Toby spoke about LinkedIn, and how to make the most of it for your business. Now it can be hard in a 30 minute webinar to really get into much depth on these things, and needless to say we had a wide range of people attending with various levels of experience on LinkedIn.
One of the common threads that I picked up both in general discussion leading up to Toby’s presentation, and also from attendees afterwards, was this. Personal branding and exposure for professionals across industries is becoming more important than ever before. You may do the best work in the world, but if the world doesn’t know about you, it’s hard to make much of an impact.
What this means is that a little bit of gratuitous self-promotion is (unfortunately?) becoming table stakes just to stay in the game. Now I’m generally a fairly private person, and one of those people who this doesn’t necessarily sit easily with, but I do believe that there is a way to make yourself known in the right circles while maintaining professional and personal integrity.
So my question to Toby was this. As a professional looking to take advantage of LinkedIn to engage with the right people in the right way, where should I start? What’s the ‘low hanging fruit’ that I should pick straight away without having to become a social media expert or self promoting showman? Needless to say Toby had plenty to say, so here are the top three immediately actionable points that I took away.
Tip #1 – Fill out your LinkedIn Profile
So this tip came up a number of times during the webinar, and is my strong tip for the first thing you need to be doing in LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn Profile tells the story of you, who you are, what you know, what you have to offer, and so on. The best way to stay anonymous and under the radar would be to leave this empty, or with only bare bones information.
Your profile is pretty much your resume, LinkedIn style. It can contain things like your work history, successful projects you want to highlight, your educational background and more. This is where you get to showcase who you are, and what you have to offer, so remember to shape it accordingly.
If you’re aiming for a professional profile, make sure you upload a clear professional looking headshot photo, and focus on relevant professionally related content. Remember, this isn’t Facebook. By all means add some personal interests to help round out the ‘picture of you’, but don’t over do it.
Remember here to use keywords that are relevant to what you’re looking to achieve on LinkedIn, and to how you would like to be 'found', but avoid the 'buzzword bingo' syndrome. If you find yourself using the word ‘synergy’ more than twice, step away from the keyboard.
Tip #2 – Lead with Generosity
The phrase ‘you reap what you sow’ has never been truer than in LinkedIn. Within LinkedIn you can ‘endorse’ and ‘recommend’ others. Endorsing someone is generally just clicking a button to ‘endorse’ him or her for some skill or experience that LinkedIn sees as relevant. In my honest opinion these endorsements have become largely meaningless, so I personally don’t put too much weight in them.
Of far more importance are ‘recommendations’. This is when you take the time to write a personal recommendation for someone on LinkedIn, almost like a traditional ‘letter of recommendation’. This recommendation will then appear on their profile, and also link back to yours. Simply because making a recommendation takes more time and effort to provide, I believe these to be more meaningful.
As you gather LinkedIn ‘contacts’, take some time to write recommendations for those that you genuinely can recommend. It need only be 50 words (or more if you wish), but I guarantee it will be worth the effort. More times than not you will find that when a genuine relationship exists your recommendation will result in a return recommendation in kind.
Along the same lines, if someone posts something that you find of value, take the time to leave them a comment thanking them for the information. As in life, you’ll be amazed how leading with generosity on LinkedIn will be repaid over and over again.
Tip #3 – Start Conversations
The value in LinkedIn is not so much as a ‘publishing’ platform, but as a means to engage meaningfully with others. It’s not about one-way communication, with you shouting to anyone that will listen. What it is about is engaging with others in a two way, meaningful dialogue. Just as in any social or professional setting, there are some common techniques that work well online.
Picture yourself at a social or professional gathering, and you see a group of people talking together who you’d like to join. What do you do? Well first of all you would walk up to them so that you can start to engage (try joining a LinkedIn group). Then you might listen quietly for a while to assess the tone and topic of the discussion before adding your own comment or opinion (try commenting on someone else’s LinkedIn post with your own opinion or question).
As you gain confidence in the group, you might ask a question that’s relevant to the general theme of conversation, or even offer your own relevant anecdote (perhaps post your own question or content to a LinkedIn group to elicit comments from others). As others start to engage with you, perhaps by responding to your post, remember to respond back. What you’re after here is a two way dialog.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to express your opinions, but remember to keep it professional and polite at all times. Not everyone may agree with your opinions, but those that do are the ones that you’re looking to engage with anyway.
What are you waiting for?
OK, so what are you waiting for? Why not log on right now and start filling out your profile. It’s super easy, and LinkedIn even prompts you for questions to help get it done. Here, I’ll even give you the link – www.LinkedIn.com.