LinkedIn is the top social network for professionals. With over 150 million members worldwide and 280 million visitors per month, it is one that deserves your attention. LinkedIn offers several ways to build your personal brand and business reputation throughout their network as well as gain valuable traffic back to your website. This post will show you the important areas you need to be taking advantage of on LinkedIn for branding and traffic including your personal profile, groups, answers, company pages, and plugins.
LinkedIn Professional Profiles
The first thing you will want to do is create your professional LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn professional profiles generally rank in the top ten results for your name – my LinkedIn profile actually ranks above Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. This means that if someone is searching your name to research you for a job opportunity, partnership, or as the owner of a business, they will likely find your profile on LinkedIn.
Please note that some links throughout the article only work if you are logged in to your LinkedIn account.
If you’re just starting out with creating a LinkedIn profile, or want to make sure your current profile is filled out correctly, then let’s start with the most important elements of your LinkedIn profile.
The above is the first section of your LinkedIn profile. It is what everyone can see, assuming your public profile settings are visible to everyone. The key elements here include the following:
- Your Profile Picture – Put your best face forward with a professional headshot. Be sure to make it the same headshot you use on other profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) so that people connected to you elsewhere will recognize you easily on LinkedIn as well.
- Your Name – Use your real name only. Business names, keywords, and so forth in the name field violate LinkedIn’s user agreement as does creating a profile for anything other than a person.
- Your Headline – This is one of the best fields for keyword optimization in LinkedIn’s internal search. For example, if you’re a real estate professional, then be sure to include Real Estate in your headline. It will increase your chances of being found by those searching for someone in your industry.
- Your Current and Past Experience – Job titles are key in these areas as they also contribute to the keyword optimization of your profile. Be sure to include keyword optimized job titles with your job experience listings.
- Your Education – List your highest level of education you have completed along with activities and societies you have participated in at your school or university.
- Websites – Although they do not have any kind of SEO value, you do have the opportunity to add three custom links to your LinkedIn profile. When you add them, use the Other option so you can add in your own customized text to improve click through rates instead of using Company Website, Personal Website, or other bland wording.
Beneath this are additional sections that can be rearranged based on your needs and what information you would like to present first including the following:
- Your Summary – This section allows you to write a paragraph or two about yourself and your professional experience. Write it like you were introducing yourself for the first time to the audience you are looking for on LinkedIn including hiring managers, business partners, or potential clients.
- Your Specialties – Here, you will add the things you specialize in, whether they are particular skills, software, programming languages, and so forth.
- Your Skills and Expertise – Here, you will add keywords relating to skills in your industry. You can do a little LinkedIn keyword research for this section by going to the Skills & Expertise page and start searching for skills to see the page for that skillset. Look under the Related Skills for other ideas to add to your profile.
- Interests – Here, you can list some personal interests. Shared personal interests can be a great connecting point when working with another professional.
- Groups and Associations – If you belong to any well-recognized groups and associations, be sure to include them here.
- Personal Information – Add any contact information that you would like others to see on your LinkedIn profile including phone numbers, instant messaging, address, birthday, and marital status.
- Contact Preferences – Let other LinkedIn members know what connections you want to make including career opportunities, consulting offers, new ventures, job inquiries, expertise request, business deals, reference requests, and requests to reconnect.
If you already have a profile but haven’t updated it in a while, then you might want to make sure it is up to date as well as check out the newest profile features. To unlock these, click on the Edit Profile button when viewing your profile, and scroll down until you see this.
There, you will get access to the following sections.
- Certifications – If you have certifications from Microsoft, Google, or others that are industry specific, add this section to your profile and list them.
- Courses – Want to highlight particular courses you have taken at a university or through another educational resource? Add this section to your profile and let people know what you have learned.
- Honors and Awards – If you have major achievements that you want to not only list, but describe to a profile viewer, add this section to your profile.
- Languages – If being able to speak or write in other languages is important in your business, list them along with your proficiency level by adding this section to your profile.
- Organizations – If you belong to a prestigious organization at your university or within your industry, add this section to your profile and describe your participation level.
- Projects – Working on a noteworthy project? Add this section to your profile to highlight it along with other members of your team.
- Publications – If you have written any books, be sure to list the top ones in this section on your profile. The best part is that you can link to them so people can go directly to them on your website, Amazon, or another publisher’s site.
- Patents – Filed any patents? Add this section to your profile to describe, and don’t forget to mention the other inventors too!
- Test Scores – Taken any tests where the test scores will be important to your profile visitors? Add this section to your profile to list your scores.
- Volunteer Experience & Causes – Show your caring side by adding this section to your profile and describing your volunteer experience plus the causes you support.
LinkedIn offers Applications that you can install on your profile to enhance it for other LinkedIn members. These are not shown in the public view of your profile (i.e., they don’t show up for search engines), but they are shown based on your permissions to other members of LinkedIn.
You can see what applications are available to use in the Applications Directory. There are some that anyone can benefit from, such as the WordPress application that pulls in your latest blog posts to your profile or the Slideshare application that displays your latest presentation. There are also industry-specific applications for legal and Real Estate professionals.
Networking with other professionals on LinkedIn is different from connecting with the average Twitter user. LinkedIn specifically includes in their rules not to “Invite people you do not know to join your network.” Hence, you will want to build your LinkedIn network via the following:
- Import Email Connections – Using the Add Connections area, enter your email address to see if anyone in your contacts are on LinkedIn. You can also import desktop email contacts from systems like Outlook. This will send a generic invite to everyone in your email address book.
