By the time you finish reading this article, LinkedIn will have added more than 500 new users.  By the end of the year, they’ll topple 500MM users. Last week, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26.2B cash, an unprecedented deal for a social network. A mature platform by social media standards, its warehouse of data about how people work and are connected holds more business value today than ever before. On June 14th twenty-nine young professional women and men joined us for the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber Spark Workshop at the beautiful Knoll offices to learn more about how to use the platform to showcase their professional talents and gain important business connections. Reknowned photographer David Brown and his team updated headshots while I interacted in a live website presentation. In case you missed it, here are a few tips on how to use this powerful social network to your advantage:

 

  1. Your LinkedIn profile is a personal brand, not a resume

It’s critical to have the right mindset when approaching LinkedIn. Often treated as a static resume site, it holds tremendous opportunity to represent your professional position to the marketplace. From the companies you represent and have contributed your talents, to awards, certifications and actual work product or portfolio, it can all be showcased here. And although it may not take the place of your website, it can certainly do double-duty in driving online traffic and keeping you and your brand highly ranked in the search engines. It’s a sales and marketing tool, not a bio.

 

  1. Write for humans AND for robots

To be effective on any social network it’s important to have an understanding of not only how it works, but some of the hidden rules of the platform. For instance, did you know that LinkedIn has its own algorithm that determines how highly you rank in its internal search? And, since it’s a person-to-person network, once you do show up in search, you want your introduction and descriptions to read friendly and conversational to your potential connections. The way you might in networking face to face. You can email strangers you’d like to meet, but be cautious about coming across too salesy – or worse, spamming – because your account could be suspended. Taking time to learn both the etiquette and functionality of LinkedIn helps to give you a leg up.

 

  1. Make yourself findable

Sales and recruiting “hunters” will certainly be interested in the deep search and prospecting tools available on LinkedIn both through the free and paid versions. But “being found” is an often-neglected method of inbound marketing that requires much less active effort. You can search optimize your profile by a number of methods such as ensuring you have a profile photo uploaded, or working toward a profile that is at one hundred percent completion, as well as using key search words strategically throughout. Past jobs and education you list are dynamically paired by LinkedIn to those who list the same and are suggested as “People You May Know.” And, connecting your phone number and multiple email addresses tells the LinkedIn apps that the person in your phone address book is probably a good connection, in addition to keeping their contact information for you always-up-to-date!

 

  1. Use social proof to your advantage

You are, in many ways, who you know, especially in business. In addition to being represented by your own network, including who you have in common with others, Connections can see the Groups you follow and participate in, what you choose to share and comment on in LinkedIn, whether you publish, which other profiles were viewed alongside yours in search, and the often misunderstood Endorsements (skills) and Recommendations (testimonials). We’ve always looked to those we trust and respect for advice and confirmation, so much so that Robert Cialdini’s bestselling book Influence lists consensus as one of the six pillars of persuasion. LinkedIn makes this even more transparent to others.

 

  1. Invest 10 minutes a day

You’re busy, I get it. So let’s boil this down to being manageable in the time you might spend in a waiting room, or waiting on a coworker to be ready to go to lunch. If you have ten minutes a day, your most important ways to spend it on LinkedIn are to first, get your profile polished and to one hundred percent completion. LinkedIn serves up complete profiles first in search, and you don’t want to drive connections to look at profile that doesn’t yet represent you well. Next, keep adding Connections. Add everyone you know, everyone you exchange business cards with and everyone you’re going to meet for the first time at coffee. Last, spend some time interacting by congratulating someone on a job change or work anniversary, sharing an interesting article or by joining a conversation within a Group. With 433MM people and growing by 2 new members per second, LinkedIn is the biggest and most powerful networking group you can invest time.

 

Raissa Evans shares occasional tips and tools on marketing strategy and technology to help you and your business, sign up to receive free updates at http://bit.ly/RRSignup.

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