5 Steps to Thrive on LinkedIn

I posted this video as one of the last Linked Intuition posts.  Unfortunately the URL was corrupted and left out the .com in the URL.  So Here we go again.  This is an interview in which I talk about the 5 Steps to Thrive on LinkedIn.


[youtube]vMlyEAwRomg[/youtube]

Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

13 LinkedIn Action Steps

 

In writing this blog I’ve discovered one of the secrets of blogging…People love lists.  So here we go with another list showing 13 Action Steps you can take on LinkedIn.  This is likely one of the last lists for a while so I hope you enjoy it and it provides some value.

1. Optimize Your Profile

When most people hear the word optimize they think of optimizing a website to be found in more relevant web searches.  This is much the same thing.  You want to optimize your profile so that you increase your chances of being found, and once found, are found credible.  You want a “Sticky Profile”.

You want to make sure that your profile is detailed with as much information so that your viewer isn’t left to wonder and fill in the gaps.  Your Photo, summary, past work experience are important.  Add applications to share information via presentations, white papers, or video.

The keywords you use in your profile will help you be found in more relevant earches based on your industry, product, or service.  Use a keyword search tool to see what terms people are searching and then populate your profile with these words.

Finally, your Title/Tag line could have an impact on your ability to consistently communicate your message.  I would recommend using the Tag Line to create a message.   You can use up to 140 characters.

2. Build Credibility

Without credibility you may be well known and well liked, but you won’t be in business long.  On LinkedIn if you want to develop potential opportunities you will have to be judged credible.  Credibility is built on how you interact, the information you share, and what other’s say about you.

You can take control by presenting a detailed profile, participating in Answers, securing recommendations, and providing value to your networks.  A blog is a great way to build awareness and build credibility.  My success on LinkedIn has in a large part been supported by my blog.

3. Grow Your Connections

The more connections you have the more likely you are to encounter “Unexpected Opportunities”.  There are those who argue that a large network, with people you don’t know or don’t know well, will have a negative effect.  While I respect that they can choose how they want to utilize LinkedIn, I couldn’t disagree more.  I’ve experienced the difference in opportunities that occurred after I switched to a more open networking philosophy.

If you’ve been limiting your connections and have not found more success, maybe it’s time to open things up. Continue reading 13 LinkedIn Action Steps

9 Ways to Enhance Your LinkedIn Profile

enhance answersYour goal on LinkedIn is to first “be found”, and second “be found credible”.  With that in mind, you want to do everything possible to enhance your profile.  This includes the content you place on your profile page and the ways that people find your profile.

Here are 9 ways to create an effective profile moving from the top of the profile page to the bottom.  These simple changes can make a difference in the effectiveness of your profile.

1. Replace your Title with a Tag Line

At the top of the profile page just under the member name most people include their title…project manager, insurance agent, president.  While I guess your title says something about you it likely doesn’t say anything about how you can help others.

My job is to help people find the best health insurance plan for them in terms of coverage and price.  It’s what I do that provides value.  My title is Insurance Broker.  It’s what I am but doesn’t necessarily catch anyone’s attention.   Each time I answer a questions, post a discussion question, or add a news article in a group a mini profile is displayed including usually my name and title/tag line.

Let’s take a look at using a title verses using a tag line.  Which is more likely to be noticed:

Sean Nelson
Insurance Broker

Or

Sean Nelson
Helping individuals and small businesses in Atlanta save up to 60% on their health insurance and employee benefits

Using a tag line is a great way to communicate a quick message to anyone viewing your profile.

2. Personalize Your Web URL’s

If you look at many profiles you will see that many people add a link to their website to their profile.  Most often you see this listed as My Company, My Website,  or My Blog.  You want to make sure if you list your websites that you personalize the name

To personalize your web URL’s click on the [ Edit ] link next to your websites.  On the drop down box for type of link there is an option for “Other”.  Choose this option and you will be able to add a customized name for each link.

3. Personalize your LinkedIn profile URL

The first thing to do is to update your profile URL.  The default URL consists of random numbers and letters.  Change this so that it incorporates your name.  There are many people with the same name so you may find that your name is not available.  Use your middle initial or some other variation. Continue reading 9 Ways to Enhance Your LinkedIn Profile

10 Part Series: Can LinkedIn Work for You?

In November I wrote a post about the ways you can use LinkedIn.  From that post I followed up with a post on 9 areas of using LinkedIn.  Part 10 was released last week.  Even though all 10 post are on the blog I still tend to get a couple of requests for links to the other articles.

