Anyone launching a new business has a plethora of details to attend to.
Some of the most important include establishing credibility, providing proof of expertise, and building key relationships that can help you create a firm footing for your business right from the outset.
Of all the online platforms that can help you do just this, LinkedIn is perhaps the most beneficial. That said, you have to know how to get the most out of what the website has to offer.
In an interview for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s business school, Associate Director of Career and Leadership Services for Working Professionals Mary Ryan provided a number of strategies for leveraging LinkedIn for business success. This article is a summary of those strategies and includes additional pointers to help you get ahead.
1. Optimize your profile to attract better results
According to Mary, a great LinkedIn profile comprises six essential ingredients:
- A professional picture that actually looks like you and that serves as a tool to help others remember who you are and that you appear competent and friendly. Unless you haven’t changed at all, a picture of you taken ten years ago isn’t a great fit. Neither is a picture of you with your best friend. You should be the only one in the picture.
- A searchable name. You should include maiden names and nicknames in parentheses, if applicable.
- A keyword-rich headline that is professional and includes terms specific to the types of business relationships you’re interested in attracting. This will help the “right” people find you, including potential clients and individuals who are important to have in your network. LinkedIn will auto-populate your headline according to your current job title, but Mary recommends changing it to fit your needs.
- A broad business location instead of the little village you reside in. Pick the largest metropolitan area near you to show that you’re a business-that-means-business, and so that people are aware you’re willing to travel further afield (if you’re a services business and only if this is the case).
- A broad industry descriptor, even if you serve a specific niche. This will help you achieve a broader reach, and allow you to pick and choose who and what will best serve your business needs.
- A custom URL for your LinkedIn site. If you haven’t already got one, you can create one with the help of this LinkedIn tutorial. It will look cleaner if you choose to include it on your business cards, and will be much easier to remember, or even guess if someone is trying to find you.
2. Make your summary section a “gift”
Just as a good resume provides key information concisely, Mary says your summary section should do the same. “Consider it a gift to your reader. If they only have time to look at the first third of your profile, they’ll get all of the key information they need.”
Just as a good blog post incorporates many components—such as pictures, hyperlinks, and text that’s broken up with subheadings and bullets—Mary recommends doing the same thing with your LinkedIn profile. Solid text is difficult to scan, and, unless you’re a wordsmith, can be boring to boot.
Incorporate some variety to give it flavor and show off your personality. As you do this, ensure consistency as well.
As Forbes contributor William Arruda notes, “[Your summary] makes people want to know more about you and ultimately connect with you one-on-one […] You need to make sure the bio you present online matches your real-world self.”
3. Show that you’re awesome
Mary says the experience section is where you can show off your “awesomeness factor”—but you’ll have to put some elbow-grease into ensuring that you do. This means that beyond providing a generalized list of roles and achievements, you’ll need to add the details that quantify your results, describing your achievements in terms of specific outcomes.
As Power Formula notes, the experience section is prime real estate, with 2,000 characters provided for every role you’ve ever had. Within this valuable land, you have the opportunity to tell your unique story that establishes your brand, as well as the ability to include specific keywords that will tap into search algorithms to help others find you more easily.
4. List your skills strategically
Instead of allowing LinkedIn’s nature to take its course, rearrange your top 10 skills according to what you want your business to be known for. List them in order of priority so prospects see what you feel is most important first.
LinkedIn author Mathieu Bastian says that skills provide a competitive edge on the platform, with members who list them receiving an average of 13 times more profile views than those who don’t. With more than 45,000 skills available, surely you can find one or two that will be a perfect match.
5. Use LinkedIn group power
LinkedIn groups are a great way to build a network with other professionals in your industry, both as a means of expanding your network and forming relationships with potential clients. They provide you with the ability to stay on top of industry trends and position yourself as a thought leader if you participate on a regular basis.
Following some specific strategies and best practices when joining and participating in LinkedIn groups is key, including making sure they’re relevant, that you’re respectful of others who you may disagree with, and that you follow up with new connections.
6. Ask for recommendations
Social proof can be powerful when you’re trying to establish credibility for both you and your business. An effective way to provide such proof is to include recommendations you’ve received from others on your profile. This guide will help you understand how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.
Just as product reviews are helpful prior to purchasing a new item, so the positive reviews of others can convince those who don’t yet know you that you’re really worth the risk. Honest and authentic recommendations can help you stand apart from others in your industry—especially if they’re specific.
To help grease the process, provide those you ask to recommend you with the details of what you’d like them to include. Make sure the information you send them aligns with your business goals. Otherwise, they’ll likely be kind but too general, and you won’t get the concrete and meaningful recommendations that will serve you best.
LinkedIn is a powerful platform to help support business success, especially if you use strategies like these to leverage its potential for meeting your needs as an individual and company you lead.