This one is in honour of the 22% of my readership that comes from the 120-million strong LinkedIn professional network. It is also for all those who visit this blog from elsewhere and would like to know how they can use their LinkedIn profile to their advantage. If you are a professional, there are simple ways in which you can use a LinkedIn profile to create greater visibility for yourself, drive more traffic to your site, get more business for your company, and open up greater opportunities for yourself.
I have had a profile out on LinkedIn for a very long time, and I never really knew what I had it out there for. I worked a regular day job at a company that I hoped to retire with, and I was not interested in business networking. Yet, whenever I received an invite from colleagues, classmates and friends, I added them, and slowly built up a reasonable network. I truly did not realize the value of my LinkedIn network till recently, when I had to turn to it to build a new career up. In the process of leveraging my presence on LinkedIn, I learned a few effective ways to increase and improve my visibility and have more people visit this blog, among a host of other benefits. Some of these lessons have been learned from my own mistakes, some from exploring the large feature set that LinkedIn offers, and some from the experiences of others. Here are seven ways to leverage your LinkedIn presence.
1. Your network determines your value
The obvious starting point in professional networking through LinkedIn is to build up a network that is sizeable and relevant. One of the mistakes I made in the past, and one that I see many people make, is to add as many contacts as possible, sending out and accepting invitations without discrimination. While many will proclaim the value of open networking, it is the quality of your network first, and not the quantity that determines the value of your LinkedIn presence. Always remember that you are building up a network that is intended to help you achieve your professional goals. Invite only those people who are familiar with you or associated with you in some way. It is better to have a small network of people who know you than a large network of strangers. If you wish to use your LinkedIn presence to connect with someone you do not know, you can ask your common connections to introduce you or to forward your profile to that person. If you do not have common connections, you can send a message to the person explaining why you wish to connect with him or her. As a networker, one of the most annoying things is to receive an invitation from someone you do not know with no upfront reason for you to add that person to your network.
2. Improve your profile by making it complete
My LinkedIn profile serves as my online resume. The length to which you complete your profile will decide how accurately it reflects your capabilities. Make sure you have filled in all the available fields in your profile. Don’t forget to add all the schools and colleges that you have been to, the companies you have worked with, including all the different positions you have held. If you have been involved in societies and organizations, list them out too. You may also want to add the places that you have lived in, studied in, and worked in. Add your major achievements at the different positions you have held in the past. Add a photograph, making sure that it is appropriate for a professional profile. Look up the key words that people use when searching for skills or people in your field, and use those words to describe your roles and functions. Once you are done with all of this, go to your profile, and click on the Improve Your Profile link. This is LinkedIn’s tool to help your profile stand out. Follow its suggestions to fill in anything that you may have missed out. The reason for creating a profile that is this detailed and focused is because it will ensure that your profile shows up in search results in the optimum manner. Moreover, when people do visit your profile, they will be able to understand your abilities, your background, and your personality better if they have all of this information available to them.
3. Go public
One of the common ways to find out more about a person is to Google his or her name. Try it now with your name. To be certain that your results are relevant, enter your full name within quotes in the search box. LinkedIn profiles come with the option of keeping it private so that it will not show up in search results or making it public. Go to your edit profile page and make it public. You can control how much of your details will be visible on your public profile by checking or unchecking the sections that you want visible. You can also customize your public profile URL to your liking, which is by default an alphanumeric string. This makes it easier to share, embed, or add to your signature block, in addition to making it show up more easily on search results. My public profile URL is http://in.linkedin.com/in/subhorup which helps my profile show up even when people search for other subhorups.
4. Use your own website names
When you create your LinkedIn profile, you will have the option of creating links to websites on your public profile itself. The default descriptions that people get to see for these links are things like company website, personal website and the like. You can change the description and replace it more specific text. To do this, go to your edit profile page, and go to where the web links are listed. From the first drop down menu, select “other.” This will cause a new box to appear next to it asking for a description. Enter the description you want, and then enter the URL in the next box. Done. This way your public profile can show exactly what you want it to show for those links. My links show up as Subho’s Jejune Diet (this blog), and Subho’s Music Blog. You can have stuff like My Online Resume, or My Wishlist on Amazon, for example.
5. Join groups that are relevant to your industry
LinkedIn has a number of special interest groups that focus on various aspects of professional networking. Joining these groups will help you stay abreast of developments and news in your industry as well as open you up to a larger circle of people. The more you participate in these groups, the more people will come to know about your presence, your expertise and your opinions. Group participation is an excellent way of increasing your visibility on LinkedIn. There is another important benefit of joining groups, though this is a bit of a work around for another constraint. LinkedIn policy prohibits you from connecting with people you do not know. The basic free membership plan gives you 5 introductions that you can use to ask for a connection to someone you want to link up with. There are two ways to get around this. The first is to find common friends or mutual contacts who can put in a word to the person you wish to connect with without using an introduction. The other way is to join groups that the person is a member of. However, this will not work if the member has set his invitation preferences to imported contacts or those with access to his email ID.
6. Link your profile to your social network
LinkedIn allows you to connect your account to your twitter account. The benefit in this is that when you share a status update on LinkedIn, it uses your twitter account to send it to all who are following your tweets. In addition, it sticks a cute twitter Follow button on your LinkedIn profile page that makes it easier for people to follow your tweets.
7. Ask for recommendations
LinkedIn offers your colleagues and acquaintances to recommend your work publicly. This shows up as part of your public profile. These can be very useful when someone wants to know what others have to say about your work or your personality. Some people may find it awkward to ask others to recommend their work, but remember that you are trying to make your LinkedIn presence more valuable. There is no harm in asking. I totally agree that the best recommendations are those that come unasked. But there may be many people who are unaware of the option of recommending your work. Other times when it may be useful to ask people to recommend your work is when you change jobs, or careers or update your profile in any other way. It also helps to ask for recommendations at such times since it lets them know of your changed situation. Another way of setting the recommendations ball rolling is to recommend the work of others that you know. As you do this, it is likely some of them will reciprocate.
I have found the LinkedIn network to be of great value in my recent attempts to set out in a new direction. As a blogger, I have seen my readers multiply tenfold in the last six months. Part of this is due to the more frequent updates, but a lot of it is from tweaks to my online profiles. Almost a quarter of my regular traffic now comes from LinkedIn. Try these tweaks out on your LinkedIn profile and see the improvement it brings to your visibility and the quality of connections and interactions you attract.