Is LinkedIn right for me and my business and how do I get the best out of it?

I receive more and more questions from people asking whether or not they or their employees/colleagues should be on LinkedIn. With any social media, I always say it’s best to avoid the ‘scattergun’ approach and instead only use the channels that suit your business model and personality. LinkedIn has its place and provides a variety of benefits when used correctly – emphasis on correctly. Here’s my take on who should use it and how to best make it work for you.

Is LinkedIn for me?
The first thing I must stress, even though for many people this is common sense – is that LinkedIn is for business, not pleasure. Keep personal photos on Facebook please! I still see holiday, home renovation or new car pictures on LinkedIn and it makes me cringe.
LinkedIn is for anyone looking to enter into a profession such as university students and graduates (yes it’s for you too!), or for anyone already within a profession that wants to network professionally. If you need to network for your career, then this is the place for you.

I’ve signed up – what next?
Think of LinkedIn as your digital CV – and as with any CV, it must be kept up to date. When you create a profile it has a completion bar – similar to when you’re completing levels on a video game. Refer to the profile completion bar and the tasks it sets for you in order to ensure you’re on the right lines.

In essence, look to have the following basics in place first:

  • Profile photo (professional headshot – no night out snaps!)
  • Completed ‘About’ section with a comprehensive summary of you, your career, skills and achievements
  • Full list of your career experience with company names, start and end dates and role overviews
  • Full list of educational achievements with dates and institutions
  • Full list of certifications achieved outside of mainstream education – especially those relevant to your career
  • A minimum of x5 skills that people can endorse you for

Other areas to complete include projects and voluntary experience – do not ignore these. If you have relevant experience, include it. Giving and receiving recommendations is another powerful tool and adds kudos to your profile – so see if any of your close contacts are happy to trade a recommendation with you. And finally for business owners or marketing managers, ensure your company has a business profile with all relevant fields completed. This allows employees to add this page as their employer – further sharing the brand name and its profile to a wider audience.

My profile’s complete, job done?

No, your work is never done. LinkedIn is the largest digital networking space available – so make digital networking your new priority. Don’t feel that you have to strike up long conversations every minute of every day, but don’t be a stranger either. Connect with people you know – starting with colleagues – then work outwards to suppliers, customers/clients, people you’ve met at face-to-face networking events, and continue this process going forward.

Once you’re connected, like, comment on and share people’s posts where appropriate and generally interact with your network. Don’t be afraid to share your own business milestones, achievements and expertise in posts or articles either – this is your chance to put yourself out there as a thought-leader for your industry without forcing a hard sell. For every interaction with your content, the reach for your brand is widened considerably. And on the subject of interacting, please don’t spam people’s LinkedIn inboxes with salesy messages – big turn off!

Always keep one thing in mind – brand image

Remember that when using LinkedIn, you’re the face and voice of your company or employer. Your actions and use of language reflect the brand you represent – so always be mindful of this.

For many, this is common sense and in my experience I’ve never seen someone post something that’s got their business in trouble on LinkedIn. I would not ask employers to set out too many ground rules because you don’t want to stifle people’s personalities. As with any networking or business transaction, people interact with and buy from people. You don’t want your employees to be false – they must be themselves. If you trust them to represent your company in the real world then they should be trusted to use LinkedIn appropriately.

All of the above is important in the short-term. Long-term, it’s then about maintaining your presence and continuing to interact with people. One saying that we live by at The Dairy is “the more we talk, the more we hear”. That’s definitely true if you want to make LinkedIn work for you and your business.

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