Here are all 10 parts of the series.  LinkedIn has changed since this series started, but most of the articles should still be very relevant.  Enjoy.

LinkedIn Part 1: Can LinkedIn Work For You? – November 29th, 2008

LinkedIn Part 2: Enhancing Your Networking – December 14th, 2008

LinkedIn Part 3: Establishing Credibility – January 15th, 2009

LinkedIn Part 5: I Highly Recommend Recommendations – February 17th, 2009

LinkedIn Part 4: Connecting Your Offline and Online Brand – February 2nd, 2009

LinkedIn Part 6: A Stage to Engage Your Audience – March 3rd, 2009

LinkedIn Part 7: Research Potential Partners and Alliances – March 8th, 2009

LinkedIn Part 8: Find a New Job – March 10th, 2009

LinkedIn Part 9: Be found – April 20th, 2009

LinkedIn Part 10: Providing Value to Your Network – April 27th, 2009

Wednesday Comic 08: LinkedIn Answers

08_linkedin_answers

If you have small children you really will get this comic.  LinkedIn answers is a great place to share and gain knowledge.  It’s also the primary place that you can interact with the entire LinkedIn network.  You can communicate with your direct connections and with fellow group members, but most of the 38+ million users are not within your reach.  Answers provides the ability to demonstrate knowledge and experience, part of the credibility building process.

How do you use Answers to enhance your networking and grow your business or online brand?

LinkedIn Part 10: Providing Value to Your Network

In the original article in this series the last three ways I noted to use LinkedIn were to share knowledge and expertise, introduce connections, and recommend worthy individuals.  Each of these is a way to provide value to your network, so I thought I would cover them together.

While you might argue whether it’s better to give than receive, the two are equally important.  In a perfect networking world you would receive equal to what you have given.  In real life you often have to do a lot of giving to get the “receiving pump” primed.

Share Knowledge and Experience
The average LinkedIn member is 41 years old and has a household income of $109,703.  80.1% are a college grad or post grad (37%).  Clearly there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available among its users. (Stats provided by Nathan Kieveman, of Linked Secrets).

One of the most important ways that you can provide value to your network and fellow members is by sharing your knowledge and experience.  LinkedIn provides several ways to do this:

LinkedIn Answers is a great place to answer questions posted by other members.  The most important part is to answer questions where you provide value.  It’s not about answering as many questions as you can to try and obtain expert status.  Well thought out answers add to your credibility, flippant or silly answers subtract from it.

Since online credibility doesn’t exist in a vacuum, a well thought out answer could provide value (from those who agree) and subtract value (from those who disagree with your point).  My perspective is that if your answer is sincere, the positives will far outweigh the negatives.

Within groups there is a tremendous amount of information shared through discussions.  Groups have the advantage of being somewhat more targeted, since membership is based around a common factor.

Finally, you can share information through applications.  The statistics above were shared by Nathan using the Slideshare application.  Incorporating your blog into your profile is another great way to share information.  The Amazon application allows you to share what you are reading.  Take a look at the available applications to see how you can share information with your fellow members.

Introducing Connections
Each of our networks is made up of people that are from different backgrounds, industries, experience levels, etc.  Each network is unique and you are at the center of your network.  You likely have people in your network that you know very well, people that you know of, and possibly people you don’t know very well.

For those you know well you probably have an idea of the people they are trying to network with.  You can be of service by introducing them to those in your network that they are seeking out.

For those that you don’t know well you may be able to introduce them to people you would expect them to want to get to know.  Real estate agents and Mortgage brokers are two types of people that would benefit from being introduced.  Financial planners love introductions to CPA’s.

For those you don’t know you can still provide value by paying attention to what they ask for.  It might be that in their profile they state who they are seeking.  It might be a status update that states that they are “looking to connect with small business owner, or maybe attorneys.

LinkedIn makes it simple by including a “Forward this Profile” text link on each profile page.  Clicking on it allows you to choose a recipient (actually up to 200 recipients) and to create your message to the recipient (like invitations avoid the sample text and create a personalized message).

Providing Recommendations
The ability to give and receive recommendations is one of the most powerful features of LinkedIn.  Most people are uncomfortable with tooting their own horn.  In most businesses, though, what set them apart are the people doing the work.  You can have the best system in place, but if it’s not backed by quality people its success will be limited.

