Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why be on LinkedIn?

As a B2B marketer, one of the things I do is press releases on new staff. Part of the need for those releases is to position the staff to our clients - "we hired this expert because they do X and Y" or "we heard you needed more support, we have expanded support staff to better meet that need" except in fluffier language. That release is usually the first introduction to new staff. But it is not the only one.

In this digital age, LinkedIn is a professional hotspot. Your profile on LinkedIn is your professional face to the world. (By extension, it is part of your company's brand - it is who you are at work.) As such, it is very important you spend a little time with your LinkedIn profile. It doesn't have to be long – 10 minutes a day for a week and your profile is built! 

I promise it is just that easy. Isn't your professional career worth 10 focused minutes a day? (This post is about y-o-u. Company profiles will be another entry, on another day - soon.) And wouldn't you rather control your professional digital reputation and strengthen your professional connections than just leave it to Fate? 

Day One
  • Put in your name. 
    • Do not use all capital letters – it reads as shouting.
    • Do not use all lower case letters, especially if you are a woman – it reads as not taking yourself seriously.
    • Do not put in your last name first
    • Do not add contact info to your name - there is a whole contact area for that. (It actually makes it harder to search for you.) Ditto for adding your job title into your name, for the same reasons.
  • Put in your current job 
    • If the company has a company page – but sure to use that link and spell out the company name in full (using the link will allow LinkedIn to suggest potential colleagues to connect to). If the company has a company page, when you type in the official company name - it is likely to come up with a logo. Just click it.
Notice the lower case? And the inaccurate run-on company name?
What is your first impression of this person?
      • And please - do not abbreviate the company name. B&GClubCityName is not real company. The Boys & Girls Club of CityName is, and should have a company page. (It increases your organization's visibility.) As a side note - I've noticed the people most often doing this are C-suite and should know the value of a brand.
    • SPELL both the company name and your title correctly (These are all real examples. From the last week.)
   

  • Put in the dates that you worked there
    • If you have held multiple positions, there are two schools of thought - pick your favorite:
        1. Put in your most current title only with total length of time at the job
        2. Put in every position you've ever held at the company
    • Put in a brief explanation of what you do
  • Put in your prior job and the dates you worked there following the same ideas outlined above.
Day Two
  • Input your college or university (years are optional but definitely the name and also your major) or any other applicable training.
    • Spell out the whole name. Do not abbreviate. Not everyone will know what you mean.
  • Consider your headline. It should be the value or service that you personally deliver.  (And again - spell it correctly) Your clients, internal and external, will be looking at this. THINK about what you want it to say about you.
    Spelling counts. It's not "cute" to use custom spelling.
Why is this person on THIS social network?

This is the BEST headline statement this person has?
 (FYI - this person has 10 years of business experience)

What does this headline tell you about WHY to connect with this person?

    • The headline should not be simply your title ("President" says nothing valuable) nor should it be your phone number (again, there is a contact section for that) nor should it be the company name.  (And if it says "experienced" or "professional" - please remove that IMMEDIATELY. One would hope you are both of those things to claim it in the header. If not - well, a quick glance at your profile will showcase that you are not.)
      • Best - hands down - example I've seen of late was the company president of a local communication company whose headline is "Purveyor of phenomenal network speeds at incredible prices." - With that headline, I know exactly why I'm calling that guy. (He nailed #2 on this list of Why You Need a LinkedIN Make-Over.)  
      • Another great headline is this one:


      • The headline should not be "looking for work" (that does not tell anyone what you are looking for work IN or - more importantly - why you would be a valuable hire for them.)
        • If you are looking for work - your brand story should (for darn sure) reflect how you added value at your prior places of employment.
    • Add another job, as appropriate. Try to add 1 per day until you have your full brand story listed.
      • Not every job you've ever had - just the jobs that tell your personal professional story.

    Day Three
    • Have you invited anyone to connect yet? Now is the time. Here are a few simple connection guidelines from a LinkedIN influencer. (I also do not accept invites where my name is spelled "Andrea")
    • Add 5 skills. These should be skills you actually have. (Ex: If you have Email Marketing as a skill – you should know the CAN-SPAM laws.)  They should also be skills you want customers to see as a value to them. Here are some skills with questionable value to potential customers:
      • My CEO friend who is an Excel wiz (NO. Just no.That should not appear in your skills.)
      • Business Owner friend who listed Budgets and Direct Sales last week  - you better be good at Budgets and Direct Sales as a business owner but maybe a better skill to list is something the customer might value like SEO since you make websites.
      • If you are in HR at a place where there are 5 marketing people including actual brand managers, listing "Employer Branding" as a skill is unlikely.
      • Try to use terms people know - Information Architecture sounds cool, but if I don't know what it is - I'm unlikely to endorse you for that skill.
      • (Psst! Mom – you should not have Social Media as a skill. You can't open your notifications on Facebook; last week you asked me what a hashtag means on Twitter and you've never heard of Pinterest. You should have Radio Copy or Radio Copywriting because you are awesome at that and do that often/well.)
    Day Four
    • You have had ample time to secure a decent photo 
      • The goal is for you to look like you (professional you*, that is) - this image is part of how people recognize you. (Read here for another pro's opinion the importance of a good headshot.) 
        • Do not stretch out the photo. You will look like a fun house mirror. 
        • Do get a professional headshot with a bit of touch-up if you can. (Not that that is always the answer - see below images of moi.)
      • No sunglasses shots (even though I think I look friendlier in them, the great personal brander Sima Dahl says they are passé); no selfies (especially the dreaded car selfie or duckface selfie); no shots on your couch or at a party - unless couch surfing and partying are part of your job; no pictures of your dog/your boat/motorcycle or your kids – this is not Facebook.
        • I'm horrified by the first one. It's current LinkedIn. The middle two are both ones I've used. I feel they capture "me" better but I bow to Sima Dahl's wisdom. She's written books, columns, white papers - and been featured in books as an expert. She created "The Sway Factor". She is the Personal Branding Queen.
        •  Also, LinkedIn has image rules. Images of your logo or kids or boat or dog instead of your image all violate them.
        • Actual LinkedIn image explanation
        • *Girl tip - do not put up a shot of you bare-shouldered on LinkedIn as your professional image. Yes, a bunch of guys will "like" your photo (they have imagined more) No, that image is likely not the profession you want to portray.

