Gaining members at the rate of more than 1,000,000 per week, LinkedIn has been called the most powerful business online networking tool on the market today. It isn’t replacing face-to-face meetings or professional placement recruiters – not yet, anyway – but it is reportedly being used as a recruitment and screening tool by 79% of HR professionals in 2012, and by executive management looking for specific expertise for project work or vendor relationships.
With potential contracts on the line for your business, how much time should you spend creating an online LinkedIn presence? And who is the most likely to gain more business – the person “linked in” to a few well known and influential connections, or the one with hundreds of contacts?
Actually, your profile content (how you present your strengths and work history to the public) is more important than the number of linkages you can amass. So with that in mind, here are five hints to help spruce up an online appearance and double its impact.
1. Your profile is a composite of your professional talents, experiences, awards, and interests. Use a professional, inviting photo (a smiling face, not a severe expression, family photo or glamour shot) and be as concise and clear speaking as possible in your online language– while avoiding self-congratulatory comments. Use the headline section to list your expertise, not your job (i.e. mine says “Business magazine publisher; business strategist and communications expert” rather than “In Business magazine publisher”).
2. If you list an award or honor, explain who presented the award and why — make its relevance obvious to your audience. Rather than “Awards: BDA Award for Excellence in 2005”, consider “BDA, the trade association for building development, awarded our company its top award – “The BDA Award for Excellence” — out of a field of 300 entries, for our redevelopment of an apartment building in a blighted TIF district in 2005.”
3. Before posting a glowing recommendation from a friend or colleague, think about why you are doing it, and read it judgmentally yourself – does it reads like “fluff” or “endorsement”? Does it, in other words, ring true? What kind of work or client do you hope to gain? If you want to do keynote speaking for a particular industry, elicit industry-specific comments from your network. And hint: rather than ask for a lot of referrals, which raises eyebrows sometimes about why you need them, write a referral for the people you’d like to write one for you; LinkedIn then automatically provides them with the opportunity to return the favor. Be genuine, non-effusive, and truthful in your comments about them and they usually will return the favor.
4. Think about how to phrase past experience and skills. Rather than list the obvious tasks of a job, focus on the results you obtained for the company. “Answered phones” is a task; “provided professional reception and customer service” is a result. Which is most impressive and expressive – yet still truthful?
5.Keep it real. Like any business tool, LinkedIn is only as valuable as you make it. Listing interests may lead you to others who share your hobbies; listing associations can set you apart from other job or vendor candidates, for example, and show your humanitarian side. And remember — what you don’t add or include can be as telling as what you do. Avoid superlatives and exaggerations; not only your own, but over-the-top recommendations from family and friends, too. All can backfire.
After checking your LinkedIn profile this week (why not?), join me again next week, when our topic is 2012 business trends!