As you look through your connections try to find those in your direct network who have provided a product or service.  If the value received was great don’t keep them a secret.  If someone has gone out of their way to help you, let others know.

A good rule of thumb is that if someone asked you about a particular person would you say they’re a “Good Person” or a “Great Person”.  If the answer is “Great”, there’s likely a recommendation waiting to happen.

There will be times when another person asks you for a recommendation and you do not feel comfortable providing one.  The service may not have been that great.  You may not know the person well enough.  In these cases a good rule of thumb is to respond with a quick message detailing why you’re not comfortable providing one at this point.

Receiving a recommendation is something that should be earned.

Wrap Up

As you go about providing value to your network you will begin to receive value in return.  It may simply be a link back to your profile (such as when asking / answering a question or providing a recommendation), it may result in a visit to your profile (added exposure), and it may be returned in the form of a new client or connection.

Most people share value because they simply want to help others.  Any value received is simply gravy.
________________________

This is the last part in this 10 part series.  Next week I’ll post a link to all 10 parts.  Since things change fairly quick around LinkedIn I will review each article to make updates.

On LinkedIn Mean People Suck

With that title I probably violated several things that I recommend doing (act professional, be careful of what you say and how you say it, etc.).  

I stumbled on a blog that was titled “The Stupid Things People Do on LinkedIn”.  The poster then proceeded to lash in to people that violated his perception of what LinkedIn should be and how people should behave on it.  My first thought was relax it’s not your site.  You’re just  another member.  The second was that did this person realize that their post was part of their online brand.

So there are two points to discuss.  The first is about your online brand.  The second is about unwritten protocols on LinkedIn that many people may not be aware of.

Your Online Brand
Remember this:  Everything you do on LinkedIn (and within the Social Web) either “adds to” or “subtracts from” your online brand.   This isn’t some college football board where you can denigrate and abuse fellow posters if you don’t like their view or comment.  There are no cute user names to hide behind.  On LinkedIn your comments are easily associated with the person behind them, YOU.

I don’t know the person behind the “stupid LinkedIn” post, but I already have an opinion of him.  Want to guess whether it’s positive or negative?  If this were a person that I was considering connecting to, partnering with, or engaging in their service, I would walk away.  There is enough negativity in the world without having to knowingly engage in it or with it.

This may not matter to him.  But it should to the average LI user.  When you ask or answer a question, post a discussion or news article in a group, add a blog to your profile, and how you respond to those who attempt to connect all contribute to your brand.  

Consider this.  You receive a connection invitation from John who works for an advertising agency.  You don’t know John so you mark the Invitation “I don’t know this user” (when you could have simply Archived It).  A couple of weeks later you connect to Bill who runs a graphics firm that you want to develop as a client.  You get an appointment and everything looks good.  Later John, who happens to engage Bill’s firm for his advertising agency notices that you are connected to Bill.  In their next conversation, John mentions that he saw that you and Bill were connected and mentions that you recently refused his connection invitation.  And rather than Archive it you marked it “I don’t know this user”.  Now his account has been restricted.  Bill thinks “that wasn’t a nice thing to do to John” and calls you to say they’ve decided to go in a different direction.

Is this an extreme story?  Yes.  Is it a possibility? Yes.  Your actions carry implications…some positive and some potentially negative.  Act in good faith and in a neighborly fashion and your brand will benefit.

The Unwritten Protocals
Over time acceptable practices evolve as do unacceptable ones.  As a member of LinkedIn you should adhere to the acceptable norms.  There aren’t to0 many and most are common sense, that often gets overlooked due to lack of time, imagination, or knowledge.  Here are some and I’m sure there are others that I have not thought of or encountered (violated) yet.

1.  Never send a canned invitation.  Always personalize the invitation.

2.  Don’t send out mass invitations.  It makes it difficult to personalize the email

3.  Don’t send out Mass Canned invitations…see #1 and #2

4.  When participating in answers or group discussions do not blatently sell.  How you phrase a sales pitch can be seen as spam or an interesting question or post.  Which of the two following statements is likely to be viewed as spam?

A.  Mortgage rates dropped to 4.5%, call me if you are looking to refinance; or
B.  With mortgage rates dropping to 4.5%, how do you determine if it’s a good idea to refinance your loan?

5.  Respond to all messages in your inbox.  If you don’t want to connect send a brief explanation as to why (see my post:  http://linkedintuition.com/blog/no-thanks-the-right-way ) .  Don’t feel comfortable providing a recommendation or passing on an introduction reply with why.

