LinkedIn is the preeminent social media platform for business purposes. With over 560 million active users, it is very important that your business have a LinkedIn presence and that you follow some simple steps to extract maximum benefit from your efforts. If you follow a few LinkedIn best practices, you reap the rewards.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression (and it also helps with SEO results). In your profile, add a photo, your name, a professional headline, your city and industry.
First things first, always add a recent photo. The profiles that don’t have a photo just look like they don’t care and do nothing to build trust. To the extent possible use a professional photo of you alone. Adding a photo will get you 21 times more profile views and a professional headshot will get you even more.
Second, think about your industry carefully as you could very well fall into a few different categories. For example, university professors that also provide coaching fall within the education and professional training industries. Think about what kind of exposure you hope to get from LinkedIn and choose the industry that matches your goal.
Lastly, often people make the mistake of thinking that their professional headline should be their job title. Your professional headline should be relevant to your occupation but it should also include words that people search for. You have 120 characters for your headline—use them. For example a good professional headline for an experienced lawyer might be “senior counsel in boutique law firm, XYZ, advising clients in the oil and gas industry on mergers and acquisitions” rather than “Senior Partner at XYZ.”
Right below your profile, there is a section called summary. Search engines pay particular attention to this section so you should too. This 2,000-character space is where the LinkedIn algorithm searches for keywords. Make sure to add the keywords that your target audience is looking for. If you have a premium account, LinkedIn will suggest keywords that will help with your SEO rankings.
Resist the urge to copy and paste your resume. In this section, outline clearly what you can do for others. Although people care about what university you attended, they care more about whether you have built a network or helped others increase their sales.
Quantify with percentages and numbers: Last year, we increased website conversions by 77% or or sold 10 times or saved $X million. While you are completing this section imagine the reader asking “What can you do for me?”
You can also include relevant media such as articles you have published or videos of presentations you may have given. You could even post a screenshot of a testimonial or case study from your website. Studies have shown that listing 5 or more skills will increase your profile views by 17,000%.
What you use as your contact information depends on your comfort level on giving out your personal information. If you don’t already have a 1-800 number, we always recommend getting a Google number that you can dedicate to LinkedIn. You can do the same with an alternate email address.
Get a customized LinkedIn URL of either your name or your area of expertise, such as “MarketingExpert.” Since many areas of expertise are already used, you will likely just go with your first and last name or something close (such as adding your middle name or initial).
Connect with People You Know
Connections are important but when you are starting out, only connect with folks that you actually personally know or have worked with. Connect with colleagues, alumni, friends, and family. If you send out too many invitations that remain unanswered LinkedIn may limit your future invitations to connect. LinkedIn is about building trust. It is important to grow your network of connections but don’t burn any bridges by appearing too spammy. Once you have established your profile and gotten some recommendations, there are ways to increase the number of connections you have which will be discussed a bit later in this article. Aim to have at least 300 connections to get the most out of LinkedIn but stay below 3,000 connections. Always to remember to add a personal note of invitation to all that you seek a connection with.
Ask for Recommendations
LinkedIn allows you to ask your connections for recommendations and post them to your profile. You will see and approve the recommendations before they are posted. This feature should be used to reinforce the information in your professional headline and summary sections. People browsing your profile will see these recommendations, as will the LinkedIn connections of the people who have recommended you.
At the same time, Linkedin recommendations are known for being generally positive and therefore aren’t particularly persuasive. Do your best to request recommendations from the folks who are best positioned to speak authoritatively about your skills, such as former employers and satisfied customers. Try to give your recommendations talking points about the skills you would like them to emphasize. Aim for approximately 10 references. The guys on your hockey team think you are the best but they shouldn’t be asked to give you a recommendation.
This is a muddy area. If you have a large network you will end up getting endorsements from people you don’t know for things you don’t do. Fortunately, you can delete endorsements and reorder them for relevance. Opting out of endorsements solves that problem but having zero endorsements might look odd. When you endorse someone else, they often will endorse you back. It is likely best to opt-in and cull when needed.
