LinkedIn is one of the most important social networks for new and small business owners looking to build their reputation, brand awareness, influence and network of contacts, particularly for business-to-business companies and those whose clientele tend to be white-collar.
Even so, small business owners often don't grasp the importance of having a personal profile on LinkedIn. They may have heard "you need to be on LinkedIn" and then sign up for an account, but once they "join" - in other words get a username and password - not much more seems to happen. They're not sure where to start.
Here are five very basic but important and often neglected tips to setting up your LinkedIn profile so that it can begin to work for you:
1. Create 'Your public profile URL'
When you sign up for LinkedIn your assigned public profile URL will look something like this: linkedin.com/pub/johndoe/40/263/205 (Try putting THAT on a business card!)
Adding your LinkedIn profile to your business card, email signature, your social networking sites and any marketing material is difficult if you don't have your own distinct URL. It doesn't look professional and is not easy to remember, for you or those you hope to reach.
Fortunately, LinkedIn allows you to customize your public profile URL to one that works better for you. Let's face it linkedin.com/in/JohnDoe will look a lot better on your business card and other promotional material than linkedin.com/pub/johndoe/40/263/205
To create your public profile URL, go to Profile > Edit Profile > then look in the area underneath your picture to locate your LinkedIn assigned URL. To the right of the URL find and click on the word 'edit' (in blue).
A new page will open. Look for the words 'Customize your public profile URL' (in blue) on the right side of the page. Type in your name and click save. If your first name choice isn't available you'll need to consider other options like a middle initial, a middle name, etc.
2. Professional Photo
A picture is worth a thousand words. If your photo is non-existent (like the one on the right) or not good quality people may not dig any further to find out the more important stuff about you. Consciously or not, the quality of your photo will add or detract from your perceived credibility
- Head or head and shoulders shot.
- Have a pleasant expression on your face. Professional and friendly.
- Use a simple or plain background.
- Wear clothing appropriate for your field of work.
- Solid colors work better than patterns for clothing.
3. Customize the Professional Headline that shows below your name
Your job title is the default for Your Professional Headline. Change it to something that showcases your expertise clearly and specifically. You have 120 characters to let people know what you do, what you really do! Don't miss this opportunity!!
If you are an Architect and only list this title along with a bunch of letters after your name, will I know what your specialty is? Do you design houses, commercial buildings, multi-family complexes or?
Think about the audience you want to attract, use keywords that your customers are using to search for your type of business and write a headline that speaks to this group.
Adding a bit more detail to your professional headline can separate you from the pack and make it easier for those searching for your services to find you.
4. Add three 'websites' and Twitter to your profile
LinkedIn allows you to add your Twitter username plus three URLs or websites to your profile. Use the three links to add your website, your blog, your business Facebook Page and/or your business focused Pinterest profile or Page, etc. You're limited to three so choose wisely.
5. Write a Background overview/summary role that is interesting, informative, concise and typo-free
This summary introduces people to who you are and your current role, once they've seen your photo and your professional headline. It's a place where you can go into a bit more detail (but not too much) about who you are, what you do and why you do it.
Provide enough information that people will get a sense of who you are but not so much that they will only read it part way through, because it's either boring, too long or lacks substance.
Use keywords as these are the words people are using to search for you, but don't go overboard. Bottom line, you're writing for people not search engines.
Ultimately, it's important that your profile is as complete as possible, but you have to start somewhere. The tips above are bare minimums for getting up and running on LinkedIn.
Items 1 through 4 can be changed by clicking on Profile > Edit Profile and then 'Edit Contact Info' in the area to the right of your public profile URL.
Next week I'll look at some of the other key areas of a profile including skills and expertise, asking for recommendations and connecting with others.