6.  Don’t ask for recommendations from people who don’t know you very well.  Recommendations should be appropriate and sincere.  It’s rude to ask when there’s no basis for one.

7.  Don’t expect everone to have the same approach that you do on LinkedIn.  Some are open networkers and some are closed networkers.  Each person decides what works best for them.  No one has a monopoly on the right way.

8.  If you do not want to connect, “Archive” the invitation.  Don’t select “I don’t know this user”.  Doing so gains you nothing and it can negatively impact another member.  Is it such an evil thing to want to connect to another that you do not know.  Isn’t that what networking is about.

Not everyone will agree with every point that I made.  Each person interacts with LinkedIn based on their expectations and beliefs and that’s a good thing.  What we should be able to agree on is that acting in a friendly and respectful manner will always do more good than harm.

What do you think?

LinkedIn Part 9: Be found

linkedin_billboardPop Quiz:  Who is more likely to be found on LinkedIn?

A.  Has 60 connections B.  Has 500 connections
A.  Never answers questions B.  Answers 3 questions each week
A.  Never gives recommendations B.  Provides recommendations
A.  Rarely updates Status B.  Updates status 3 times per week
A.  Has minimal info in profile B.  Detailed profile with photo
A.  Has not listed interests B.  List several non-work related interests
A.  No Applications B.  Has 4 applications on profile
A.  Belongs to 5 groups B.  Belongs to 50 groups

I could continue with the list but I think you get the point.

Think of your profile as an interactive billboard.  The billboard has been erected but you’re waiting for traffic to drive by it.  You can wait and hope that someone takes a wrong turn and sees you, or you can try to detour traffic past your billboard.

The majority of billboard owners simply wait for something to happen.  Everyone has told them how great LinkedIn is and it cost nothing to put up their billboard.  Periodically they link to other billboards hoping that something will happen.

When you first put up your billboard it’s on a lonely two way road out in the country.  Your goal should be to move it towards a busy traffic filled interstate.  That takes time and activity.  If you wait for it to happen it may never do so.  If you take control and determine that you will have traffic, it can be done with a little elbow grease.

Here are some ways you can drive traffic (really pull) to your billboard:

Design it Well:
Its words and pictures presented in a cohesive effort.  You need to make sure that when someone sees your billboard that it effectively tells your story.  Having a profile photo that supports what you do is important.  Doing keyword research on your industry and product or service, and then listing these wherever possible on your profile is a huge part of the equation.

Customizing your URL’s isn’t much but it matters.  The same goes for listing hobbies and interests.  You never know how or why someone will find your billboard, it just matters that many people do.

Try to update what you are doing at least three times a week.  I prefer business related updates, but I’ve seen some who post everyday like on Twitter.  PingFM is a good resource that will allow you to update micro-blogs at several sites.

Finally applications allow you to take your profile from two dimensional to three dimensional.

Your profile should be a work in progress.  Each time you update a piece of it your network is notified on their Home page that you have an updated profile.  This will drive traffic.

Answers:
Asking questions allows you to tap into the knowledge resources of other users.  Answering questions allows you to share knowledge.  Both are part of the credibility building process.  And both result at a minimum in a link to your profile.

Doing both will drive traffic to your billboard.  It’s not necessarily targeted traffic, but once again you never know where the next opportunity will come from.  Whenever I see an answer that captures my attention I always view the profile of the person providing the answer.  Sometimes that’s all, but in some cases it’s led to new connections or opportunities.

Try to answer 5 questions a week and commit to asking one question per week.  The caveat is that you have to provide value when answering a question and generate interest when asking a question.

Recommendations:
Recommendations given are a way to provide value to someone who has helped you or someone that you think highly of.  Recommendations received are a way for your network to provide value to you.  In both cases a link is created back to the giver and the receiver’s profile.  It’s another great way to be found.

Recommendations from clients go a step further.  It gets you a listing in the LinkedIn Service Providers directory.  This is probably one of the least utilized features of LinkedIn and that’s a shame.  Service Providers used to be one of the main LinkedIn sections but when the Companies section was launched it was moved within the new section.  The only reference you will see is a text link on the Companies home page.

Often I will be asked to help someone with their insurance in another state that I’m not licensed in.  I always search through the Service Providers directory to find a resource to help the person.

You should strive to have at least 10 recommendations and provide at least 15.  Once you hit those numbers keep it going.

