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LinkedIn. The most popular social networking site (SNS) for professionals. How popular? LinkedIn claims over 150 million users; a recent report found that 7,610 LinkedIn searches occur every minute. It’s no wonder, then, that business professionals in general and those engaged in or considering a job search in particular use LinkedIn as part of their strategy to advance their careers to the next level.
Merely setting up a LinkedIn page does not, however, a comprehensive social networking strategy make. Just as companies build a website and then never attend to it again, individuals often set up a LinkedIn page , never reviewing or updating it until some significant piece of personal information changes. This spells doom because keeping your web presence vibrant is vital to the relevance of your personal brand; like a shark that stops swimming, a social media page that remains stagnant soon dies.
How often, then, should you update your LinkedIn profile? Should there be a regularly scheduled review? Should you change your LinkedIn profile each time a fact changes? Should you revamp it once a year or so whether it needs it or not? Frequently and continuously. Yes. Yes. And yes.
Let’s remember that your LinkedIn profile is essentially your personal webpage. It is often the first exposure a potential client, recruiter, or employer has to the details of your background, experience and training, who you are and what you do. That said, there are steps we recommend you take to ensure that your LinkedIn profile remains interesting, attractive and relevant. Even if you have an established page, approach it with a critical eye while considering the following:
- Fully complete the LinkedIn profile box including a headline and websites section. You are allowed 120 characters in the headline section. Use them to your advantage by promoting your personal brand and keywords essential to your profession and industry. Use the ability to include websites to link to a downloadable version of your resume, to an online career portfolio, or perhaps to a professional blog you maintain.
- Much as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is necessary for driving traffic to a website, choosing the right keywords that describe what you do will help drive traffic to your LinkedIn page. Keep this in mind as you work on your entire profile, including the summary, employment, and education sections.
- Write a comprehensive, first person bio. There is no right or wrong way to format this section, and there are times when you might want to use third-person perspective, most people opt to use first-person for this section. Whether or not you choose to use personal pronouns (I, my, me, etc.) is up to you. Some people choose to use them because they believe it makes it more personal. Others choose to leave the personal pronouns out, similar to the style appropriate for a resume. You are allowed 2,000 characters in this section and your goal should be to use as many of them as possible, filling the summary with keywords. Make certain you promote your personal brand and include some personal information that enables the reader to build some connection to you as a person, not you as a social media page.
- List all employment you’ve had after finishing school. Every job listed is a potential networking opportunity. On the other hand, this is a rule made to be broken. There may be times when you don’t want to do this because it reveals too much about your age. Think strategically and make a decision based on what is best for your background. You are allowed slightly over 1950 characters per employment section. Again, your goal is to fill the text with keywords, so use as many of the characters as you can. But as you do this, don’t forget to include accomplishments. You want to make each employment section interesting and enticing for human readers!
- There are two sections that allow you to include even more keywords: the “specialties” section and the “skills and expertise” section. Depending on when you first started your LinkedIn account, you may or may not have both of these sections available. If you do, remember your SEO and fill out both of these sections thoroughly. If you only have one available, fill it out thoroughly as well.
- List all higher education, not just your crowning academic achievement. You don’t have to include years. Again, think strategically and make a decision. If you don’t want to reveal your age, you may choose not to include dates.
- Post a photo. Of you in action. Looking professional. Looking like someone the person visiting your page wants to hire.
- Connect. And reconnect. LinkedIn makes it easy to find people you might know through people you already know. Take the time to review all recommended connections; request people you know to accept your invitation to connect.
- Review the available groups and join! Whether it’s an affiliation of professionals in your industry, alumni network, local chamber of commerce, etc., becoming a member of LinkedIn groups significantly expands your network.
- Have you asked for recommendations? Why not? Nothing says “hire this person” like other people affirming how great it is to work with you.
- Change your LinkedIn URL to one that personally identifies you.
- Link to Twitter. This will enable you to share your tweets as LinkedIn status updates.
- Link to Facebook. And vice-versa.
- Be sure to maintain a consistent online persona. If your LinkedIn page presents you as a top-notch professional but your Facebook page is filled with pictures of debauchery, for example, your reputation will suffer and potential opportunities will never materialize.
- Refresh. Update. Review. Repeat. Repeatedly.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. It is, however, meant to point you in the right direction so that your LinkedIn social networking site actually generates networking.