LinkedIn now has over 329 million members, so it has become essential to have a strong professional presence on this social media platform. LinkedIn can be a valuable tool to help you stand out, make more connections and generate more leads for your firm.
Consider this: when you attend an in-person networking event, you prepare ahead of time. Whether your goal is to make some connections or potentially find new sources of business, you want to make a great first impression.
The same is true for your LinkedIn profile-the online version of your first impression. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Here are a few key tips:
1. Use a professional photo. You wouldn't attend a professional event wearing jeans and a t-shirt and the same goes for your LinkedIn profile picture. Use a professional photo of you (and only you!) wearing professional attire. It may be tempting to simply crop the last photo of you dressed up for a wedding, but taking the time to get a professional photo will help you create a great first impression.
2. Create a killer headline. LinkedIn's headline default is your current position at your organization. This is an area that a lot of professionals neglect to edit. To help you stand out, consider your headline as a mini (120 characters or less) elevator speech to explain your forte or area of expertise.
Here's an example of a simple but clever headline from our Senior Partner, Sylvia Montgomery: Hip & seasoned A/E/C marketer. At the caffeinated intersection of practical & measurable marketing; author & speaker.
3. Use the Summary section wisely. Here is another chance for you to shine. Use this section to share your story and how you got to where you are today. Write in the first person and explain how you help clients. Don't simply state that you're the best at what you do. Paint a picture of your thought process and how you tackle problems differently than others. And use bullet points to list strengths or specialties.
4. Complete your profile. Your entire profile should be filled out completely and be up-to-date. Fill out anything that is relevant, including links to publications you've contributed to or organizations you are affiliated with.
If you've reached out to all your known friends and colleagues, it might be time to expand your online network of connections. Your network is what you make of it, whether it's to keep in touch, generate leads, or potentially find a new role.
The best time to connect with someone is shortly after meeting him or her in person. Instead of just searching their name and hitting "Connect," send a personalized message, especially if you were at a larger networking event or conference.
LinkedIn sends this default message: "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
Edit this message to explain your reason for connecting. Make sure to mention anything you may have spoken about to help them jog their memory.
If there's someone that you want to connect with but haven't met personally, see if you have any connections in common and have your connection introduce you. If appropriate, you could even craft a message for your connection to use.
Engaging in Groups
Taking just 15 minutes out of your day to engage in relevant LinkedIn groups can help build your network and generate leads. Use this as an opportunity to share your organization's content and share your expertise.
- Read the group rules-and abide by them. Most allow for discussion but frown upon spammy discussions or sales tactics in groups. No "Check out our new great product" type posts. Blasting your services is a surefire turn off and can also get you banned from the group.
- Ask a question to start a discussion, and make sure it is relevant to your audience. Ask how others have solved problems by using questions that are open ended. For example, instead of asking "Do you use social media?" try a question poised for more discussion such as, "What social media tactics have helped your firm generate leads?"
- Post content that is relevant to the audience. This means sharing a healthy mix of your firm's content as well as external content.
- Engage. Don't start a discussion and then ignore the conversation. Monitor your LinkedIn notifications for responses and continue to engage. To help keep discussions alive, end any comments with additional questions. Comment on other conversations and offer your expert opinion or experience.
- Don't ignite a hater. Remember that LinkedIn is a professional network. If someone posts a snarky comment, let them leave it out for the world to see. No need to get snarky back, just a simple response and leave it alone. Sometimes all you need is an "Interesting perspective, I've found that..." and then don't feel the need to comment further.
Remember: your actions on LinkedIn should mirror what they would be like if you were in person. This can be hard to remember when many of us are sitting behind a computer all day. By creating a great first impression, connecting with new contacts, and engaging in groups, LinkedIn can be a key part of your professional networking. Consider it your new (and improved) Roladex.
To learn more about how your firm to create a powerful LinkedIn strategy, check out our free LinkedIn Guide for Professional Services Executives.