What You Really Need to Know about LinkedIn

By Jeff Beals

“LinkedIn is to today’s professionals what the yellow pages were to businesses 20 years ago.”

I’ve been saying that line quite a bit lately when professionals ask me how they can use social media for business and career success.  LinkedIn has been around for quite a while, but now it is becoming front-and-center.  LinkedIn is on the radar!  I can’t believe how many people have asked me for LinkedIn advice over the past month or two.

That’s a good thing, because LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking tools available.

If you do not personally show up on LinkedIn, you may as well not exist just as a company that wasn’t in the yellow pages back in the day essentially didn’t exist.

LinkedIn has become THE way for professionals to be noticed, find opportunities and make profitable business relationships.  It’s a virtual clearinghouse.  If you are not fully capitalizing on LinkedIn’s power, you are missing out.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, start your profile today.  If you already have a profile, you will want to take a little time to assess it and see if you can improve your profile strength rating.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize the one form of social media that is most important to professionals:

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Placing a picture on your profile is almost as foundational as having your name on it.  Nobody takes your profile seriously if you didn’t take the time to upload your headshot.

Max It Out

Maximize your profile’s effectiveness by filling out all the possible fields.  Do not skip any part. LinkedIn is not a place to be a wilting flower.  It is not a place for excessive modesty.  Sure, you want to be tasteful as you describe yourself, but when it comes to LinkedIn, don’t leave anything on the table.

30,000-Foot View

One of the first things to appear on your LinkedIn profile is the summary section.  This is where you describe yourself broadly.  It is not tied to any one job you may have held.  The summary is your introduction to the reader and provides a chance to show your personality, your career focus and the value you bring to an employer or prospective client.  Make yourself sound like the successful, competent professional that you are by using compelling, robust key words.  Remember that LinkedIn is searchable, so you want to have a lot of words for a searcher to grab.

Job by Job

List each job you have had in chronological order.  Just like the summary section above, use descriptive keywords.  Don’t just say what you did in a matter-of-fact way; talk about the impact you had and the value you created in each job.

Be a Joiner

LinkedIn offers a wide variety of discussion groups that you can join.  Search for groups that relate to your interests and professional expertise.  You can participate in group discussions or read what others have to say.  In addition to learning new things related to your field, these groups help you develop relationships with other professionals.  Even if you do not have time to be actively involved in LinkedIn groups, join a few anyway.  That way your name shows up when someone searches for people in that group.

It’s All Who You Know

Build your list of connections.  Reach out to people you know.  The spirit of LinkedIn says that you only connect with people you know but many people violate this.  I recommend you only reach out to people with whom you have some connection unless there is some other compelling reason.  If you are about to join a new company, you may want to reach out to people already working there.  Perhaps you are going to a conference and you want to connect with other attendees ahead of time.  In these instances, include a short note explaining why you are reaching out along with the connection invitation.

Some people wonder if they should accept a LinkedIn connection invitation from someone they don’t know.  Again, the spirit of LinkedIn is to only accept people you know, but I personally don’t subscribe to that rule.  Given what I do, I live a somewhat public life, so I accept everyone who asks to connect unless something about their profile looks fishy or out of the ordinary.  You will have to decide what is right for you.

Monitor Who Sees You

It’s not out of paranoia but rather a source of good networking intel. LinkedIn allows you to see who has viewed your profile.  Anyone who takes the time to look up your profile probably has a reason for doing so.  That means you might have the opportunity to do business together in the future.  Look at their profile too.  If there seems to be synergy in your work, you might want to reach out to that person.

Let Yourself Be Seen

Just as you can see people who looked up your profile, others can see that it was you who looked at theirs.  You don’t want to be a stalker, but it might be to your benefit to look up the profiles of of people who could hire you or become your clients.  They may notice that you saw them, which may in turn cause them to look you up.  This simple exposure to people who are professionally beneficial to you could lead to a positive outcome.

In Conclusion

Don’t be left in the shadows!  LinkedIn opens all kinds of professional opportunities for you.  Even if you’re one of those persons who has a distaste for social media, it is still in your best interest to hang your virtual shingle and be a registered member of today’s economy.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps companies increase their profits and associations achieve their missions through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.  He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. 

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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