I have been a LinkedIn evangelist for quite a while now.
After a slow start where I left my profile unloved and untouched for almost a year, I came back to it about two years ago to find a dramatically improved site where searches went much more smoothly and came up with extremely relevant results most of the time.
The rapid growth of the network also meant that more of the people I was searching for were actually there to be found, and as Metcalfeâ€™s law dictates, the value of any network increases exponentially according to the number of nodes (people) that belong to it.
With a lot of trial and error and several hundred hours spent on it, I have now explored a lot, if not most, of what LinkedIn has to offer, and it turns out to be a great deal. I now have well over 1000 direct connections in my network, which Iâ€™m told link me to well over 7 Million Professionals.
Being asked by several friends for help in building their profiles on the network reminded me that things work much more smoothly once you have optimized the heck out of your profile and built up a mammoth stack of connections. For those without those connections, the task of building up your network and getting past the stumbling blocks that LinkedIn throws your way can be a daunting task, however.
There are many easy things that you can do in order to get the best out of what is now one of the most popular social networks out there, and certainly top of the pile when it comes to professional connections.
So I decided to publish a simple guide to getting the most out of LinkedIn, which, although not exhaustive, will hopefully be useful in getting novices started, and even show the veterans a couple of useful tricks.
Ultimately, however, LinkedIn is what you choose to make of it; It truly does reward the bold, the creative and the proactive with access to contacts and opportunities that you would not have access to otherwise. It is up to you, however, to figure out what those opportunities are.
The Basics: Your Profile
Opening an account on LinkedIn is no more complicated than obtaining a webmail address. Speaking of which, it is worth using a professional-sounding email address for this. Professionalism should permeate everything you do on the network, so an email address of sexybunny278@hotmail…
Will simply not do (unless of course that does reflect your line of work, in which case, as you were).
Upload your CV â€“ This is the easiest way to get your work and education history transferred to your profile, assuming that you have an up-to-date CV in Word format. LinkedIn will prompt you to do this.
Once you upload it, however, it is crucial that you check things thoroughly, as it is likely that a line might have been missed out or put in the wrong category. Some dates, for example, usually need to be manually entered. Still, it is much easier than entering it all from scratch.
The choice you must then make is whether you want to display your entire work history on LinkedIn or not. Depending on the image you want to project, it is perfectly acceptable to omit certain roles if you feel that they donâ€™t relate to what you do or are looking to do. Be sure to specify which is your current position as that will always be displayed at the top.
You can have several current positions, in which case LinkedIn gives you the option to decide which is your primary one. So if you are working that admin job, you can still list yourself as a photographer first and foremost, even if you are not making any money from it at the moment.
Write a personal summary â€“ You might have this on your CV already, otherwise it should look much like a shorter version of your personal statement/cover letter. Basically describe yourself and your experience in general terms, keeping it to two or three short paragraphs.
List your Specialties â€“ Decide on about 10 key skills you have that reflect what you are looking to do, rather than just describing what you have done. If you work in admin at the moment but would love to become a fashion photographer,Â make sure to list Fashion and Photography as specialities, as it will help you come up when people search for professionals using those terms.
Link to websites – Does your current company have a website? Link to that. If you have a profile page within that website, link directly to that page rather than to the homepage.Â If you have a personal website, link to it; if not, but you have, for example, published articles online or have a portfolio of photographs that is publicly accessible and you would like people to see, link to it under the personal website category.
Blog -Â Depending on what industry you work in, chances are you really should setup a blog if you havenâ€™t got one already. Link to it on your summary box, but also click on the light blue bar underneath your summary box to â€œAdd Sectionsâ€. In there you have several applications, including one called Blog Link and one specifically for WordPress. Once you enter your desired blog feeds there, it will automatically post live updates to your profile page.
Twitter -Â Again, depending on your walk of life, you probably should have a Twitter account even if you donâ€™t particularly like the idea.Â Linking to it will also allow any updates you post to LinkedIn to be automatically posted to Twitter too, and vice-versa. It makes for a much more dynamic-looking profile.
Get a vanity URL -Â Right at the bottom of your summary box, where it reads â€œPublic Profileâ€ you will see the URL to your personal profile page. You are automatically assigned a long string of numbers and symbols, but editing that gives you the option to make the url into something much more relevant, like your own name or company name.
Once this is done, make sure to add your profile link to your CV. Particularly for those without a personal website, LinkedIn can be very useful as a public web presence, as long as you keep your profile optimized.
Languages -Â If you are fluent in more than one language, you might want to create a profile in another language too. There is a link to do this on the top right-hand side of the page.
Picture -Â You are only allowed a small square of space, so make sure your face fills it. You want people to be able to recognize you from your profile. Do not put up pictures of you and your family and/or pets, this is a professional network.
Black and white tends to work best, but colour is acceptable as long as they are properly balanced.
Donâ€™t be afraid of airbrushing flaws (as long as it does not make you unrecognizable), you want to make an impact. Keeping your pictures consistent across all your Social Networking profiles will help you create a distinctive web impression too.
Once you have your basic profile setup, you are then ready to ask people to connect with you. It is tempting to start inviting people straight away, but chances are that they will look at your profile before accepting your invitation, and if they canâ€™t confirm who you are, you might lose the chance to connect with them.
Importing email contacts -Â If you use webmail facilities like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail, you should be able to login through LinkedIn and have those imported into one mass invite. The process is very straightforward, but Â it is best to browse through the email addresses before hitting â€œsendâ€, as you might invite someone inappropriate.
Depending on how many contacts you have, this should gain you quite a few connections to get started with. If you have more than one email account, be sure to do this for all of them.
Watch this space for the second part of my tutorial, and send in your comments in the meantime please!
Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures, fashion, and all things Brazilian. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UKâ€™s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Visit her website, contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.
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