Words by Amy Fowler
LinkedIn is the world’s largest social network for professionals, with 380 million members reported in the 2nd quarter of 2015. If you use LinkedIn right, you could find the vast majority of clients using this powerful platform. There are countless ways to use LinkedIn to search for prospects and be found by those looking for your services, but we recommend you follow these 5 essential steps to get started.
Create a great profile
First of all you will need a front-facing, professional photograph, with minimal background ‘noise’. Ladies, it is perfectly acceptable to get your hair and make up done before you have the picture taken. After all, you want to show yourself in the best possible light, right? And don’t forget to smile!
LinkedIn has a high PageRank in Google, therefore you will need to write your profile with search engines in mind so that your profile appears as high up as possible when people search for you or your service. Your headline is a key part of this. Use short, informative phrases separated with the | symbol to help you pack in as much information as possible (e.g. Social Media | Search Engine Optimisation | Marketing Planning).
Use the summary section to let people know what you are really all about. They will probably decide to read on based on this section so make it informative and enthusiastic. What you can do (ideally results you can achieve), who you have done it for (your past work) and which particular skills and experience you have that make you fantastic at what you do.
Keep your profile up to date with fresh content. Update regularly with news about your sector or your business, any professional achievements or your latest blog post. These updates will automatically be notified to all your connections and keep you front of mind with people who may be able to give you work or recommend you to someone else.
Start by all means with your current contacts. Most of them will already be on LinkedIn. The real beauty of platforms such as LinkedIn is the exponential growth in the number of people you can reach through your contacts or your contacts’ contacts (referred to as ‘degrees of separation’). Don’t just connect with as many as possible, but target those you would really like to connect with. Search by company name or a person’s name that you are targeting and LinkedIn will show you how you are connected to them, giving you a potential route for getting a warm introduction to them.
I recommend you don’t use the ‘import contacts’ function. This will invite everyone on your contact list to LinkedIn, even if they are already registered under a different email address to the one you hold for them. It is much better practice to be selective about who you invite to connect.
Make sure you personalise your invitation to connect with them (perhaps referring to the last time you met and mentioning why you would like to connect with them).
Get recommendations from as many relevant people as you can. Don’t just get them to write what a ‘nice’ person you are, but get them also to think about what you helped them achieve. Write testimonials for others who have done a great job for you.
Join groups and get involved in discussions
Find relevant groups. There are countless groups on LinkedIn that are of particular relevance to your industry sector. If you are job-hunting or are a freelancer looking for clients, you may wish to join the specialist recruiters’ LinkedIn groups to keep up to date with latest job vacancies. It is always a good idea to join groups that focus on your particular sector and function.
Ideally, get involved in discussion groups where your target markets ‘meet’ and get involved in answering or posting questions that are of interest to them. Following these discussions is a great way of identifying the key issues that concern them (and ways that you can offer your services to help them!).
You may simply wish to join certain groups to keep abreast of issues that interest you. Remember that you can ‘un-join’ groups any time, thus avoiding the email ‘digests’ that arrive in your inbox every so often (these can also be turned off or their frequency adjusted in your account settings).
Groups are a great way to find out about available job roles. Every group has a ‘Jobs’ tab, in which recruiters and clients can post LinkedIn sponsored jobs (paid adverts), or free ‘job discussions’. Be sure to check these pages every so often, especially in niche groups that apply to your sector.
Remember, time is money, so don’t waste it. Yes, I’m looking at you.
Lastly, keep your time spent on LinkedIn to a minimum. Spend time creating a great profile and connecting with important people in your network. Allot a small amount of time each day (we recommend no more than 30 minutes) to connect, read, comment and update, so that you stay in touch with your network.
This was first published on the Siren Digital blog and has been re-edited for Accounting for Less.