    Day Five

    • Time to link up - put in any links (websites, blogs, Facebook, etc) that you are associated with
      • Company website
      • Professional blog
      • Website for other organizations you are involved in
    • Fill in your contact info. If you are in any service profession – this is a non-negotiable. People must be able to call for your services. (Hint – we are ALL in service professions.)
      • Be sure to use a personal e-mail as your log-in. Too many people use a professional e-mail, then changes jobs. If this is happen to you and you are the proud owner of 2, 3 or 4 (I've seen it) profiles - contact the LinkedIn help desk. They will help you sort it out and make it easier for people to get in contact with the current you.
    • While you are in there - grab your profile name of preference.
    This is where it is - in the Profile edit

    This is why you want to do this. Much simpler for people to find and for you to use.
    Keeping it up - 10 minutes a day or 20 minutes a week, you choose
    • Make it a point to connect with people you meet for professional conferences, colleagues at work (current and former), etc. Set a goal for a certain number (5-10) of connections a month.
    • As your time allows, write a summary. Re-write it as your skills evolve. (Mine needs re-written this very minute). At least once a year you need to review it.
      • Think about how the summary will sound to people who read it. 

    This one made me queasy.
    I actually know and like her a good bit - but I have no idea what she actually does...
    • Join a professional interest group - or four or twelve. (I do recommend you start small and build.) Comment and engage as your interest and time allows. Not only do you get to "network" but you will learn new things.
    • Add more skills as applicable.
      • Personal pet peeve note - For the love of Mike, if you think you MUST list every single Microsoft skill you have (Excel, Word, etc) - you don't have the skill. They can all be grouped under Microsoft Office Suite - and should only be used if you plan to have administrative duties and are exceptional with them. Knowing how to proficiently use Microsoft Office Suite is pretty much expected in today's business world.
    • Like and share what connections post as they suit your tastes. And remember - you control how much interaction you have. Getting too many updates? Adjust your settings.




    • Endorse the skills of your connections, as appropriate.
    • Grow your profile. (Up top - the right when you are in "Edit Profile" mode.)




    • Write a recommendation or two (be very focused on the work you did together) for a former colleague or current colleague. 
    • If you are a "creative", look at additional streams for showcasing your work. (Example - re.vu , about.me, and there are several others.) Make those showcases your links in your profile. 

    To think about...

    • Ask a friend to look over your profile. (Offer to do the same.) Different eyes may notice things you missed.
    • Consider who you would like to link with – colleagues whose work you respect, clients, peers, vendors. Nothing says you can't link with your mother (hi, Mom) or your kids'  teachers or your friends - but they should not be your only links.
    • A professional blog is a great way to showcase what you do; however, do not hook up your personal blog as an RSS feed to your LinkedIn profile - especially if the blog features stories of your drunken twenties and dysfunctional family. Speaking for myself, I'm blocking your feed (hence I'll never see actual professional updates or information) because I'm on LinkedIn to work and share business information.
    • Do not try to sell your used tech trinkets in your update posts. LinkedIn is not Craigslist or Gazelle.
    • For mercy's sake - think about what's appropriate. Listing your name as "Big Love" or the below professional summary final sentence is seriously questionable.




    Disclaimer - I am not an HR professional nor a recruiter nor a personal branding expert. If you would like to read about LinkedIn for jobseekers, I recommend this article.

    I am someone who spends quality time on LinkedIn as part of her job and has spent a good bit of her life looking at resumes to find the "story." Plus I've been in the business world for over 20 years. This is - like much of this blog - my personal opinion backed by my professional experiences.

    Misleading title, but this New York Times article has similar LinkedIn suggestions
    And my new favorite LinkedIN how-to infographic

    July 31, 2014 Update - And for good gravy's sake - do not skimp on attention to your resume either!

    February 13, 2014 Update - Sima Dahl has another great short personal branding article about LinkedIn.

    December 10, 2013 Update - Apparently everyone is now on the "Your LinkedIn Profile Needs Fixed ASAP" bandwagon.