Over recent years, we have heard the words “social media” more than any other. Social media has become a part of life that is purposeful, yet has become overwhelming. Many generations have embraced social media and we want to think that it is only for sharing our moods, vacation pictures, and special occasions with friends and family. But this past year, one social media platform has taken a quiet lead in the spectrum. LinkedIn. Whether you are a job seeker, an HR specialist, a recruiter, a business owner, or professional… the value and use of LinkedIn can be vast.
LinkedIn boasts over 100 million users and has recorded double-digit profit gains over the past several years. As a business owner or business professional, LinkedIn should be number one on your list. What separates it from the rest and how can you make the most use of it without being swallowed up? Well, we are going to talk through it together and hopefully, you’ll come out the other end of this article with the information to propel your purpose with LinkedIn.
As you move through the benefits and suggestions in this article, consider your goals. Why are you on or considering being on LinkedIn: to find new employees, to build business relationships, locate vendors, perhaps a mix of all of those? Your purpose should drive your presence.
Profiles and Business Pages
No matter what your goal, your LinkedIn profile should be detailed, complete, and purpose built. A LinkedIn profile will usually rank in the top-five results of a Google search for your first and last name, so first impressions are important. The most common mistake people make in their profiles is using no picture or an unrelated picture. Your picture should be you, you alone and be current.
Name and face recognition is key when networking in a digital atmosphere. There are the most common sections (summary, experience, etc), but remember not to leave out the other sections that give your profile a presence of its own, such as the volunteer work, community activities, certifications/ accreditations, special projects, languages, and so on.
LinkedIn now even lets you share other media, like documents (resumes, letters of recommendation) and videos (company information, production information). Remember, this is a business platform and professional networking opportunities at their greatest. Action item: Review your profile, complete to 100 percent, update your picture and add in your extracurricular information. Business pages can be created to share your brand, your purpose and your culture. Yes, you can turn it into a marketing page, but remember that everyone does that to “sell” something. A business page should have the same characteristics as your profile, to be magnetic and purposeful.
Connections are the core of your network on LinkedIn: They feed your activity updates with useful, helpful, or insightful information. LinkedIn will show you the changes or updates that your connections publish about their professional activities. There are two schools of thought when it comes to connections. One would be to only connect with people you already know and trust, for the purpose of maintaining those professional relationships. The other would be to add as many people as possible, to gain as much reach as you can. Both of these schools are flawed.
Your connections should suit your purpose, keeping in mind your purpose could evolve as well. Starting with your known and trusted contacts is ideal, but build from there. LinkedIn will show you the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd connections of people in your network as well as the recent profiles they have viewed, which could lead to a better network for you!
When requesting to add a connection on LinkedIn, try to avoid the generic option they give you and use one of the more detailed connection options (such as we have done business together, we are colleagues, or write a personal message in the request). Take note of your existing connection’s groups.
If you jumped ahead to this section because you are already a LinkedIn guru, go back and start the article over from the beginning. That was a joke—but seriously. One of LinkedIn’s major useful functions is Groups, but you don’t want to begin a presence in the groups without knowing your purpose and having your profile completed to suit that purpose. Groups can be social, industry, community or purpose driven. You will want to join targeted groups that meet your purpose and goals for LinkedIn.
If you are seeking to use it for recruiting, that could be local industry groups, job seeker groups, geographical networking groups and so on. Small business owners may want to be involved in economic councils, small business owner groups and other local networking organizations. Don’t overwhelm yourself at the start and be sure to edit/adjust the group notifications you receive so you don’t feel bombarded by update emails. You can change how often LinkedIn sends you these updates so you are not overwhelmed with them. The idea here is to use LinkedIn and Groups to your achieve your goals, not overwhelm you with another social media inundation.
Achieving your purpose and goals using LinkedIn
Now that you have the basics to suit your purpose on using LinkedIn, now is the opportunity to see the return on the time invested. The most important thing to remember, no matter your goal, is to have valid content to share with your connections or groups. If you want to make a mindful presence, don’t just advertise your needs, but rather add value. Instead of posting that you are hiring, offer a benefit or advantage to working for your company. Provide a supportive article, post a reliable and relative industry update, and so on. If you are seeking to reach a larger customer base or make new vendor relationships, consider the reader and what they would find valuable.
The idea is to be a professional consultant within your network, which will have an ROI that you can build upon. Posting interesting discussions—general or job related—are always a great way to get your group talking, but time is precious so consider your target audience. When your network contacts or group contacts post something of value, make a suggestion or comment and let them know how you applied their discussion.
As someone who uses LinkedIn primarily for recruiting, I enjoy seeing the recommendations and accomplishments shared by candidates. The groups I have joined assist me in sharing potential career opportunities that I post within the group job discussions. My business and professional contacts often make the best referrals, so simply letting them know what type of person, project or networking I seek to achieve yields positive feedback.
To make the use of any social media valuable, you have to invest a small amount of time weekly to maintain your presence. One of the biggest mistakes people make is jumping into LinkedIn and then thinking it will work for them without any additional thought to it. Don’t make that mistake. It can be a valuable and profitable investment of your time.
Dustin Shay, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, CSC, is Director of Public Relations with Mid-Florida SHRM as well as Director of Professional Placement with Rita Staffing.