Many people still think of LinkedIn as an online CV, but after launching nearly 13 years ago, it's developed into the go-to professional network.
Whether you're self-employed and want to reach sales prospects, you're looking for a new job, or you're employed and want to network with other people in your industry, making sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and ticking all the right boxes is critical.
To help get the most out of your LinkedIn profile and stand out in a crowd of 414 million global users, here are 10 simple steps:
1. Understand your audience
Are you trying to attract HR managers to your profile, potential customers or other business contacts? Understanding this will help you tailor your LinkedIn profile to your specific target audience.
2. Add a header
A picture is worth a 1,000 words so don't overlook your header image. Use this space to show off your personality or explain your business brand, and ultimately make a great first impression. LinkedIn recommends your image is 1400 x 425 pixels and a maximum file size of 4MB.
3. Put a face to the name
Research suggests that adding a professional photo to your LinkedIn profile makes you 14 times more likely to get found. Leaving your profile picture blank is therefore a big missed opportunity, so make sure you use a headshot image that is clear and professional. The ideal image size is 400 x 400 pixels and a maximum file size of 10MB.
4. Write a professional headline
This is the perfect place to tell people who you are and what you do - within 120 characters. Keep your headline catchy and include the industry you're in as well as any important keywords to make it easier for people to find you.
5. Be contactable
Add as much contact information to your profile as you're happy to provide. You can also include a link to your blog, portfolio, personal website, or company site.
6. Summarize your story
Think of your summary as your "elevator pitch", where you can tell people more about yourself. You don't need to use words alone though - LinkedIn now lets you add documents, photos, links, videos and presentations. Be creative and use these options to help your profile stand out and get noticed.
7. Showcase your experiences
Unlike a CV, you don't need to stick to just 2 pages of A4 paper when telling people about your experiences and expertise. However, it's still important to be clear and concise. Consider using bullet points to break text up, don't forget to include keywords and double check for any spelling or grammatical errors.
8. Let your network speak for you
Don't just tell people about yourself, let your connections be your advocates by getting endorsements and recommendations - you could always offer to return the favor.
9. Make yourself easy to find
Customize your public profile URL to make it easy for people to find you. This shortened link is also much easier to share, such as via your email signature, or on your business cards.
10. Start networking and building relationships
Now your profile is up-to-date it's time to get stuck in. There are over 1 million groups to choose from where you can engage with people from your industry, share posts with your latest insights, an interesting blog, or a new development in your career or job. Or why not test out LinkedIn Publisher, a blog style element where you can showcase your expertise, increase your personal visibility and start discussions.