- Colleagues – Using the Colleagues area, find people on LinkedIn who work at the same companies that you currently or previously worked for. When you view colleagues for a particular company, it will bring up a checklist of employees for that company. Select the ones you want to connect with, then include a personal note with your invitation to ensure they know who you are and why you’re connecting with them.
- Alumni – Using the Alumni area, find people on LinkedIn who attended the same schools and universities that you did. This will show you profiles of people from your school along with a summary of where people work now, what they do, and where they live.
- People You May Know – Using the People You May Know area, find people who you might know based on mutual connections.
Other ways to grow your connections include the following:
- Participating in LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers.
- Adding a link to your LinkedIn profile on your website, emails, and other social profiles.
- Using the People Search to find people at specific companies, living in particular countries, and working in related industries.
If you do decide to try to connect with someone that may not know you well, be absolutely sure that you defend your network invite in the personal note section, such as saying you just purchased their book or saw them speak at a major conference. If you invite people to your network and they mark your invitation as someone they do not know, you will be banned (temporarily) from inviting new people to your network unless you know their email address.
Last, but not least, on the list of important things for the LinkedIn professional profile is recommendations. Recommendations are testimonials given to you by other LinkedIn members for specific job experiences you have listed on your profile. There are three ways to increase your recommendations on LinkedIn.
- Ask for Recommendations via LinkedIn – If you go to your Recommendations Manager, you will see a listing of all of your job experiences and a link next to each to Ask to be endorsed. Alternatively, you can use the Ask for Recommendations link on your profile which will have a drop down of your jobs. You can then ask up to 200 people in your LinkedIn network for their endorsement of your work at a particular job. Be sure to include a personal note as to why you selected them for possible recommendations. The best time to ask is if you have recently done something good for them – a time when they are likely to write a glowing review of your work.
- Ask for Recommendations via Email – If you want to go for a very personal invite with someone you work with, ask them via email to visit your LinkedIn profile and recommend you for a particular job.
- Give Recommendations – In some industries, reciprocation is equal to a thank you. By adding recommendations to your colleagues’ profiles, they may reciprocate by adding a recommendation to yours. Be sure to only recommend people who you truly believe in – not just in the hopes that they will recommend you back.
Now that you’ve established a strong LinkedIn profile, let’s look at the ways you can use it to increase your network, spread your message, and build your authority.
Your first stop for marketing on LinkedIn should be LinkedIn Groups. You can find groups within your niche or industry two ways. You can use the Groups Directory to search for keywords related to your industry or use the Skills pages to see top groups recommended for each skill.
Once you find some groups that fit your interests and industry, click on the Join button to become a member. Some groups will automatically accept you, while others require administrator approval. When you become a member of a group, take a look at the recent group activity. This is how you will find out what you can get away with in the group. While some groups have tough moderation in place to remove spam, other groups allow free posting by group members of any discussions they choose.
How do groups help with marketing? The groups that allow you to post anything (related to the group topic, of course) will allow you to link to your latest website content. This is a prime way to promote your blog posts or informational website articles. You can post links to your latest content in LinkedIn groups by going to the group, starting a discussion and attaching a link. Alternatively, you can share a link on your profile, then click on the Share link beneath that to Post to Groups. Select all of the groups that might be interested in your content by typing their name into the box, add a subject & details, then click Share.
If you share a link on your LinkedIn profile, it will be potentially seen by only your connections. But if you share a link on your LinkedIn profile and within relevant groups, it will be potentially seen by your connections and members of the group. This will increase your exposure (and traffic) exponentially.
When you do post a link in a LinkedIn group, be sure to keep up with any comments on your link. This will show group members that you are engaged with them and not just promoting yourself. Another benefit of being active in groups is that you get the chance to be listed on the group’s homepage as a Top Influencer of the Week.
The next area to demonstrate your expertise and potentially drive a little traffic to your website is LinkedIn Answers.
Here, you can find questions from other professionals in topics ranging from Administration to Technology. Answer questions from other members often in topics related to your industry – this will help other people notice you as an expert. When applicable, you can also leave links along with your answers for more information – this can be a great way to drive a little extra traffic back to your website.
LinkedIn Company Pages
Want to promote your business on LinkedIn? Then Company Pages are your answer.
You can add your company using the Add a Company form. Then, be sure to take advantage of different sections of the LinkedIn company profile including the following:
- Overview – The company page overview allows you to add your company logo, description, website address, company industry, type, size, locations, specialties, and company blog RSS feed so your page will be updated with your latest blog posts.
- Careers – Take advantage of the top social network of professionals by posting your current job listings on your company page. Pricing varies based on the location of your job posting.
- Products & Services – The products and services section of your company page allows you to showcase the top products and services your business has to offer. Each product and service description can include a link to its page on your website, a YouTube video, and additional details. Keep conversions in mind when writing your products and services’ descriptions. Also, consider adding a Recommend Button to your products and services’ website pages so LinkedIn members that have used them can recommend them.
Also, be sure to use the new Company Follow Button on your website. With one click, logged in LinkedIn members will be able to start following your company updates. For example, you can click on the following button to follow KISSmetrics on LinkedIn.
You can also check out the additional LinkedIn Plugins that allow you to feature information from your company page, job listings, how to apply for careers via LinkedIn, and more.
LinkedIn, like Facebook, has their own advertising system. The advantage of using LinkedIn advertising is that it is going to be in front of a strictly professional audience. To learn more about LinkedIn advertising, read the KISSmetrics Guide to LinkedIn Ads.
Do you use LinkedIn for marketing your professional brand and business? Please share your tips and strategies in the comments!
About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing for personal, professional, and business bloggers. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.