From Facebook to Twitter, Google+ to Instagram, social media has exploded in the last decade. While many people use these different channels, and many more, in their personal lives, they have been slower to incorporate social media as part of their business strategy.
If you are a working professional, a professional in search of new opportunities, or run a business, there’s one social media channel in particular that you should not overlook -- LinkedIn.
While some people see LinkedIn simply as a place to display their resume, today’s LinkedIn is much more than that. It’s a place to network, join groups, share information with those who have similar interests, meet new people, and publish posts to share your professional knowledge and expertise.
Recruiters have been known to scour LinkedIn looking for potential job candidates that they can steal from the competition. And, if you are searching for new opportunities, LinkedIn is a great place to show off what you have to offer so that potential employers can find you. It’s also an avenue to join like-minded industry groups where you can keep up to date on what is happening.
For businesses, LinkedIn allows you to build a company page where you can showcase your products -- much like an online brochure. Use it as a call to action, or to send potential customers to your company website where they can learn more about your company.
Despite all of the advantages that LinkedIn has to offer, people remain confused about how to best use it. The following are some dos and don’ts that might mean the difference between growing your network and losing critical opportunities to connect.
In an age of cell phones and selfies it can be tempting to take a picture of yourself in a more casual setting, with a friend, a child or even a pet. That’s fine for Facebook or Instagram, but not for LinkedIn. Ask yourself, would I send this photo to a potential employer? If the answer is no, then don’t use it. Either have a professional photo taken or have someone take a photo that is appropriate for business communication purposes (i.e. in business attire). Your Linkedin photo is a reflection of your professional self.
If you switch jobs, get a promotion, graduate from college, attend a course, or add a new skill, now is the time to update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is where you brand yourself, and if others don’t know the latest about you, then you may be missing out on new and exciting opportunities. You also can add examples of your latest work, as well as advice on how best to contact you. Your profile is usually the first thing people will look at before deciding whether to LinkIn -- Make it shine!
While it may be tempting to try to connect with as many people as possible, in this case quality trumps quantity. This is not a popularity contest, so make your connections count. You likely wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and ask them out of the blue if they wanted to be your friend or business associate, why would you ask to connect with someone with whom you have nothing or no one in common? The same goes for accepting LinkedIn invitations - be selective.
Once you have established a LinkedIn account don’t walk away and assume it will do the work for you. It’s important to post fresh material on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean putting up a video of a cute puppy or pictures of your children. Instead, look for interesting content that’s relevant to your business or industry, or create your own content and post it.
If you are a business and you have added a new service or posted to your company’s website’s blog, provide a small synopsis and a link that will allow those interested to learn more. Alternatively, you can comment and share other LinkedIn member content.
It’s not always easy asking for a recommendation, but LinkedIn is one place where you need them. One or two for each job you have had will suffice, but make sure they are sincere and well thought out. In some cases, if you write a recommendation for someone you respect they will return the favor without your having to ask.
Again, when writing a recommendation be sincere and specific about why you are recommending someone or a business. Don’t just say he or she is great to work with. Explain what makes that person a great boss, employee, employer, or why they are top in their field. LinkedIn also makes it easy for people to simply click a button and endorse someone for a skill. If you do, make sure it’s a skill they actually possess. While this may sound like a no-brainer, it happens more often than not.
Never leave this section blank. Your summary is the perfect place to tell people about yourself and what you can bring to the table in a way that is more conversational and less formal than a resume. This is your personal branding opportunity, so bring some flair into it and share your accomplishments. Think of it like an elevator pitch. Talk about your business successes and explain why you are good at what you do. Just be careful not to brag too much, you don’t want to come off as arrogant.
LinkedIn makes it easy to connect by sending generic invitations, but don’t be lazy. Take some time to craft a personal note telling someone why you want to connect. If you send generic requests to people who you don’t know, you might be labeled a “spammer” and that can get you in hot water with LinkedIn. You might end up either restricted, suspended or even shut down. This can happen if you send too many invitations to people who, in turn, click on the “I don’t know this person” button.
Looking for a new job? Making connections that you may not want others to see? Time to go undercover. Just about every update you make on LinkedIn triggers a notification to your connections. There is a simple fix: Go to privacy settings and turn off the activity broadcast. There are a number of other privacy options including who you will permit to see your activity feed and determining who can see your connections. Use them wisely.
You don’t need to befriend everyone in life and the same goes for LinkedIn. If someone asks you to connect and you don’t know who they are it’s o.k. to send them a note asking them why they want to connect. You never know, it may be someone you met in the past whose name you may have forgotten. If they are a spammer they likely won’t answer and you don’t have to LinkIn with them. On the other hand, if they do answer and their response refreshes your memory, then you may end up making a positive connection.
LinkedIn was created as a way to network with other professionals. Unless your company is very informal, you likely would not walk into a business meeting and start telling everyone about your weekend getaway or how your toddler refused to eat her carrots that morning. Save the personal stories for Facebook. The same goes for funny memes, jokes, or subjects that may offend. Also, don’t over share. Some people feel the need to post numerous times throughout the day. Save it for Twitter.
With more than 330 million members in more than 200 countries across the globe, LinkedIn can be a valuable networking tool for business professionals with many upsides and, other than the time you invest in it, no cost. By following some of these suggestions you can improve your LinkedIn profile and get started making important connections that will help you to advance in your career.
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