo) as well as an interesting cover photo that is placed above your professional headline box.
- A professional headline that is more than just your title and company name; think about what benefits you offer customers and convey that in your headline. And don’t forget to include your industry (from a drop-down list provided) so people can find you more easily during searches.
- A summary section that is a well-written description of your expertise, offerings and customer benefits, as well as your contact information: email address and phone number (in the body of the summary, as well as in the contact information). And don’t forget to include key words and phrases that will help you be found more easily during searches.
- An experience section that includes robust descriptions of each position, focusing on client benefits, plus work samples and/or recommendations from customers, colleagues, bosses, etc. (There’s space for two work samples, videos, etc. per job.)
- A skills section that includes the skills in the order you think is most important and including enough endorsements from others so you look like a leader in your field!
- Long-form posts: because they appear above your summary, it’s a good idea to post at least three. Plus, publishing such posts really enhances your thought leadership.
- Join relevant Groups – just a few which include your peers, but more importantly, join those where your customers and prospects can be found.
- Publications (in which you have been published) and education are less important than the other sections of your profile, but those who publish their educational credentials receive 10x more profile views than those who don’t.
There are about a dozen more sections you can include, such as volunteer experience, honors & awards and “projects,” among others – choose the ones that make your profile shine!
John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications Inc., a traditional, digital and social media marketing firm that strives to ensure its clients’ relevance while fueling their growth and success. His affiliation with the industry dates back to 2009. Reach him at [email protected] or through the LinkedIn group: Vending, OCS & Micro Market Sales & Marketing Executives Network.