As regular readers of this blog know, I think LinkedIn is a killer business app:Â in addition to networking, it isÂ a wonderful tool for both business intelligence and business development.
But LinkedIn is, first and foremost, about individuals so many of these points will address how individual people can use LinkedIn for business purposes rather than how a business itself can use LinkedIn. Companies can make the best use of it through their employees.
The reason for that is LinkedIn is a superb tool for creating, developing, and maintaining business relationships. It can be used to create awareness of yourself among those who do not know you but whom you’d like to know, i.e. potential clients. And it is a superb tool through which you can demonstrate your company’s competence and expertise in order to establish the trust upon which business relationships depend.
This, then, is my list of LinkedIn best practices:
- Find who you know. Start with your existing contacts by letting LinkedIn scan your email address book to find out who you know is on LinkedIn. Don’t worry, LinkedIn won’t automatically send requests to your contacts; you can choose to whom you want to send a request.
- Personalize your URL. Change your LinkedIn profile URL from the default set of numbers to your name. This helps people find you when they search for your name within LinkedIn as well as in Google and other search engines.
- Email marketing. Include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature.
- Add a picture to your profile. As I stated above, LinkedIn is about individuals so it looks odd when someone’s LinkedIn profile has a faceless silhouette rather than an actual photograph. Photographs personalize your profile.
- Ask to connect. Whenever you have interactions with people, ask them if they’re on LinkedIn and if they’d like to connect. I often send LinkedIn requests shortly after a business meeting in which everyone swaps cards. You’ve got their email address so it will be easy to find them on LinkedIn and you’ll be able to contact them and, considering you’ve just met with them, they likely have an interest in creating a relationship.
- The more you give, the more you get. Fill out as much of your profile as you can. The more information you put in, the more connections you’re making and by doing so, you’re creating more opportunities for people to find you.Â For example, by including former employers on your profile, you will be connected to other LinkedIn users who have worked for that company. Same with colleges: by including the colleges you attended, you’ll be connected to others who have attended the same college.
- Put yourself in the mind of the user. If they know you or know who you are, people will search LinkedIn by your name in order to find your profile. But if people are looking for expertise, they will likely be using topical searches such as “public relations professional” or “crisis communications expert.”
- Use keywords that people will likely be using in their searches. As you put yourself in the mind of the people by whom you want to be found, think about what searches they’d perform on LinkedIn in order to find you.Â Build up a list of those keywords and search phrases and use them throughout your profile.
- Don’t hide. All your search engine optimization will go to waste if you hide your profile. The two things that people do when researching business associates they have not met is Google them and search for their LinkedIn profile. Change the settings on your profile to “Full View” so your profile can be fully indexed by the search engines.
- Link to your profile. If you have a Web site or a blog or a Twitter account or other social media profiles, link to your LinkedIn profile from them. If possible, use your name in the text of the link. This helps the search engines find you and helps boost your rankings in the search results.
- Link to yourself. LinkedIn lets you include links to three Web sites on your profile. The drop-down menu offers options such as “My Website” and “My Blog” but you’ll want to choose “Other” so you can use your own text for the link. In addition to pointing people to your LinkedIn profile, you’ll also want to point people to any other online presence you may have. Think about the keywords to use in those links. I link to this blog, for example, with the text “Internet Marketing Blog” so it helps my search rankings for that phrase.
- Recommend. Give and ask for recommendations. But be sincere or it will not sound authentic. When you recommend someone and when someone recommends you, that fact is displayed on your profile for all to see. (Don’t worry, you can control which recommendations appear on your profile). Don’t be afraid to ask people who you think have high regard for you for a recommendation. Recommend those you think are worthy before they ask you to recommend them. They will often return the favor.Â Â Recommendations are yet another aspect of LinkedIn that helps to establish trust.
- Update your status. Update your status regularly and strategically. Use your status update to remind your network what you do and what you know. Example: “David is writing a LinkedIn best practices piece for his blog.” You can also use your status update to share articles with your network. If you provide interesting links the people in your network will be much more likely to pay attention to your updates, which keeps you top of mind and also positions you as knowledgeable in your area. That trust in your ability will make it much more likely that people will consider you as an expert to whom they can refer their contacts. If you plan on doing this, use a URL shortener like bit.ly to save space in your status updates and to track how many click-throughs a given link garnered.
- Learn Advanced Search. LinkedIn’s Advanced Search is extremely powerful. LinkedIn’s Advanced Search helps you find very targeted audiences. LinkedIn’s Advanced Search is your friend.
- Join industry groups. Search for and join industry-related LinkedIn groups , even if there is no activity within them. The icons for those groups will show up on your profile which tells people at a glance that you are involved in your industry and presumably knowledgeable about it. It also creates a connection between you an anyone else who is a member of that group. If the group is active, join in the conversation where appropriate. This is an opportunity to demonstrate yourÂ expertise.
- Post news. Many groups allow you to post links to news articles intended to spark conversation. More often than not, conversations do not arise from these links but that doesn’t mean that no one pays attention to them. Like status updates, this function can be used to position yourself as knowledgeable in your field. But think before you go down this route. Before you post anything, ask yourself if what you’re about to share is truly valuable to the group. If it’s sheer self-promotion don’t do it. Only post content that you sincerely feel will be of value to your fellow group members. I have shared some of my blog posts and, because the pieces were useful to the group members, I got a lot of traffic to my blog because people genuinely wanted to read it. If your article is not going to add value, it’s spam; don’t post it.
- Ask and you shall receive. If you want to make connections with a specific type of person, you can use LinkedIn’s Answer feature to try and attract them by posing a question the LinkedIn audience. Think about the type of person you want to reach and then formulate a question for which you think that person would have an opinion about that they’d like to share. If you’re looking for an open source web developer, for example, you might ask “Which is better, Drupal or Joomla?”
- Spread the love. Answer questions posed by others. This, again, is another aspect of LinkedIn that can be used to demonstrate your competence. Only answer the questions for which you know the answer intimately. If you use this tactic, don’t just do intellectual handstands to show off your knowledge, actually answer the question. Your attitude should be that you want to help the person who posed the question by sharing your expertise. If you are truly helpful to the person, they’ll consider assigning you as the best answer among the group. Your answer but also the fact that it was the best answer will be displayed on your profile.
- Install applications. LinkedIn doesn’t have many apps, but those that they do can be helpful for positioning and to create more contact points. The WordPress and BlogLink apps allow you to send your blog posts automatically to your LinkedIn profile. The Google Presentation and SlideShare apps let you embed PowerPoint presentations you’ve created into your profile. This is a superb way to demonstrate your expertise while also creating an incentive for people to keep an eye on you for your valuable content.Â Like the Answers feature, the Polls application can be used to attract a specific audience by carefully crafting the right poll question. If you travel a lot, the MyTravel application lets you know your network’s travel activity so you can see when your colleagues are in the same place, creating yet more opportunities to connect. The Amazon Reading List app lets you list the books you’ve read, the books you’re currently reading and those you’d like to read and it connects you with other who are using the app. This not only demonstrates more of your knowledge through your books but also creates more connection opportunities.
Mark Peter Davis posted his list of best practices that also includes using LinkedIn’s toolbars. I haven’t used them, so I can’t comment. The LinkedIn blog has posted Guy Kawaski‘s 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn, which is primarily aimed at using LinkedIn as a career tool but still has great insights. And Scott Allen has a massive list of 100+ Smart Ways To Use LinkedIn at his Linked Intelligence blog.