13 Tips: Using LinkedIn to Connect and Advance

Many to-do lists have a similar line stuck at the end: “Use social media more effectively.” In organizations of all kinds, professionals view LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks as potentially valuable but non-essential — a good idea for another day.

Let’s make today that day!

We’d like to help you feel more professionally secure, and will focus today on the power of LinkedIn. It’s a great way to boost your professional credibility, stay connected with current and former co-workers, and even gain business. (It’s also a great way to stay connected with Dunbar, and we invite you to follow us.)

The most important thing to know: Getting started with LinkedIn (or maximizing its value, if you’re already on the site) is simple. We’ll assume you can follow LinkedIn’s easy steps to set up an account. Once it’s ready, turn to these tips:

1. Create (or update) your LinkedIn profile, and treat it like a mini website.

Write your LinkedIn profile first in a Word document — not only so you can “catch” errors, but also so you can get a better idea of what your profile will look like on the LinkedIn site. Remember, what you post online, stays online, so decide how much you want to share and what you want to share rather than filling your profile out willy-nilly. The more you share, the more searchable you are. Keep your information accurate and up-to-date.

2. Start with people you know.

Take your email contacts, export them into a CSV file, and import that CSV into LinkedIn. It will send a bulk invitation to all those contacts, and is a good way to build your network.

3. Place keywords throughout your profile.

Like any website, LinkedIn’s internal search engines weigh your keywords heavily in its searches. Place your most important search or keywords throughout your profile in these places:

  • Title Fields
  • Professional Headline
  • Specialties
  • Interests
  • Recommendations
  • Education (Activities and Societies)

4. Keep your photo professional.

A full body shot of you and your family, you and your car, or you and that fish you caught last week is strange and unprofessional. An up-close shot of your face works great.

5. Don’t ignore the “post an update” feature.

People can now “like” and “comment” on your updates, which helps to build relationships within LinkedIn.  And with the introduction of LinkedIn Signal, the update section can now be a functional part of your content strategy. Take 5 minutes each day to “like” and “comment” on the updates of others in your network.

6. Personalize your site.

When you edit your page, a drop-down menu gives you the option of “other.” When you click on that, a new field opens that enables you to type in your business name, website name, call to action or description of your website. So instead of “Company Website” or “Personal Website,” this section can read “Financial Services for Families” or “Click Here: IP Legal Advice.”

7. Juice up your “Experience” section.

Use the 1,000 characters in the Description to tell people why they should hire you or your company, or buy your product. Consider telling a short “save the day” story or a client testimonial, and include a list of recent seminars or workshops you’ve attended.

8. List your “additional education.”

LinkedIn recently added new sections where you can list areas of expertise, publications, patents licenses and certifications.

9. Get at least 10 recommendations.

You can talk about how great you are all day long, but having your boss or a vendor take the time and write a recommendation about how great you are makes you credible. When you ask others in your network for recommendations, give a bulleted list of what you might want them to say so that your recommendation is more than: “She’s nice.” If you’re comfortable doing so, write a recommendation that the recommender can use. Ask for recommendations form thought leaders in your field, co-workers and well-known clients.

10. Join strategic groups.

LinkedIn Groups can be broad or highly targeted. Smart use of the site’s search function can lead to some useful information and a collaborative network of peers. Once you join a group, you can send a message to its members and invite them to personally connect with you. Join groups in your own market, in your ideal client’s industry, groups that your target prospects are members of, alumni groups and more. A handy way to keep up with discussions you started is to hover over the “notifications” flag on your LinkedIn home page and see who’s commented or liked your discussions. (It’s also a great way to make new connections.)

11. Make use of company pages.

This isn’t a new feature, but many people don’t take advantage of the fact that there are more than 2 million companies on LinkedIn. Go to the gray bar at the top of any LinkedIn page, hover over “companies,” and you’ll be able to search any company. Once you find the company, you’ll instantly see all the connections you have who work there. If you “follow” the company by clicking the blue box in the upper-right corner of the screen, you can elect to get a notification every time LinkedIn knows someone is leaving that company.

12. Use LinkedIn’s mobile applications.

After launching its iPad app, LinkedIn became available on all mobile platforms, including Android, iPhone and Blackberry. This makes the site that much easier to use when you’re traveling for work or attending a conference. LinkedIn has also added a handy tool called “CardMunch” that lets you take a picture of a business card with your phone, which then automatically adds the person to your connection list and immediately sends them a connection request.

13. Check out LinkedIn Labs, especially Résumé Builder.

If you’ve kept your LinkedIn profile current but haven’t worked on your résumé in a long time, this is an easy-to-use tool that presents a nicely designed result. The site gives you a choice of 11 professional-looking templates.

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As you follow these tips, remember that there’s no magic bullet for marketing success. But LinkedIn is a useful tool, and we hope our advice helps you boost your professional profile.