Be honest—how much time do you spend thinking about your actual presence on LinkedIn? Like many others, I joined LinkedIn because it was the networking tool du jour for business professionals. I spent a little time filling in my profile, accepted and sent invites as I had time and perused periodic network updates that I found in my inbox.
In essence, LinkedIn was the online version of my old Rolodex, a place where I gathered contact information on new and old colleagues, clients and others I met during my workday. I paid little attention to keeping it fresh, following best practices and using it to truly network. I am sure my approach was similar to most of my LinkedIn connections as well.
Using LinkedIn for a client project forced me to immerse myself in this tool in a whole new way. I found that I was leaving so much on the table by not taking advantage of LinkedIn to exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities with my network, which is the core of LinkedIn’s purpose.
After a little research and some networking, I learned that putting LinkedIn to work in a new way does not require a huge time investment. Getting back to the basics and taking a few small steps can make a big difference. Here are some quick—yet effective—changes I’m making to boost my presence:
· Status updates. We are all used to updating our status on Facebook, Twitter, even IM. I didn’t even realize LinkedIn offered this feature! What an easy way to let folks know about the latest thing you learned, accomplished, are working on, etc. I plan to update my LinkedIn status at least once a week.
· Keyword homework. Spending time thinking through and researching the keywords that best describe who you are and what you do really helps optimize your presence. I came up with a list of my keywords and worked them into my profile, job descriptions, etc. I can already tell this will need ongoing attention to keep fresh.
· Personalize your invites. I learned this the hard way when someone who knew me almost punted my invite to link. Don’t just use the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” when communicating. A personal message that reminds folks about who you are will go a long way.
· Complete and neat profile. How complete is your profile? Ninety-five percent isn’t bad, but 100 percent is definitely better! LinkedIn makes it easy to fix this, offering “Profile Completion Tips” to help you get to 100 percent—just “follow the yellow brick road.” For mine, I really needed to shorten my descriptions. A neat profile (one with succinct bullets) is always more likely to be read.
· Sell yourself. Most folks, including me before I changed it, use their current job title as the headline for their page. My headline is now a short description of what I do (utilizing my keywords, of course). Only 140 characters allowed…so be creative!
· Recommendations hold real value. Nothing is better than recommendations from people who know how good you are at what you do. I already had some (it is best to have at least three), but realized they were getting dated. I’m pretty shy about asking for recommendations, so I spent some time providing unsolicited recommendations for people I worked with first. In this case, you usually don’t have to ask them to return the favor; they typically do it on their own.
· Group up. Another area of LinkedIn I spent time exploring is “Groups.” I found and joined a number of groups germane to my interests, background, experience, etc. This list helps represents who I am and is an easy way to stay in touch with organizations, schools and companies that will extend my reach and network ongoing.
· Be helpful. This is next on my LinkedIn to-do list. I plan to spend some time on the “Answers” section to jump in on current conversations and become a true member of the LinkedIn community.
I know this is just a start—now it’s your turn. What have you done to get more out of LinkedIn? Feel free to connect with me here or on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/pamela-flores/2/9a6/593