Today, LinkedIn is the No. 1 social media platform for professionals. Estimates of professional participation in LinkedIn are as high as 83%.
But when I talked to one of my friends--social media expert Alexandra Gibson from OttoPilot Media--she told me that she sees too many professionals making a lot of mistakes. Here are the seven she sees most often.
1. You only use it if you need a job. I can usually tell when my friends are on the job prowl because all of a sudden, a barely existent LinkedIn profile is revived. The truth is that you'll be much better served by keeping your profile and connections current, rather than just reaching out to people when you need something.
2. You have an incomplete profile. A bare-bones profile does not do you (or your company) any favors. Add all important companies and a description of the results you achieved in the past. Don't forget to optimize your profile for search--creating a keyword rich profile will help people find you and your company.
3. You don't belong to the right groups. There are more groups out there than there are seconds in a day, so it can be difficult to decide which are most important. If you join no other groups, join your alumni groups (college, prep school, grad school, fraternity or sorority). Industry groups--both for your own company and your major customer market segments--are a clear next step.
4. You're not sharing valuable content. When you publish a great blog post or your company creates a valuable white paper, share it on your LinkedIn feed. Also, share content in your feed from other sources besides your own. Post in your groups to judiciously share articles and links if you feel that it would be of interest to that audience. This will help show you as a thought leader--and, if the content is on your site, can generate quality leads directly from LinkedIn.
5. You're not building out your connections. Again, don't wait till you need something: You should be constantly adding and accepting connections from people you know professionally or personally. I do not recommend trying to connect with people that you don't actually know: You want this to be your real professional network, so if someone says, "Hey, I see you know Jim Smith," you can say that you actually worked with him at a project at a previous company and not that you were just padding your connections number.
6. You're not utilizing LinkedIn Answers. The underutilized LinkedIn Answers section is another valuable place to show your expertise and provide value. People ask questions and, if you know anything about the topic, you can answer in a forum. Add links to important content that backs up your answer, especially if it's content from your site that fits with the question. One of the best things about LinkedIn Answers is its staying power--unlike other social media sites (think Twitter), the section gets visited by people with similar questions over time, so it can generate leads even a year later.
7. You haven't brought your team/staff along. Sure, it might be a bit much to require your CFO to join Facebook--but since LinkedIn is a professional network that focuses on individual, professional connections, it you should emphasize its importance to your entire team. Think of the power you could tap into if, the next time you go to pitch a company, you check LinkedIn and see that Mary Ellen in accounting is already connected to the chief marketing officer.