There are over 200 million professionals on LinkedIn, with two new members joining every second. That means that in the time it has taken you to read these first two sentences, four new people joined, or six if you read really slowly.
LinkedIn is not just your rolodex, it’s access to the rolodex of everyone you know (and everyone they know). It’s a direct pathway to almost anyone you want to do business with, and it’s often the first place people go to learn about you if they want to do business with you. It’s your resume, your business card and the front door to your company.
In addition, LinkedIn is almost three times more effective at driving leads than either Facebook or Twitter.
Because of all these reasons, it’s a tremendously great idea to make sure your LinkedIn profile doesn’t suck.
With that in mind, and with the full understanding that I am contributing to the proliferation of the obnoxious “Top 10 Things” blogging epidemic, here are some (ok, 10) tips to make sure you are using LinkedIn to put your best foot forward.
1. Ensure that your profile is complete and up to date.
Don’t look like a LinkedIn rookie who has only had one job and never graduated from college. Listing your two most recent positions makes your profile 12 times more likely to be found, so take the time to manage your profile and make sure your current job and title, past jobs and education are all correct and up to date. Your profile page includes a graphic that shows your profile strength, which is based on how robust it is, and you should be shooting for All-Star status.
2. Make sure you have a profile photo, and make it good.
I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t have a photo on their profile. Think of what message you are sending here. It’s either (a) I don’t know how to work this thing, (b) I don’t take this space seriously or (c) look away, I’m hideous.
You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a photo. Seven times.
Remember this is a B2B marketplace, it’s not Facebook. Your photo doesn’t have to be stiff and boring, but it should be professional. Photos with your girlfriend, dancing at a club or kissing your cat are not great choices. Your photo should show your face clearly. Someone should be able to recognize you at a trade-show after seeing your profile. Upload your photo at a minimum size of 200×200 pixels to make sure it looks good on both your profile page, and in news feed and search.
3. Create a custom profile URL.
LinkedIn gives you the ability to customize your profile URL. A custom URL is not only visually cleaner and easier to remember, it’s also a simple way to protect and enhance your personal brand.
By default it will look like this when you set up your profile: www.linkedin.com/pub/your-name/14/986/804. You can easily change your URL to www.linkedin.com/in/yourname in your profile settings.
If you have a common name, your custom URL may already be taken, so go grab it before someone else does.
4. Manage your profile visibility.
LinkedIn provides options for you to manage what people see when you have viewed their profile, and conversely, allows you to see who has viewed yours.
There can be benefits to being “invisible” when prospecting, but this also limits your ability to see who is looking at you if you have a Basic account. You don’t get to spy on others unless you allow people to spy on you, which is fair enough. Premium customers get better visibility and insights.
You can manage your settings dynamically, depending on how you are using LinkedIn on a given day.
5. Make your professional headline work for you.
Your personal headline sits under your name on your profile, next to your photo. Most people use this space to either list their current job title, or use some sort of soft and fuzzy resume term like “passionate marketing professional.” The best use lies somewhere between those two extremes. Your headline description is indexed for search engines, so focus on using descriptive terms that potential customers, partners or employers would be looking for.
Nobody has ever searched for “passionate marketing professional” – at least not for the reasons you might want them to.
6. Recommendations run both ways.
LinkedIn recommendations help make your profile more robust and bolster your professional reputation. In fact, your profile needs recommendations in order to qualify for All-Star status, and being an All-Star makes it much easier to be found by potential employers and others you want to be found by.
Recommendations are also a great way to reward your partners and colleagues for a job well done. One of the best ways to solicit recommendations is to give them, which is also less awkward than asking for them and looking like your on a job hunt (unless you are, which is then of course just fine). Take the time to write brief recommendations for the people you do business with. Trust me, they notice and appreciate it.
7. So do Endorsements.
If Facebook Poke and Klout had a bastard child, it would be LinkedIn Endorsements. LinkedIn Endorsements are a relatively new way to quickly endorse your connections for specific skills. You can find the endorsement widget at the top of each contact’s profile page. Think of it as a professional attaboy.
Endorsements are widely regarded as fairly meaningless, especially when compared to Recommendations. That said, over 10 million new endorsements happen every day, and they do have some value if you manage them correctly.
First, the contacts you endorse are notified of your support, so this can be a useful way to stay front of mind with the people you do business with. Second, you are in the driver’s seat for the skills you are endorsed for (see number 8 below), and LinkedIn is beginning to give some SEO weight to skill endorsement keywords now.
Like recommendations, the best way to get endorsements is to give them, so let it fly.
8. Show that you have skills.
Maintaining a relevant list of skills on your profile will help others understand your strengths and match you with the right opportunities. Plus, these are the attributes others will be prompted to endorse you for.
Be strategic, specific and concrete about the keywords you use to describe your skills, as they do impact how “searchable” you are both within LinkedIn and across the rest of the interwebs. You can test the search volume for specific keywords here.
9. Don’t be a contact hoarder.
The size of your contact list is not the most important thing. It may feel like it, especially with so many people proudly welding their 500+ connections and LION status, but remember why LinkedIn started. The idea was to create a dynamic, professional community that can facilitate introductions within 3-degress of separation. The quality of your contacts matters much, much more than the quantity, so be selective about who you solicit and accept invitations to connect with.
10. Finally, don’t forget that LinkedIn is a social network.
Be a part of the conversation that unfolds on your news feed. Comment, share and like the posts from the people that matter. My friend Dave will tell you that this is his secret sauce to inflating his Klout score.
Connect your Twitter account and post links that your network will find interesting. Join groups, or start them.
Remember, in order to be interesting to people about whatever it is you might be trying to sell, you need to be interesting for other reasons too.
Got other tips for the masses? Leave a comment below or drop a tweet on me @linberg or @bighugeboston. But, don’t try and connect with me. I’ll probably say no.