10 Steps to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn [Beyond the Basics]

LinkedIn is a great tool for growing your professional network, communicating your personal brand and connecting to opportunities to help you grow your career and your business. But are you going beyond the basics in how you utilize LinkedIn?

Beyond creating a Profile, connecting with your co-workers and joining a few Groups, here are 10 solid steps you should take to get the most out of the opportunities that being a part of the LinkedIn network presents:

1. Post relevant and helpful information in the “Share an Update” box on a regular basis.

Want to build your personal brand and professional reputation? Then become known as a resource or “go to” person in your field or industry. Read a great article? Share it with a comment. Aware of an interesting networking or professional development event? Share it and let your network know you’re going.

I share a ton of links and resources with my network via TwitterFacebook, and Linked In, and in my experience the engagement is often higher and of better quality (i.e. informative threaded discussions, new connections made, etc.) when shared via my status update on LinkedIn.

Action Step: Share a LinkedIn Status Update with your network at least 3 times per week. Add this activity to your calendar or To Do list to ensure it gets done.

2. Ensure that your Profile Photo represents you well as a business professional in your industry.

LinkedIn is a professional social network and as such, you should represent yourself there as you would if you showed up to a professional association meeting or industry networking event. In other words, look the part and convey your professionalism with a high quality head shot – not a cut out of you from your best friend’s wedding.

Your Profile Photo is likely the first thing viewed on your LinkedIn Profile – and first impressions count. I once had a client refuse to interview a qualified executive candidate based upon how casually he represented himself in his LinkedIn Profile pic. Don’t let something similar happen to you.

Action Step: Do not pass Go until you get yourself a good head shot and upload it to your LinkedIn Profile. Check out these Profile Photo tips from my friend Jason Seiden, who experimented with which Profile Photo worked best for him in regards to connections and business opportunities.

3. Review, update and make changes to your LinkedIn Profile at least every 6 months.

You probably spend most of your time on LinkedIn looking at other people’s Profiles, but how long has it been since you looked at your own? Does your Summary accurately reflect who you are, what value you bring and who the clients (internal or external) are that you serve? Is the information correct and up-to-date regarding your current job? Does your headline (easily customizable) capture attention and make people want to know more about you?

Your LinkedIn Profile is your online marketing brochure. If you gave it to a client, contact or team member, would they want to do business with you? If not, get to work!

Action Step: Schedule time on your calendar or To Do list at least once every 6 months to review and refresh your LinkedIn Profile. Doing so will ensure your Profile shows up higher in search results and will also help people (the right people) to connect with you.

[Tweet “Your LinkedIn Profile is your online marketing brochure. Have you invested any time on it?”]

4. Add Rich Media to visually enhance your Profile and showcase your work.

With LinkedIn, you have the option to add visual content to your Profile by including videos, photos, web pages and presentation links – which is awesome. But, why should you care? Because 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text and 46.1% of people say a website’s design (i.e. your Profile) is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company. (Stats via Hubspot)

In other words, images make your Profile look better – and more professional.

Action Step: Add at least 3 rich media files or links to your LinkedIn Profile within the next 30 days. Examples: Slideshare presentations, employer branding videos, product brochures, etc. (Make sure you have permission from the appropriate people to include any company-related links, if necessary.)

5. Participate in Discussions/post relevant items in LinkedIn Groups related to your profession.

LinkedIn Groups are a great opportunity to get connected to like-minded people, information and resources to help you grow as a professional. Unfortunately, they’re often a missed opportunity because members miss the point of relationship building and a forum for actual discussion. Lay off the self-promotion people!

The most effective way to gain credibility and get recognized as an expert isn’t to share your blog posts and automatically share unrelated links in every group you’re a member of. Be helpful. Ask good questions to generate meaningful discussions. Answer other’s questions. People will naturally click on the link to view your Profile (and likely connect) if you’re contributing good stuff.