Join and Participate in LinkedIn Groups
You are entitled to join up to 100 different LinkedIn groups. You should take advantage of this and join every relevant group you can find. This is an easy way to increase your network and your visibility by contributing to discussions. Local groups can also keep you in the loop about offline networking activities and events. There isn’t any need to participate in order to get some benefits—like being able contact other group members—although participating in groups gives even greater benefits. You don’t need to restrict yourself to industry-specific groups. Group participants get 4 times the amount of profile views. Remember, you will want to join the groups that have your ideal customer, not necessarily the groups that contain your competitors (although there might be some overlap.)
Ask for Introductions
This is a great way to increase the number of your connections. Asking for an introduction to a third party (2nd degree connection) from a connection you already have (1st degree connection) is a friendly and effective way to grow your connection network. On the free version of LinkedIn, you have 5 free introduction requests. If you browse the connections of one of your connections, you may invite them directly to connect but only do this if you know the person professionally. It is better to ask your connections to introduce you by sending your profile and a note to someone in their networks.
Continue to Build Your Network and Update on a Regular Basis
It's important to note that you can only find members within your 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-degree networks, or if you're a member of the same group. This makes it extremely important to growing your network if you want to find prospects. Also, stay in contact with your connections with updates, which are widely reviewed. Respond to their updates by sending notes of congratulations on a new position or achievement.
Consider Signing up for a Premium LinkedIn Sales Account
Paid accounts offer some benefits over a free LinkedIn account but not everybody needs a paid account. If you are working in your free LinkedIn account and you keep getting little pop-ups asking ‘if you want to see this upgrade’ then you would probably benefit from upgrading. If you are not seeing the message, you are likely fine with the free.
Premium account holders can send a limited number of "LinkedIn InMails" directly to the sales prospects they find. Users on a free account do not have the ability to send InMail. This is a big plus. InMails are "guaranteed opened," meaning, if the person you are trying to contact does not open the message within seven days, your credit is refunded. The cost of paid accounts range from a few hundred to a few thousand per annum. When you first start out on LinkedIn, it is hard to know whether or not you should upgrade. We suggest starting with a free account and putting a sincere effort into mastering the free account (including all of the steps above) before you upgrade to a paid account. Creating a masterful LinkedIn presence takes some effort and if you aren’t able to put in the effort on a free account, you likely won’t on a paid account.
Send Optimized LinkedIn InMails
As mentioned above, InMails are messages sent via LinkedIn to the prospect you want to contact with. InMail messages can have up to 200 characters in the subject line and up to 2,000 characters in the body. It’s important to keep in mind that your email signature is counted in the total number of available characters. Because you pay for these, you will want to make them count. Make every InMail as easy to read as possible. Use short sentences and short paragraphs and lots of white space. Use simple terminology and no terminology the recipient might not be familiar with. Remember that putting in a personal note referencing your connection to the prospect increases your success dramatically. Since you only have a limited number of InMails, you may want to use other ways of contacting prospects outside of LinkedIn.
Keep your LinkedIn profile professional. Use other social media platforms for family updates, political discussions or pictures of your lunch.
Not every connection is a good connection. Your connections can see others on your network and might take the connection as an implied endorsement.
Avoid "spamming" connections with unhelpful or irrelevant updates. This will make you unpopular. There are people on LinkedIn who call themselves "LIONs" who accumulate tens of thousands of connections. Don’t be a LION.
The biggest mistake is that folks don’t follow up with their contacts after a connection has been made. Following up and building relationships is vital to getting the most out of LinkedIn. Secondly, don’t make a sales pitch too soon or online as you might destroy trust or be flagged as spammy. If you move too quickly with a sales pitch you will reduce your chances of taking the relationship offline, which is where the deals are made. This leads to the third most common mistake: never taking the relationship offline. Once you build rapport get offline and have a chat.