Be honest: how are you using your LinkedIn profile right now? For many people, it is simply a place to park their online CV. But that means missing out on many opportunities to make new connections and further your career.
Instead, think of LinkedIn as a place to create, promote and develop your modern professional identity. It’s where you establish your reputation in your field and beyond, by demonstrating your expertise and connecting with people who might need it.
On many occasions, your LinkedIn profile is the first impression a potential new client or employer will get of you – and as they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. So how do you ensure that you’re seen as a thought leader online? Start with these steps:
Fill Out Your Profile
How do you feel when you answer the phone and it’s a cold caller? Hostile, defensive? You don’t know anything about this person or what they want, so your guard is up. It’s the same on social media when you’re interacting with an account that lacks crucial info.
Building trust online is crucial to extending your network and reaching more people. And having a profile that’s full of information about you is the first step to building trust.
It may seem a simple step, but it’s estimated that around half of LinkedIn users haven’t completed their profiles. The company says the benefits of having an up-to-date, well-curated profile are dramatic: users with full profiles are 40 times more likely to get opportunities through the site.
You can boost your professional impression by creating a custom URL, or web address for your profile so that it features your name instead of an unmemorable sequence of numbers. That way, it’s easier for your real life contacts to connect with you on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to check your profile is public!
Once you’ve got a profile that reflects your skills and personality, start building your audience by making connections. The more that people can see that you’re of interest to others, the more likely they are to be interested in you themselves. More than 40% of LinkedIn users have more than 500 connections: make that your initial target for building an audience.
Start by leveraging your existing connections: import contacts from your email address book and find them on LinkedIn. And try the ‘find alumni’ option to renew those old school ties.
You can extend and consolidate these links by liking, commenting on and sharing the updates of your connections and the companies you follow, when they’re relevant to your followers. Join groups and take part in their discussions as a way to find a platform for your expertise.
Cultivate real relationships with your connections and don’t just build up numbers: send one-to-one messages or private messages to create rapport and proactively send connection invitations to people whose interests you might share. Check out who’s viewing your profile and send them a message to connect!
Publish Your Thoughts
The easiest way to start sharing your ideas is by publishing status updates. These carry a lot of weight with LinkedIn. A single status update can occupy up to 80% of your connections’ feed screen, so getting them right can make a huge impact in the attention you receive.
So what kind of statuses work? Don’t use them like Facebook – to keep people informed about the minutiae of your life – use them to share ideas that could help people succeed in your field.
Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, recommends what he calls the 6/3/1 Rule. For every post you make that directly promotes yourself and your services, post three that offer great advice and information created by you or your company, and six useful insights from others that you’ve read and appreciated.
Doing this will mean that your connections don’t feel spammed by marketing messages and you show that you’re a person who listens as well as has something to say: social media is a two-way street, after all.
In 2014, LinkedIn opened up its ‘LinkedIn Pulse’ feature to all users, giving you a forum for longer writings where you can show off your expertise.
Focus on the top issues, problems and goals of your industry and be sure to read other’s posts to get a handle on the features that work best and how these generate likes, comments, and shares. Cultivate a warm, personal voice and use anecdotes and stories to engage your readers. And keep it focused: cover just one topic and try to make three key points that are easily memorable.
After a while, you’ll build up a library of posts that will be a permanent showcase of the depth of your expertise. That’s real capital in the careers marketplace, and you’ll be amazed at the impact.