Think of LinkedIn as a more professional version of Facebook where you can post links and status updates, join groups, and connect with key players in your industry, and stay in touch with people in your professional circles.
Here are five steps to creating a LinkedIn profile that can grow your client list:
STEP 1. Be thorough. Don’t skimp on the details. A barebones profile or one without a photo makes you appear lazy or disinterested in using LinkedIn to generate new business. Fill in each section and use specific numbers where you can to quantify your accomplishments (for instance, “For one of my Fortune 500 clients, my services helped increase revenue by 35%”).
You can reorder the sections of your profile by dragging and dropping that section as you’re editing your profile. Depending on your individual strengths, you might want to highlight your educational background or skills at the top of your profile.
Be sure to spell-check, too! A few typos might get overlooked on Twitter or Facebook, since those platforms are more casual, but you want to put your most professional foot forward on LinkedIn. (It’s not a bad idea to have someone else look over your profile.)
Don’t treat LinkedIn like Facebook by posting celebrity gossip or using emoticons and LOLs. The key to success on LinkedIn is being personable, yet professional at the same time.
STEP 2: Use a descriptive headline. Your headline shows up in searches before someone clicks on your profile, so use this space to entice the person to check you out.
Instead of simply using my job title (“CEO, Ali International, LLC) as the headline, I suggest you use a headline that describes what you do. Mine is: “Visionary Mentor to Women Entrepreneurs, Philanthropist.” Your headline can sum up what you can offer to prospects rather than repeating your title. The only exception would be if your company name makes a statement or is well known.
STEP 3: Use the skills section. A lot of LinkedIn users don’t even know that the skills section exists, but some businesspeople looking to hire professionals with a certain skillset use this feature to quickly locate the right person rather than posting an ad. For instance, if a businessperson needs a social media consultant with experience using Instagram, she can go to linkedin.com/skills and sort through profiles of people who’ve listed Instagram as a skill rather than doing a more general search. On my own LinkedIn profile, I list business coaching, web marketing, public speaking, and social networking, among other skills.
Add your skills at linkedin.com/skills so prospects can find you easily.
Endorsements are a fairly new feature to LinkedIn, where other people can endorse your skills and expertise with a few clicks. (It’s different from Recommendations, which we’ll get to in Step 4). Often if you endorse someone, they’ll reciprocate.
STEP 4: Give and request recommendations. Recommendations are more detailed than endorsements and usually include a few sentences about why your colleague or vendor enjoyed working with you. A few sincere, well-written recommendations can really help build trust and provide social proof for people who are on the fence about hiring you.
Jumpstart the process by recommending a few connections you highly recommend. (It’s better to decline a request than give a lukewarm recommendation.) LinkedIn has a feature where you can request recommendations from connections, but a more organic approach would be to ask clients during a phone or email exchange after you complete a project. For instance, “I’m so glad our coaching sessions helped you! Would you take a moment to share that feedback on LinkedIn?”
STEP 5: Update regularly. Once you’ve created your profile, keep it fresh and up-to-date by posting new business milestones, any awards you receive, any new service offerings you release. If you leave your LinkedIn profile dormant, clients may question whether you’re still in business.
Another way to keep your profile current is by adding a few apps that will update your profile for you (notice I said a FEW; don’t go crazy here, or you’ll annoy your connections). If you travel a lot and want to connect with prospects in other cities, try TripIt. If you read a lot of books in your industry, there’s an Amazon Reading List app you could use. Also post relevant links or share news about you or your company as a status update.
Question: Are you active on LinkedIn? How do you use it to bring in new clients or strengthen relationships with existing clients? I’d love to hear your successes with it, so please share below!
© 2012 Ali International, LLC
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“Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at www.AliBrown.com.”