LinkedIn is a very powerful tool or professional social media portal used by over 150 million people all over the world to engage in professional networking, find jobs, hunt for talent, share content and engage in group-discussions over a wide variety of topics. Whether you are working in an organization, are self-employed or a job seeker, an active LinkedIn presence goes a long way in building your personal brand and boosting your career trajectory.
This article offers an in-depth coverage of LinkedIn features you can use with a basic account and how to use them to improve your branding.
LinkedIn – a powerful branding tool
Build an impressive profile
Create a free LinkedIn account if you do not have one already. Update your profile with details of your education, past/present employments, skills, awards, relevant test scores, publications and anything LinkedIn prompts you to add.
God is in the details
Your LinkedIn profile would be most checked by people genuinely interested in knowing more about your professional background or colleagues who would like to connect with you. Therefore, this is not a place to shy away from your achievements. Simply put, if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Besides giving potential recruiters a more accurate picture of your profile, this will also help you find former colleagues or acquaintances who might have studied or worked with you.
A detailed LinkedIn profile offers an additional advantage to job seekers: you can compensate for the 1-2 page limits on your resume by simply inserting your LinkedIn profile URL in your covering letter or correspondence e-mail. Do remember to organize your data in an easily readable format; detailed is different from wordiness.
Update, update, update
Click ‘Edit Profile’ under the ‘Profile’ button on the menu bar of your LinkedIn homepage. You can then edit each section separately using the ‘Edit’ button provided to the right of each element in your profile or click ‘Add sections’ to include information of certifications, courses, awards or projects. Clicking the ‘Improve your Profile’ button to the top right of your profile page will supply further suggestions. LinkedIn also has a SlideShare app that lets you share presentations you’ve made, on your profile.
Edit, Add sections, Improve your profile
Regularly update your profile with the latest achievements/projects. Like in your resume, give briefs on your current and past achievements/projects with points on your specific contributions, not a general rambling of what the project was about.
Do not forget to update your contact information with at least an e-mail id for people outside your network to get in touch with you. You can add links to your website, blog or Twitter account as well, keeping in mind the image you want to portray to recruiters/customers. Also, upload an appropriate photo as your profile picture so people can find you easily. This also gives your profile a more complete appearance.
LinkedIn always advises you to connect with people you know well. Unlike social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, where you can befriend or follow people you have never met in person, on LinkedIn, you would benefit from connecting with colleagues at work or school. This is primarily because LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Your main aim here is to build a profile to be viewed by recruiters, businesses or professional contacts.
Adding connections on LinkedIn
Getting introduced to new people
Although you should limit sending direct invites to people who know you well, you can always request a first-degree connection to introduce you to someone in their contacts list you think could be of help to you. In fact, isn’t building new contacts the whole point of networking anyway? That is indeed so, when done right. Once you have found which people you would like to get introduced to, it is advisable to continue correspondence outside LinkedIn, preferably via e-mail. This is for two reasons: e-mail correspondence is usually more convenient for everyone involved. Besides, you get only five LinkedIn introductions per month, on a basic account.
Join and participate in LinkedIn groups
Most users limit their LinkedIn activity to updating their profile and accepting invites. Building a personal brand that impresses on first look takes a lot more than that. Many organizations, companies or individuals form special interest groups on LinkedIn where people can join and participate in discussions, share links or post questions. You can easily find groups in your interest areas from the ‘Groups’ button on the menu bar of your LinkedIn page.
While active participation in these groups definitely improves your visibility and lets you directly interact with group members outside your network, it is better to refrain from posting comments, links or questions without much substance, as doing so would reflect badly on your professional image.
You can also follow companies on LinkedIn, to receive updates on the latest products, job vacancies and hires.
Recommend and get recommended
LinkedIn is a convenient way for employers to get their hands on credible recommendations for prospective hires. Firstly, people who recommend you publically on LinkedIn are putting their reputation at stake in doing so. This lends a fair degree of credibility to your profile/business. Moreover, only connections who know you well would be willing to endorse you.
Say NO to lackluster recommendations
Rather than flooding your profile with too many bland recommendations, focus on gathering a few solid ones, especially from your academic/work supervisor or peers. A neutral-toned recommendation would do more harm than none at all. In addition, endorsements from someone higher up the corporate ladder in your organization, are most effective when strongly worded.
Devil is also in the details
Networking is all about give and take. Do not expect to be recommended by peers or supervisors without returning the favor. Two tips on back endorsing: you don’t need to post a recommendation the same time you receive one unless asked for; your connection might need one at a later stage, when you can pitch in. It would also look more genuine than back-to-back endorsements. Secondly, keep it real. Highlight strengths and positive attributes you have observed while working with them. Remember, a false endorsement could work out badly for both parties involved.
Accessing LinkedIn Privacy settings
Although privacy is not a very serious concern on a professional networking site, you can still control public visibility of each element in your profile. Move your cursor over to your name on the top right of your LinkedIn page and click on the Settings tab in the drop-down menu. The page that loads contains a host of privacy control features you can explore and customize.
Privacy and Settings Page
LinkedIn is given a very high Page Rank by Google; therefore, having a LinkedIn account is a sure-shot way for your professional profile to come up as a top result on a Google search of your name.
Customizing your Public Profile URL
Another feature is you can customize your LinkedIn profile URL to display your name, instead of a string of alphanumeric characters. Click ‘Edit’ button next to your Public Profile URL in the ‘Edit Profile’ page. This will take you to a page where you can customize your public profile, inclusive of your LinkedIn profile URL.
Adding a LinkedIn profile badge
Finally, if you have a personal website or blog, you can add a LinkedIn profile badge to promote your profile. The section under ‘Your current URL’ called ‘Profile Badges’ helps you do this.
Networking & Brand-building – an ongoing process
Both networking & brand building, whether social or professional, take initiative and a continued effort on your part. And often, the results come in when you least expect them; so, if you have forgotten to stay active on LinkedIn, now is a good time to revamp your profile using the tips discussed above, and resume online networking. Good luck!
Peter George is a Technical Editor (Content Development) at SupportMart Technical Services. It is an independent software support provider, specializing in 24/7 support services for computer software and related applications. We offer third party Microsoft Support, Antivirus Support, and Browser Support. Brand and warranty independent support are the hallmarks of our service.