LinkedIn is more than just an online resume. For entrepreneurs in particular, it's a critical means of communicating your brand to the world. However, for the platform (which boasts 433 million members) to be an effective business-building tool, you'll need more than a token page with scant information. Microsoft announced plans to acquire LinkedIn, stating "LinkedIn is the world's largest and most valuable professional network and continues to build a strong and growing business."
LinkedIn lets you reach out to virtually anyone in the business world, give and receive endorsements, tap into a vast online training hub, position yourself as an industry expert with compelling content and search for local freelancers.
Everything on your LinkedIn profile and company page can and should be contributing toward your overall brand, offering information about who you are and what kind of work you specialize in.
Follow these user-friendly tips to get the most out of your LinkedIn account.
1. Identify your brand.
Create a one or two-sentence statement that will serve as your compass in all of your business communications. For example, if you run a gourmet catering business, you might say, "Creating delicious, nourishing, high-quality meals for health-conscious clients." Furthermore, you may find it beneficial in taking the extra step to set up a company page for your organization.
2. Contribute and engage.
If your target market or the leaders in your industry are regularly engaging on LinkedIn, it's critical to join the conversation. Start by sharing recent company articles and other compelling content (such as high-quality video or helpful reports).
Additionally, when someone you know posts interesting news that relates to your brand and your connections, repost and give credit. This gesture builds relationships by showing others you are following their feed and spreading the word about their expertise - and they just may do the same for you.
3. Lose the job title.
The space underneath your name on your profile is valuable real estate. Instead of your boilerplate label, use this area to be specific but brief. Make the distinction between, John Doe, "attorney at law" and John Doe, "estate planning attorney" or, Jane Garza, "physician" and Jane Garza, "neurologist."
4. Keep your information current.
Avoid listing positions held several careers ago that don't support your current role. It's distracting and could attract interest in work you are no longer doing. You may have held a part-time job selling fried chicken when you were in high school, but you are now several years out of college. You can clean up your profile and safely drop the fast food reference.
5. Ask for testimonials or recommendations.
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to take advantage of one of the most persuasive forms of marketing: having those who have hired you sing your praises. While recommendations and endorsements are important features of LinkedIn, remember to include client testimonials on your page as well. This is especially important when you are starting out, building your presence. Ask previous clients if they would offer a brief written testimonial. Using their headshot also draws attention to their statement.
6. Stand out (in a good way).
Sometimes in our effort to shine, we default to jargon that ultimately works against us. Identifying yourself as "results-driven" leaves no clue as to what you really do. Let your expertise, credentials and client testimonials do the heavy lifting.
7. Connect selectively.
The goal with LinkedIn is not to have the most connections; it's to have the right ones. One business owner used to blindly accept any invitation she received to expand her network. This plan backfired when one of her top clients pointed out that she was connected to his primary competitor. Pay attention and connect with the right people for the right reasons. Occasionally review your contacts and remove those that are no longer relevant.
8. Take advantage of training opportunities.
LinkedIn users are just a few clicks away from a robust online library that houses thousands of video courses, thanks to their acquisition of Lynda.com in 2015. Utilize their content if you see it as a fit.