Five Things I Learned: “Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn”

–Hey Dan, have you watched any of that Social Media summit thing we signed up for?

–I watched part of one, then I had to go to a meeting. You?

–No, but I’m going to today.

–Yeah, me too.

Yeah, right.

We’ve been saying this for three weeks. Which is when we registered for the 2010 Social Media Success Summit. A series of online lecture-style sessions, this event covers everything from creating buzz with online contests to successfully using Facebook for more than seeing cute pictures of your friends’ babies.

Why did we sign up? We want to be able to help our clients use social media successfully. You know, beyond delicately suggesting their dirt-dumb intern not be the one to write the company Tweets just because he knows how to set up a Twitter account.

So to get ourselves to actually watch these, we decided to present our findings from each session in an easily digestible blog series entitled, “Five Things I Learned.”

Since I’ve recently been feeling guilty about never checking my LinkedIn account, I decided to first check out “Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn: The Business Social Network,” by Lewis Howes.

Here are five things I learned about creating an effective LinkedIn profile and a few other cool things. (Sorry, Howes played to the beginner-to-intermediate crowd — no advanced tips here. Maybe at another session.)

First off, in case you are a real beginner, LinkedIn is an online networking site geared toward a business crowd. It also happens to be the world’s largest audience of affluent professionals with 65 million users with another joining every second.” As Howe reminds us, this means there is a huge, untapped market of potential clients and employers. He’s right. So here’s what you do:

Lesson One: Don’t just complete your profile, optimize it.

And you thought optimizing was just for websites. Nope. First, figure out what your keyword (or words) is — something that easily identifies who you are. No, not like “warm-hearted” and “playful.” This is a business site, people. I mean “cosmetic dentist” or “copywriter.” Use that word or its variations (I used copywriter and copywriting services) in five key places on your profile:

  1. Professional headline
  2. Current job
  3. Past job(s)
  4. Summary
  5. Specialties

This dramatically increases the chance you’ll be one of the first cosmetic dentists, copywriters (or whatever) when someone needing these service does a LinkedIn search.

Lesson Two: Make the most of your profile headline.

Don’t get lazy here and just use a single word or phrase, like “accountant” or “job-seeking accountant.” This should be a shortened version of your profile — a one-sentence action-oriented summary of your professional identity. It’s the first and often the only thing that someone will read before deciding if you’re worth their time.

Lesson Three: Include just enough personality.

People like working with people they like. And as we all know, the business world can be cold and impersonal. The easiest place to add in a little business-appropriate personality is in “Specialties.” So after boasting about your impressive Flash animation skills, why not boast about your exceptional quiche-making skills? More often than not, it will serve as an entry point into what is really a conversation between strangers — kinda like a cocktail party icebreaker.

Lesson Four: Join some groups.

Click on groups at the top menu bar and do a search for groups related to your profession, alma mater, geography and interests. For example, I joined a few Boston business groups, Colby College groups and copywriting groups. But also think about who hires you and join those groups, too. For example, I joined a few design groups since many of my clients are designers. Try to post in group discussions to get your name out there. And many groups allow you to send email to the whole group. Just don’t abuse this privilege.

Lesson Five: Don’t ask for recommendations. Give them instead.

Not only do you build goodwill by writing a recommendation un-asked, it’s the most effective way to get one in return. And a bunch of great recommendations — well, they’re a great thing to have.

Bonus tip: If you have a work-related blog, link it to your LinkedIn profile. Any time there’s a new post, it will appear on your profile automatically.

Conclusion: LinkedIn may be the ugly stepsister to sexy Facebook, but she’s worth a second look (if only for her money).

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