Using LinkedIn for Business & Personal Gain

A recent Social Media Club NYC held a meeting about the best ways for businesses and individuals to successfully utilize LinkedIn. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board member Danielle Simon, and speakers included:

Here are the questions presented to the speakers and their responses:

Q: What are the keys to being successful on LinkedIn and using it as a business building tool?

Dodaro: Have a great profile that is professional, credible, and well-optimized for search in LinkedIn. Mostly, the profile should speak to your ideal client. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they use LinkedIn for business is they use it as a resume site or they just post their professional bio. One of the things I say to business owners and entrepreneurs is nobody cares about you, but they only care about what you can do for them. Your profile needs to really speak to the target market you want to attract.

Egan: When we speak to a corporation, in our pitch we tell them that their employees are websites. To be successful on LinkedIn and build a social business, you need to wrap around this and embrace it. You really need to empower your employees to be using these tools for relationship management and communication purposes. For a corporation, they have to start to look at these tools as a strategic part of how they communicate, recruit, market, sell, and do research. It provides a competitive edge over other companies.

Simon: It seems like there are companies are afraid to let their employees do too much on LinkedIn, because they think are looking for a new job. However, I have been hearing more and more that there is a real shift where companies are trusting their employees and working with them to help them on LinkedIn, which in turn helps the company.

Quinones: It is a mindshift for companies to understand that employees are like mini-campaigns. I am working with a company where you see the referring traffic coming from all these employees LinkedIn profiles just because they put the company link on there or shared a piece of content.

Q: Since there is that fear of employees using LinkedIn to look for another job, would you suggest that companies show how they are embracing LinkedIn from a company standpoint and as well as from a personal standpoint (helping the employee set up their personal profile)?

Egan: The way I would explain it to somebody is that this is a new shared responsibility. It is called cobranding. This means, how does a company put your personal brand as well as the work you do for the organization together in a cohesive way that works for you and the company. It should be positioned as an employee benefit, because it is a real way to say that the company is investing in you and not monitoring you. The company would be telling their employees, we trust you and hired you because you have great relationships and experience, so enroll in this program and we will make you look better online and help you communicate more effectively.

Q: What are some things people can do better on LinkedIn to promote ourselves and the company’s they work for?

Dodaro: Start at the top of your profile — your headline. Make sure your headline is clickworthy, so it should be interesting and appealing. You want to add one or two keywords in your headline, because your headline is very powerful for LinkedIn’s algorithm, which basically determines where you are going to show up in the search result. Your headline can contain 120 characters, and you want to be able to use as many as you can. Also, what you are putting in skills and the amount of endorsements you are getting is affecting the algorithm. The five most important things to affect LinkedIn’s algorithm: 1) your headline; 2) your current experience, you want to have it in your title and in your description; 3) one past experience; 4) your summary section; 5) you want to use keywords in your skills, and hopefully you get endorsed for them. Of course, there are other places in the profile, but these five are the most heavily weighed.

Egan: Start with your settings. Do research about privacy settings and talk to people. Then you can work on your profile, network, and activity. I would be very careful to over-optimize for certain search words, because you have two audiences. You have the Web, which is what you have keywords for, but you also have people who are looking at your profile. Curate as if you were designing your corporate website.

Q: Can you talk about network building?

Egan: The idea of curating those in your network will not only be valuable for you, but it will also be valuable for your network. If I do a search to find a specific person, but you keep popping up as the person in-between because you have a ton of first-degree connections, then I will just think you don’t really know this person. I would even suggest that you not connect with your colleagues unless you really know and trust them. Even in my own company where we have 30 employees, I have a process before I let them into my network. I shut down the ability for people to send me invites without knowing my email address and that sort of stops one layer of it. However, if someone knows my email and sends me a connection request, I won’t accept it but will instead respond. If there is no message, I won’t even respond. If there is a message, I will try to build a relationship and then connect. I will also go through and drop connections about once a quarter, and I will then upload my Gmail contacts and add connections this way.

Quinones: I am also judicious about whether the person I am connecting to has a good audience. I join groups that are beneficial for me and are in quantity. I have really benefited from LinkedIn. I went to Greece earlier this year because someone looked me up on LinkedIn.

Q: How important is geography in your profile?

Dodaro: Geography is only important if you service a specific geographic region. If you work and serve only a certain area then it is great to put your city name in there. However, if you have clients internationally then don’t put in a specific region.

In the next part of the meeting, a few attendees offered to show their LinkedIn profiles. The speakers then provided the following tips to help improve their profiles:

  • In your summary include your specialties and strategic key terms that will valuable to your audience.  –Quinones
  • Have one recommendation per title, so if you have someone who knew you from two companies, get it for the one you don’t yet have a recommendation for. -Quinones
  • You get up to fifty skills, so when people are endorsing you for skills you haven’t added to your profile — be careful, because it might not be what you actually do. -Quinones
  • I would join some of the larger groups, because being part of those groups makes me more visible. You get up to fifty groups, so take advantage of it. You should be part of your alma mater group; it can be common shared history. –Quinones
  • Having a vanity URL for your profile is very important. It helps for coming up in Google when someones searchs for your name. -Quinones
  • Change the words “company website” in the contact info section to the name of your actual company or whatever else is being clicking on. This will help with SEO on the bigger Web and people will be more likely to click on the Web assets that you are promoting. -Egan
  • You should put your high school in your profile, because it adds a human element to your profile. People are more likely to do business with people they know. -Egan
  • Less is more in your profile. Be selective with what you put out there. If you have fifteen PDFs and a lot of rich media for people to select from, then put the one that you want them to actually click on. –Egan
  • Change up your profile. If you change your profile picture once every six months it will drive up your click-throughs. People want to see that. –Egan
  • Don’t status update too much. If you status update a lot, then people are probably hiding you. –Egan
  • In your summary section, I wouldn’t recommend talking about yourself in the third-party. It might turn some people off. Also, if the action you want the reader to take is to contact you, then give them a little blurb and phone number/email address. –Egan
  • If you have LIONS in your network, I would tell them they shouldn’t be a LION. People question whether they are real and not just spam. -Egan
  • In your summary section, you almost have to think of it as an article. Since most people scan instead of reading the entire section, you need to make sure there are certain things that jump out for the reader. -Dodaro
  • Listen to the language your ideal customers/clients use for figuring out the best keywords to include in your profile. You don’t want to put your marketing spin on it, but you want to use their language. –Dodaro
  • Put your board and volunteer positions in the volunteer section. Anything you are being paid for should be listed in experience, and anything you are not being paid for should be listed under the volunteer section. –Dodaro

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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