In order to position yourself to leverage LinkedIn for you and your business, here are the four areas on which you need to focus.
First, understand what LinkedIn means to you personally. LinkedIn is the new resume. We all know how frustrating it can be to limit our accomplishments to two lines and hopefully keep that resume to one or two pages. If used properly, LinkedIn gives you the room and breadth to help bring your resume to life. I often say that LinkedIn allows you to tell your story and not just list bullet points of your accomplishments. After a resume has cleared my HR department and made its way to me, if I like what I see, my next step is to look at that person's LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is where I go when I want to know more about what they did at a particular company.
Second, put your photo on LinkedIn. What are you afraid of? You put your photo on your MySpace and Facebook pages. You probably have a Flickr account, and maybe you've even done some online dating. You put your photo there, so put it up on your LinkedIn page. I'm looking to see that you embrace new technology and that you are using all of its capabilities. I'm not going to judge you by that photo. I just want to know that you are a social person and not going to hide in the background.
Third, connections are important. I have a rule: Everyone that works for me needs to have at least 100 connections. Don't go and audit us, please -- I'm sure there are some delinquents. (And they know who they are!) Once again, I'm looking to see that the people at my company embrace the concept of social networking and have built up a list of contacts. It shows me experience in the workplace and the impact made on others. Yes, I run a digital engagement marketing agency that specializes in using social media. But if I were on the brand side, I'd be thrilled to see that my people have an army of contacts that might become frequent customers.
The fourth and final note pertains to the recommendations element of LinkedIn. This one is a personal beef with me. If I like you, I will recommend you. If I don't do it on my own, then ask me personally. Don't send out notes to 100 people asking for recommendations. It seems desperate and, frankly, I think it is rude. The result is that you either get a fake recommendation because the person feels obligated, or you don't get anything and you end up feeling slighted. Understand that if someone gives you a recommendation, they took time out of their busy day to think of something nice to say about you.
It goes the other way too. The recommendations you write are important. Each recommendation I write takes me about 20 minutes. I have to think about someone's best characteristics and try to say it in a way that I haven't said on other people's profiles. And it has to be good. Once it's up there, it is there for good, and people will see what I've written. They'll now not only be judging that person, but they'll be judging me. And please, for the sake of mankind, if someone writes a recommendation for you, write one back. I'm getting red in the face just thinking about the countless times I've been asked to write a recommendation without reciprocation.
If you do all these things, you are miles ahead of your competition. The world hasn't caught up yet, so do this now before everyone does.
Once you've got yourself a stellar profile, then it is time to market yourself and your company on LinkedIn. There are a number of ways to do this. If you run a business or a department, then it is critical that you embrace all the different methods available to you on LinkedIn. Here are some of my hints on how to tackle a few of them.