Groups:
On a webinar last week one of the moderators mentioned that they thought the real value to be found on LinkedIn was within groups and not your direct network.  That’s a bold statement, but I think they may be on to something.

Within your personal network reaching out to 2nd and 3rd degree connections is cumbersome, unless you have a paying account and have access to InMail.  With groups the barriers to communicating with anyone are removed.

I have about 490 direct connections and close to 4.5 million total people in my network.  I can only easily contact those 1st degree connections.  Within my groups there are close to 250,000 members.  I can reach out and contact any at any time.

When I update my profile my 490 connections are notified of my action.  But with groups, when I participate in a discussion question or post a news article I can potentially reach 250,000 people.

If I choose my groups wisely then I have the ability to market to a specific target.  You can also create a group to develop a target group.  I do a lot of business in North Fulton County in Georgia.  About a year ago I started the North Fulton Business Group and the group has grown to close to 300 people.  With my group I have the ability to communicate with business professionals in a defined area.  That’s powerful.

Disclaimer: Starting a group is easy.  Getting member to join isn’t.  Use your connections and other groups to find your first 100 members.  After that it will start to grow on its own.  The larger your group grows the easier it will be to add new members.

You can be a member of up to 50 groups and you should focus on finding groups that are filled with your target customers or alliance partners.

Wrap Up
There has been an explosion in the number of people talking about social networking, but often the point is missed that what LinkedIn really provides is social marketing.  By actively participating in all of the features of LinkedIn you will help drive traffic to your billboard.  Visitors can choose to stop and read your billboard, and then can initiate contact, through connecting or engaging in your product or service.

In the movie Field of Dreams the unseen voice is heard to say “If you build it, they will come”.  On LinkedIn that’s not enough.  Listen close and you’ll hear “If you’re active, they will come.”

Why Do People Repeat Answers on LinkedIn?

File this in the “not a big issue, yet it drives me crazy” file.  When someone asks a question on LinkedIn, and it has been answered appropriately, why do others repeat the same answer?

For example look at a recent question and answers:

Question: How do you delete emails and invitations after answering them?

Answer 1: Per LinkedIn “[d]eleting an item from your ‘Inbox’ is not an available function. However messages can be removed from view by clicking on the ‘Archive’ button listed below the message.”  Hope that helps.

Answer 2: Deletion isn’t a feature on LinkedIn, you can archive them.  Best regards,

Clearly the first answer addressed the issue about as good as it could be.  The second answer provided 0% of value.  I understand the purpose of answering questions and why each person should spend time doing so, but c’mon.

The primary reason to answer a question should be to share knowledge.  Nearly as important is that it generates a link back to your profile and it helps credibility if your answer is picked as the “Top Answer”.  I’m all in favor of people answering questions…if they provide value.

While we’re on the subject, the top “Expert” this week in Answers answered 179 questions.  How do you answer 179 questions with relevant information and still stay in business or employed.  When I answer a question it’s likely to be a couple of sentences at a minimum and maybe a couple of paragraphs if it’s an indepth question.  I might spend 5 minutes doing so on the average question.

179 * 5 minutes is 895 minutes or 14.9 hours.  Unless you work for LinkedIn, I would be wary of working with someone in any field whose week allowed them to spend 15 hours answering LinkedIn questions.  Couldn’t at least half of those hours be spent learning more about your supposed field of expertise.

And if you’re answering this many questions how much value are you really providing?  One sentence answers rarely provide value.

How about you?  Does this drive you crazy of do you have any other LinkedIn pet peeves?

The Linkulator: How Good is Your LinkedIn Presence

linkulatorHave you ever wondered how your presence on LinkedIn compares to the average LinkedIn user.  Last year I created the Linkulator to allow people to score their profile and presence numerically.  You simply answer some questions about your profile and participation in things such as Answers and Recommendations.  It then calculates a score and displays the average score of everyone who has computed a score.  It also classifies your presence based on your score and offers some tips to improve.

I’ve made some tweaks, although technical issues (mainly my lack of knowledge in combining PHP, mysql, and Swishmax2 into a functioning app) prevented me from doing everything I had hoped to do.  Still it’s one of the few free tools (Toys, what’s the diference) out there.    

If someone else had created the tool they might have placed emphasis on different features or weighted things differently.  This is just a fun tool to use, nothing more.  Your rscore will be determined by how active you’ve been in some key areas.    While a high score is good, your true score on LinkedIn is based on how it has enhanced your network and led to new business.  Dollars are what really count.

What’s your score? …Go to the Linkulator