Basics of LinkedIn

This article originally appeared in on January 25, 2016. (Revised and updated on 12/25/16 to reflect changes to LinkedIn's new user interface.)

Your Reputation is Your Personal Brand.
Determine how you want to be perceived by your clients, prospects, and your network. Be yourself but reflect on your values – what’s important to you – and whether you exemplify them not only online, but in-person. People make a judgment about you in the first few seconds they meet you. Clients want to see you in a consistent way that reflects your talent, skills, and reliability.

Let’s focus on your online image management. Reflect on how you present yourself through social media, blogging, updates, your values and ethics, etc. to:

  • Demonstrate your industry expertise.
  • Develop yourself as a thought leader.
  • Create top-of-mind awareness.

How To Use LinkedIn
Many still perceive LinkedIn as a job search tool only, but it’s actually one of the, if not the, most effective personal branding tools out there. If you don’t know what to do with your LinkedIn profile, read on.

Within the last year and a half or so, LinkedIn massively changed its algorithm to be more searchable. Instead of using job titles in your headline, use skill titles. Do some keyword research for your industry to see what skill titles you have that are popular (check out my profile for an example). The research is worth your time and is much more effective in helping you rank higher in LinkedIn searches.

Nonetheless, having a solid, searchable profile is only a part of how you can effectively brand yourself on LinkedIn. Like other social media, you must engage with your audience to build your brand and thought leadership. A few ways to do that:

1) Share industry articles.
Note what you agree or disagree with and post your insight in the “Share an update” box. Include the URL link to the article. Like Twitter, always include a link or image when possible.

2) Repurpose your blog on the platform’s “long-form publishing” feature.
Under the Home tab, you'll see where you can either post a newsfeed update or it says "Write an article." Click on that and the LinkedIn Publishing page will open. (This is where you can cut and paste your article or blog from a Word document.) You can share your post here and, again, include an image.

I can’t stress enough how successful this feature has become for people. It’s very “sticky” and has generated interest and leads for many of my clients and others. This is a place to build your brand and simultaneously complement your industry knowledge. It’s a slow dance to build interest, but if your content is compelling and you’re consistent in posting, it will payoff.

3) Join and follow groups of interest.
But don’t just join and “lurk”; actually participate. Make comments to others’ posts. This reinforces your brand and your expertise. It takes time but the invitations you receive will be solid and you may even generate leads.

Groups can be found by clicking on the nine squares "icon" in the upper left on the LinkedIn tool bar. Click on that and several LinkedIn apps will appear. Click on the one that says Groups. When that opens it will show you the current groups you may have already joined but there's a Discover tab there, too, where you can find others, which may be of interest.

4. Use a professional-looking photo.
Sounds obvious but many people have Facebook-like photos. This isn’t the place for the cropped headshot from a party you attended nor a blurry or less than quality shot. Invest in the headshot, have it reflect who you are, or ask a friend who’s good at photography to take your picture. (Whatever you do, don't stand in front of a wall; you're not going for a passport-looking-type photo here.)

5. Send personal invitations to connect with others.
This is simple: send a note, ask to connect, and explain why. “I enjoyed your article about X and wanted to connect.” Or “I heard you speak at X conference the other day and would like to connect.” You get the idea.

To do this, connect with a person from their profile page and click on the blue Connect button under their profile and headline. A box opens, which says, "You can customize this invitation", and then click on "Add a note". This is where you can write a personal message in under 300 characters. Use it. Many, many professionals will not accept someone's invitation if they don't take the time to make a connection other than the default message, "I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn."

Whether you work for a large firm, a small business or are a solo entrepreneur, having a solid LinkedIn profile should reinforce who you are as a person. It’s one of the few places on the Internet where you can control your message with more than 140 characters. Explain who you are and why you’re an expert, the pain point you help someone solve, and how you resolve their pain point.

Be consistent. Participate and engage. Give and not just take. Use the media options to your advantage and think of your profile page as a mini-website.

LinkedIn as a marketing and personal branding tool is fairly new. Get ahead of your competition and show how your online image can stand out among the online chaos of social media.

Navigating today’s world isn’t at all cut and dry, but there is still an audience that needs what you offer and there is still a meaningful way to share your message. If you’re ready to leverage LinkedIn, reach out. I’d be happy to discuss ways I can help.


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