LinkedIn, which recently reached the 50 million user milestone, has long been considered the social networking site for professionals. If you’re in business, it is basically expected that you have a profile there.
But with the more mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook being used for business purposes, some professionals are neglecting their LinkedIn profiles. While LinkedIn is certainly not as dynamic as other social media sites, it still provides a lot of value — if you use it correctly. So whether you’re new to LinkedIn or a veteran, here are some of the things you should consider incorporating into your LinkedIn strategy.
1. Include a Photo Avatar
Some media reports claim that because organizations can use any criteria they want to make hiring decisions, photo avatars provide companies with information they may not have otherwise known about you based on a resume alone and could actually hurt you more than help. But, not including a photo with a social networking profile flies in the face of conventional wisdom when your goal is to build relationships and community.
Eric B. Meyer, an associate in the labor and employment group of Dilworth Paxson LLP, reminds us that when using a professional networking site such as LinkedIn, “don’t give a potential employer an easy excuse to remove you from consideration. Use a professional headshot and scrap the picture of you doing a keg-stand.”
2. Build Your Network of Connections
While we might be inclined to say quality is better than quantity, it could be possible that the number of connections you have says something about you. Greg Koutsis, corporate and international channel recruiter for Aplicor LLC, says, “if someone has 20-50+ connections then I know they probably check LinkedIn at least once a week. If someone has 1-19 then I realize they probably either haven’t begun to pop the hood and look inside or gotten past the initial threshold of their friends, family and past colleagues. They might be a great prospect for me to reach out to but this might not be the best use of my time. This combined with the profile they have listed lets me realize quickly if I am wasting my time with someone who has no interest or trust in LinkedIn.”
So you might say to yourself, if small numbers in the connection department signal you’re a novice, do large numbers mean you’ll connect with just about anyone? Koutsis says not necessarily. “I do not believe there’s a maximum number of connections that makes someone look like they will just connect with anyone. LinkedIn only shows 500 then adds the + sign after the 500 so you never really do know how many more than 500 connections someone has until you connect with them.”
3. Use Status Updates to Your Advantage
Once you complete your profile, there aren’t a lot of places to make regular updates in LinkedIn. The one space where you can keep your connections informed is the status updates section.
4. Seek Meaningful Recommendations
A terrific feature of LinkedIn is the ability to provide recommendations. This is a place for your connections to comment about your work. Recommendations can be thought of as beefed up thank you cards. Instead of telling one person how you feel, you’re telling the world that person does good work.
It’s important to get good solid recommendations and Meyer offers some thoughts on how to do that. First, “think about who knows you best. It could be a co-worker or manager. It could also be a client or customer for whom you just did an incredible job on a huge project. If you seek a recommendation from a client or customer, be polite and remember to thank the person who gives you the recommendation.”
5. Optimize Your Profile
Your LinkedIn profile should not just be an online version of your resume, optimizing for search engines is key. The format of your LinkedIn profile might depend on whether you are currently employed and whether or not you are seeking new opportunities, says Koutsis. “If you are looking for a new position then you might want your profile to look more like a resume, but maybe not so much if I am currently employed.”
Burke doesn’t mind if the full content of the resume is on the profile as it can be helpful when searching for candidates. However, it is a bonus “when I find networkers who have added more content than you might find in a resume, such as a link to their portfolio.”
When filling out your profile, you should think about your goals for the type of networking you hope to get done. Also, since LinkedIn has the ability to search any word in the content, both Burke and Koutsis suggest listing all relevant keywords at the bottom of your profile if you want to be found easier.
6. Use Groups to Expand Your Reach
Groups are a beneficial networking tool and a great way to expand your network. Koutsis says that he doesn’t look at what groups a person belongs to when he’s searching for candidates but he does find potential resources using the groups function.
However, Meyer reminds us it’s possible to be viewed in a negative light based upon group membership. “For some time now, many employers are going beyond simply running a criminal background check in order to vet job applicants. Employers may be Googling candidates, checking out their public postings on Facebook, reviewing tweets on Twitter, and scrutinizing LinkedIn profiles. In a down economy — as in any economy, really — employers want to fill job openings with the best possible candidates.”
7. Consider Whether to Link Your Profiles
Burke believes that accounts should be kept separate. “I believe that this strategy allows me to keep my professional personae separate from my personal. Case in point was the one time I posted a social media article to both applications. My Facebook family and friends found the information of little value to them and I believe the same may be true in reverse. However, I will post general information about me (i.e., speaking engagements) with both networks. In essence, it depends on the content,” she says.
On the other hand, Lance Haun, vice president of outreach at MeritBuilder, explains that LinkedIn is “a snapshot of your life at the time you updated your profile so including Twitter, Facebook, or a blog helps to add living context to your profile.” With the lines between work and life being blurred, posting something business related at 1:00 PM and a picture of a cat at 1:00 AM helps “bring the picture of a person together completely.”
In the end, Koutsis asks, “if people see no reason after viewing your profile to connect with you, then why did you reach out to them in the first place?” The most important thing we can do is create a complete and compelling profile. Because the bottom line is the value proposition you propose when you try to connect with someone on LinkedIn.
Author: Sharlyn Lauby is the president of Internal Talent Management (ITM) which specializes in employee training and human resources consulting. She authors a blog at hrbartender.com.