Creating a good profile is a common thing people do when they use LinkedIn. However, since LinkedIn gives a lot of space for your previous job roles, qualifications and more, there’s an enormous overwhelming temptation to make your profile look like your CV.
Sadly, LinkedIn is designed for business connections, not just hourly or salary work. So, how to use LinkedIn in a more proper way? Here are ten useful tips on how to properly use LinkedIn to leverage useful, mutual relationships:
1. Keep it simple
When you first meet potential clients, never brag about a huge list of companies you’ve worked for and the responsibilities you’ve had as that would bore them. The most effective introductions focus on who you help and what problems you help them solve or results you help them achieve. Then if asked more, you say a bit more about what you do and give a little story as to why you are uniquely qualified to help.
LinkedIn is made for making connections. For the majority of professionals that means clients and business partners, not recruiters. You need to design your profile to have the impact you want on those connections. Treat it like your introduction at a networking meeting.
Most potential clients and business partners won’t get value from seeing the details of your previous roles. Job titles, main achievements and company names can help give you credibility (and make it easier for others to find you), but don’t include all the details you would on a job application. Also, don’t take LinkedIn category names too seriously. Use whatever slot is provided to give the impression you want to give.
2. Get some connections
The most powerful usage of LinkedIn is to find new clients and business partners through the search function or directly via your contacts connections. The more direct connections you have, the more opportunities you have to connect. The LinkedIn toolbar for Outlook provides an easy way of inviting your Outlook contacts and people you email regularly to connect with you.
3. Choose your strategy
There are two very different strategies for connecting on LinkedIn: Open Networking and Trusted Partner Networking. In business networking generally, the value you get from your network is a product of the size of your network, and your ability to convert connections into productive business (work, a referral, etc.). You can grow the value of your network by getting more connections, or deepening the strength of each connection (getting to know people better, helping them out, etc.)
On LinkedIn, one strategy for getting value is to be an Open Networking. Open Networkers focus on growing the size of their network by initiating and accepting connection requests from as many people as possible. Open Networkers typically have thousands of connections. This means that when they search for useful relationships (potential clients or business partners), they are much more likely to find them (exponentially more likely because of the way LinkedIn connections work).
The downside of this strategy is that with thousands of connections you don’t know each one very well, if at all. You’re essentially using LinkedIn as a giant business directory rather than as a way of making deeper connections. That’s neither good nor bad it just means that if you find someone you want to connect with through one of these shallow connections. It just you’re unlikely get a strong referral to them.
The other strategy is to have fewer but deeper connections is the Trusted Partner strategy. Here you only connect to people you already know and trust. Most likely from face-to-face interaction, but possibly from online interaction too. With this strategy you have less chance of finding someone via a search because you have less connections. But if you do find someone, it will be through someone who knows and trusts you and they will be able to give a strong referral to you and put you in touch with the person you’re interested in connecting with.
The downside to the Trusted Partner strategy is that it’s a bit like going to a face to face networking event and only speaking to the people you already know. You deepen your relationship with them but you don’t build any new relationships.
4. Use Search function to find potential clients and business partners
Many people get going on LinkedIn but fail to use it to help their business. One of the most effective ways to gain business value from LinkedIn is to find potential clients and business partners. LinkedIn allows the ultimate in specificity. You can search for exactly who you want to be referred to by company, by geography, by name, by job title, etc. You can search across your entire network at once, or, you can look at the contact list of an individual to see if there’s anyone you’d like to be connected to.
Once you’ve identified people you’d like to be introduced or referred to, rather than try to connect them directly, give your mutual connection a call and ask them if they can connect you. That’s much more polite than going direct, and it’s much more likely to be successful.
5. Give testimonials to get them
Testimonials are very helpful to have on your profile. They’re a clear indication of the quality of your work and the relationships you form. However, begging for a testimonial isn’t a great strategy. If you want to get testimonials, use LinkedIn to give them to people you’ve worked with and who have done a great job for you. LinkedIn will show them the testimonial to approve, then ask them if they want to reciprocate. Most likely, they probably will.
6. Have a helpful headline
When people find you in searches on LinkedIn, or when you contribute to Group discussions or in the LinkedIn Answers Q&A section; the first thing they see is a little box with your name, photo, and your headline. What most people have in their headline is their job title, for example: “Owner at X Company” or “Principal consultant at …. Ltd”. By default, unless you change it manually, LinkedIn takes the headline from your last job title.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t give people a clue as to whether you might be able to help them, or might be interesting to connect to. You should treat your headline like your introduction when networking. Focus on what you can do to help people. You can edit your Headline via the Edit My Profile option.
7. Join LinkedIn Groups to connect and interact
LinkedIn groups are essentially discussion forums for specific interest groups. They allow you to find out the latest news, and to join in debates on topics of interest. You should be joining groups both of interest to you professionally, and the groups where your potential clients hang out.
8. Update your status
Status updates are a good way of helping to stay top of mind with contacts. If you were to call or email all your contacts any time you did something small but interesting, it would quickly become seen as pushy or spammy. Updating your status is a “friendly” way of getting a gentle reminder out.
Depending on their settings, your contacts will get a regular email with a summary of the status updates of their contacts. And they will see the updates on their LinkedIn homepage. Mostly it will just be so and so updated their profile type messages. So if your status update has something interesting in it, it will remind them of the sort of thing you do and may even trigger them into action.
9. Watch others’ status updates to initiate contact
Keep an eye on status updates from others as it can be a good opportunity to get back in touch especially if they’ve changed jobs or have set out on a new venture. Even small status changes can help give you something to start a conversation the sort of small talk needed to keep dialogues and relationships going in between more meaty topics.
10. Link others who you think may benefit
Don’t wait for others to initiate a request to be linked up to your other contacts. Review your contact list regularly looking for ways to add value to them. One good way is to offer to link them up with potential clients or partners for them.