So how did you do with your LinkedIn homework assignment?
Just getting the lay of the land on LinkedIn is a great start but wouldn't it be nice if more of the social marketing tools come with a "recommended usage" manual?
Twitter has just launched Twitter 101 which I think is pretty great.
If you are on LinkedIn profile but wondering how to maximize your use of it, I've created this profile "Cheat Sheet" so you focus your attention on the features that deliver the greatest impact AND understand how much time you should reasonably expect to spend on it.
Overview on Completing Your Profile
As I described in "A Guide to Social Media Tools and their Uses" all social networking sites begin with a single user creating a profile. Unlike other sites where your profile questions ask you to reveal your secret lust for sci-fi action flicks, your LinkedIn profile is showcase of your professional preferences and accomplishments.
You want to consider how you'll be using your profile when you complete it. I'll be covering LinkedIn strategies in one of my next articles (and I welcome your submission of your LinkedIn strategies here).
Let's get started!
I do recommend including a picture. LinkedIn profiles seem incomplete without them. Also try to be consistent with your photo — if you have a photo on other social networking sites it's a good idea to use the same photo everywhere. Note: it's also wise to be consistent with your name — use the same spelling, middle initial, honorific etc. everywhere. This is important for SEO and for building your online brand.
The headline is a bite-sized explanation of what you do and what your value is. Note that your headline shows up ALL OVER LinkedIn, especially in lists. Your headline very often accompanies your name. Make sure your headline is at least clear and concise. If you are building "brand you" consider making it more engaging.
You could spend countless hours tweaking and refining this single 120 character field. Just try not to.
Hopefully I'll save a few minutes of confusion by noting that yes, your "current" section is created directly from the Experience items for which you check "I currently work here". It is not editable separately from the Experience listing but do consider what you use for your "title" for your most current jobs since this will show up at the top of your profile.
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Web Site fields
You get to include three active links to external sites. Links you include in other parts of your profile won't be clickable so these are valuable. Make sure you use one of these for your company's Web site, then perhaps use the other two for your professional blog, and perhaps another profile like your company's Facebook page. TIP: don't use the generic "My Website" labels. Instead select "Other" and you will be able to choose your own label which will become the text of your link.
Social networking sites are now giving you the opportunity to create a "custom URL" for your page on their site. Here I explain how to set up a custom URL for your Facebook Profile or Facebook Page. On LinkedIn you edit this through your "Public Profile" field.
For example, my standard LinkedIn page is: http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=257307&trk=tab_pro
But my lovely custom URL is: http://www.linkedin.com/in/maishawalker
Use this area in a similar way to a cover letter. Explain in (relatively) normal-speak what makes you unique or different, why someone might want to connect with you, and possibly few details about your products or services. Note that you cannot create clickable links in this area.
The Resume or "Experience"
While it might seem tedious to enter every job you've had for the last 20 years this really is an opportunity. Think of it this way, while it would be strange for you to randomly send your resume to everyone you meet, sending your LinkedIn profile is perfectly reasonable and can give you that extra edge.
As LinkedIn user Divya Gugani aptly describes "Adding my profile link in outgoing emails adds credibility and the extra qualification nudge with certain requests... I like being able to subtly sell my expertise."
There is some debate how long each job description should be. I think this depends on your experience. If listing more than 5 jobs, perhaps use brief descriptions that include important keywords. If listing 5 jobs or fewer, longer descriptions won't be as problematic.
1-4 hours (depending on how badly your original resume needs an update!)
If you would like to receive emails from strangers who might have opportunities for you, choose to accept "Introductions and InMail" so that anyone can email you. Also use the checkboxes to indicate what kinds of inquiries you're interested in.
LinkedIn doesn't have a lot of value without connections. This also tends to be a big strategy question for most people — do I connect broadly or intimately? I will address this question in my future post on LinkedIn strategies, but for now, if you're just starting out you don't have to worry about this. Just go into "Imported Contacts" and check your email address books for people who are on LinkedIn. The best and easiest way to gain useful connections is with the people you already know.
Create your Company Profile
Lots of people miss this one. When you mouse over or click on a company name in LinkedIn it takes you to a profile describing that company and displaying it's current and former employees plus details like where the company is located. To do this for your company, you first have to add your company to LinkedIn beyond adding it in your "Experience". Here are instructions for how to add your company profile to LinkedIn (you'll need a valid and accessible company email address). Once your company is added, click on your company name from your profile and then you can alter the company description to your liking by clicking on the Edit Profile link in the top right corner.
Set updates to be sent weekly not as they happen
If you don't want to receive an email every time someone in your network makes an update, you can change your settings to send you messages weekly or not at all. Just click on the "Account & Settings" button in the top right corner. I pretty much set everything to weekly except discussion replies, connection invitations, and emails from my connections
I've seen a lot of recommendations lately on LinkedIn. Unfortunately the more I see them, the less of an impression they make on me. Often people send generic emails out asking for recommendations from almost everyone in their network, and often people get generic recommendations back. The recommendations that most impress me are the ones that are not generic but really specific and sincere. Did the recommender use a specific product? Attend a specific event? See high return from a specific service you provided? Were they one of your partners in a venture? Sometimes a profile's long list of recommendations shows only that the person knows how to get lots of people to write something generic about them. Is this meaningful?
If you want a meaningful recommendation, sometimes the best way to get one is to write one if that's feasible. And while there are always exceptions, if you can't write a meaningful recommendation for someone there's a reasonable chance they won't be able to write a meaningful one for you. Writing recommendations is time consuming so I suggest that you write them only when you really have something worthwhile and not generic to say.
15-30 minutes per recommendation
Sneak Peak: Tagging
For a natural categorizer like me (INFPers unite!) LinkedIn's tags are a dream come true. It's a quick way to categorize the people in your network in a way that is personally meaningful. So if you are trying to build out a client base in Cincinnati, you can do a search for all of your contacts who have the word "Cincinnati" in their profile, and then "tag" the relevant profiles for future reference. After getting very excited and telling a colleague about this feature, I discovered "tagging" is still in beta so not all LinkedIn users have access to it yet.
One problem I've found with tags so far is they aren't integrated with other LinkedIn features. So as of this posting you cannot for example select all of the people you tagged as Cincinnati and send them all an email. Nor can you use tags in the "compose message" area. But you can export your tagged lists for use in other software.
30 minutes - several hours depending on # of contacts and # of categories
Keywords & Search Engine Optimization — this is a profile bonus
Keep in mind that when someone does a Google search for your name, it's likely that your LinkedIn profile will be one of the first links that shows up (unless you have a very common name or share a name with a celebrity). Take advantage of LinkedIn's high search-ability. Think about the keywords you'd want to be found under on search engines and on LinkedIn itself. Make sure that you include keywords relevant to your industry and position. You might decide to go back and rewrite things at the end to address this.
Some have complained about the difficulty of deleting a LinkedIn profile. While LinkedIn does provide instructions for how to terminate a LinkedIn profile or close a LinkedIn account there have been some posts that describe user frustration in not being able to delete one's profile.
So, what's the damage?
According to my estimates, doing all of the things I outline above should take you between 4.5 hours and 9.5 hours (not including recommendations or the countless hours you'll spend transforming your 120 character headline into iambic pentameter). That's 1-3 days working a few hours per day, or 1-3 weeks working just a few hours per week - stretching it over a longer period is often a better plan for additional objectivity and less burnout.
I look forward to your comments outlining things I may have missed and your submissions of LinkedIn strategies for my upcoming article! We'll also cover things like Groups, Applications and other ways you can use LinkedIn beyond basic profile setup.
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