Action Step: Choose 1 – 3 Groups that you’re a member of to actively participate in by reviewing the Discussion content each week to determine if you can add anything to the conversation. At least once per month, ask a question in those 1 – 3 Groups, with the purpose of obtaining an answer you didn’t already know or for generating good discussion.

6. Follow up in-person meetings or interactions with a personalized Request To Connect.

LinkedIn was originally created to connect with people that you know, like and trust. And it still works best when used that way. But the changing definition of “friend” means that the opportunity to expand your professional network is better than ever before.

Want to connect with a colleague, blogger, thought-leader or expert that you respect or admire? Make a great first impression by personalizing a LinkedIn invitation and providing context for why you’d like to connect: “It was great to meet you at the networking event yesterday…” or “I attended your session at ABC Conference this week and your talk really inspired me…” or “I’m a regular reader of your blog and I appreciate…” etc. Be personable. That’s good networking.

Action Step: Make it a goal to invite at least 5 new people to connect on LinkedIn each week. It’s not about increasing the quantity in your network, it’s about increasing the quality. Be thoughtful and make those 5 connection requests count!

7. Research your industry, competitors and team using LinkedIn Advanced Search.

Recruiters do it. Salespeople do it. And they’re not the only ones that can benefit from searching Profiles, Groups and Company Pages on LinkedIn.

Regardless of your profession or industry, it can benefit you to know more about the people that you work with, the people that you might want to work for or the competitors in your industry. Follow these simple tips to find resources, vendors, partners and possible connections to help you in your job – or to connect to your next opportunity.

Action Step: Do a search for Profiles of people with your target job title (i.e. your dream job or the next-level position for you). What types of education, skills and experience do they have? What associations or groups are they a member of? Who do they know? Use this information to better position yourself for career advancement.

8. Remove Connections who spam or use LinkedIn InMails as their email list.

As we’ve expanded our LinkedIn networks over time (see #6), some people have unfortunately taken the opportunity to behave badly. You know what this looks like: “Hey, my LinkedIn network is a free way to share my (boring) newsletter with the world – no need to opt-in!” or “Check out my latest property for sale!”.

Networking and connecting is at its best when it’s personal and mutually beneficial – even in the new world of online connections. And sometimes it’s not me, it’s you. So you have to go.

Action Step: The next time you get an InMail from someone whom you’ve never met who constantly sends information that isn’t relevant to you, don’t get mad. Cut them loose.

[Tweet “Networking and connecting is at its best when it’s personal and mutually beneficial – even online.”]

9. Prune your Endorsements to ensure that they represent you well.

Introduced in September 2012, LinkedIn Endorsements have become the McDonald’s hamburgers of LinkedIn – billions and billions served. And by now, you’ve probably gotten several Endorsements from well-meaning connections who can’t resist the whack-a-mole nature of that endorsement box at the top of their Profiles. Which is great – unless you don’t actually have some of those Skills that you’ve been endorsed for, or your friends have added a few for fun that don’t do you any favors.

Remember, your LinkedIn Profile is your online marketing brochure (see #3) and every part of it is valuable real estate. Make it count!

Action Step: Review the Skills that you’ve been endorsed for on your Profile and remove those that aren’t relevant or meaningful. You can have up to 50 Skills on your Profile, but remember – quality over quantity – and you have control over what is included.

10. Keep in touch with your network – other than when you need something from them.

When was the last time you reached out to someone in your LinkedIn network? When you needed a job? That’s too late. Excellent networkers and relationship builders understand the importance of keeping in touch and reaching out to maintain their networks.

As humans, we want to help people who’ve helped us. Go first.

Action Step: Reach out via InMail, email or phone to at least 1 person in your LinkedIn network each week – just to say hello, ask how they’re doing, share a resource or invite them to an event. Use the Relationship section on each of your 1st degree connection’s Profiles to add notes, reminders and automatically keep track of recent communications!

Question: What did I miss? Share your awesome tips to get the most out of LinkedIn in the Comments section!

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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