I love LinkedIn. It’s the best way to network with other professionals and generate leads, but it continually amazes me how many otherwise smart, capable people don’t use it properly. The most common mistakes people make are related to their profile and networking.
Here are 7 basic things to make sure you are – and are not – doing on LinkedIn as you expand your network and grow your company:
1. Fill it out completely
Yes, this means adding a photo, preferably one that has been professionally shot by a photographer. But it also means filling out all the fields completely: your current position, past jobs, awards, affiliations and education. Take your time and put some effort into it – you might be surprised by how often your profile gets viewed.
2. Ask for recommendations
Every time you complete a project with a client, ask them to write a two- or three-sentence recommendation that addresses what problem they had and how you solved it. Every time you get a recommendation, everyone in your network will see it and be reminded how good you are at what you do.
3. Write a summary that makes people want to work with you
Don’t just recite your CV. Get creative with your summary and really sell yourself by focusing on all of the benefits of working with you. Explain how your products and services solve your clients’ problems. Keep it friendly and approachable, rather than stiff and formal.
4. Keep your profile updated
Set a recurring note on your calendar to review your LinkedIn profile on a regular basis – every month or two. Make sure your products, services, capabilities, recent projects, etc. are up-to-date. It’s also a good time to think about asking people for recommendations and looking up people you have recently met.
5. Think carefully before contacting strangers
I am always shocked by how many invitations and messages I get from complete strangers. Contacting strangers out of the blue is a huge faux pas on LinkedIn. First check to see if you have any mutual connections, and if you do, ask that person for an introduction. If you don’t, see the next tip.
6. Always include a personalized message in your invitations
When sending someone an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, always include a personalized message. It could be a friend, someone you work with, someone you met last week, or a stranger (see above). Just remind that invitee why you want to connect with them – and how you know each other. If it’s a stranger, this is doubly important to do. Be very specific as to why you want to connect with them.
7. Keep messages brief
Need I say more? We are all busy. Be friendly, but get right to the point.
Image by Flickr user Dave Halley (Creative Commons)