Making the Most of your LinkedIn Profile

Introduction

It is now common for most people to use the Internet as their primary resource when looking for products and services, and indeed for many it is the only way they will do their research and the bulk of their purchases. The LinkedIn website’s structure is currently one of the best attempts to reflect real world processes of professional and business relations, and the recommendations passed on by those business connections. 

 

Because LinkedIn involves a large amount of manual arbitration and an unusually high degree of active validation, it is a very well respected website by users and Search Engines alike. Even relatively new and undeveloped LinkedIn Profiles can soon achieve an important Google PageRank of 3/10 (http://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonbelt for example) fairly quickly, which is similar to many established small business websites, and will improve the more it’s used and extended. A consequence of the importance of having a LinkedIn profile is that it is very likely to appear on Page 1 or 2 of Google Search Engine Results when searching for your name. It’s a great way of ensuring people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find the information you put in your Profile. LinkedIn profiles can and should be complemented by profiles on other social networking sites like Facebook, Naymz, Ecademy and Xing – each having their own particular strengths.

 

Finally, having a link from your LinkedIn Profile to your preferred websites – be they blogs, company, charity or campaign websites, will cascade that importance to the website, by directly driving traffic there or indirectly through the important inbound link established.

 

The LinkedIn.com website is much more structured towards the professional and business aspect of networking, but shares many of the familiar collaborative mechanisms associated with other social networking sites. Key aspects of LinkedIn:

  • Connections are made on LinkedIn, rather than Friends on Facebook
  • Groups are more career or subject focussed than fun or campaigning
  • Subject oriented Question and Answer function that also has a marking mechanism for quality of each response provided
  • Ad-hoc discussion forums provide a very useful mechanism for establishing invite only discussion spaces
  • Recommendations by connections help validate professional credentials

Setting up your Profile

Complete the Signup page at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonbelt, either directly or in response to a request to connect to an existing member. It requires information that’s location and industry specific. As your profile is meant to stay with you through a career where such information about you changes, it’s possible to change any of this information later. However, by selecting that you work in a particular industry, your people search results, and questions asked by others will be focussed on that industry sector. You will be prompted for information on how you want to use LinkedIn which is editable at any stage.

 

When logged into the profile you’ve just created, you will have a menu structure on the left which relates to your profile by section, and also a progress bar that prompts for sections of your profile still available to complete. When completing your profile, complete as many sections as you can with the information you want people to see, or be able to find your profile when searching for the words and phrases within.

 

On the Employment section for example, use the Add Position section, to add a position of past or current employment such as Property Analyst if you’re looking for work as an estate agent now when previously you worked on developing a database for reporting on property maintenance contracts. Like all CVs, it’s good to have a few examples of past employment, and particularly adding separate positions for distinct roles performed in that employment you want highlighting. Be mindful of current employers monitoring your online promotion – it may be beneficial to establish your worth online to secure better pay and job security or it may work against you to represent your current role badly.

 

Complete all other sections of the profile, using it as an opportunity for what you want people to be interested or connected to you for, as you would on any other social networking, company or discussion website. A point to note is the Edit Public Profile Settings section where you can select to use a customized rather than default URL for your Profile like http://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonbelt rather than the somewhat impersonal www.LinkedIn.com/pub/11/511/66 formulation. You can deselect sections from view to non connections, but if you don’t want it to be seen don’t put it in.

 

Connecting to Friends and Colleagues

As part of the process of completing and making good use of LinkedIn Profile, you will need to make connections with friends and colleagues who already have their own LinkedIn profile or by inviting them to join and connect to you. From the Menu option on the left hand side, click on Contacts and you will be prompted to search through your Outlook Address Book, various Webmail options like Windows Live/Gmail Mail, or to enter Contacts Manually. You could use the Search Facility to look for people already on LinkedIn but this is a slower process more effectively used when looking for new connections once your Profile is up and running.

 

If using the more blanket Search and Send option for connection from Outlook or Gmail for example, be careful as the default option is to send the invite to connect to everyone. This may well be desirable, but if there’s any contact you don’t want to send the invitation to connect to, then ensure they’re deselected before sending. Responses to requests to connect vary depending on how open or familiar your potential connections are to social networking approaches. Often as you flesh out your profile and get more connections, those who weren’t sure or hadn’t checked their LinkedIn account for a while will do so and respond.

 

Completing your Profile with Website Links and Recommendations

By now you’ll probably be getting more familiar with the LinkedIn website, and to make things easier, it may be useful to expand all the menu sections on the left hand side of the page. Before you start getting and giving out recommendations, it may be worth checking that you’ve maximised your links to your preferred websites. In the menu section Profile, click on the Edit My Profile submenu, and click on the website link.

 

In the Additional Information section you have the option to link to 3 websites of your choice, which many people use the default Categories of My Website, My Company, or My Blog, and then type in the appropriate URL. It is much better to use the Other Category and add a Website Title of your choice up to 30 characters long, followed by the specific URL of the landing page you want to promote. Ideally the Website Title would be a slightly intriguing or inviting phrase, where the words and ideally order of words are prominent on the landing page (Page Title, Heading etc).

 

A fairly good example is available at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonbelt which uses the Website Title or keyword phrase of Manchester Discussion Forum pointing to a landing page of http://www.manchestersalon.org.uk/, where the phrase appears in the Page Title of the landing page and prominently in the text of the landing page. Just to emphasis the importance of using that keyword phrase, search for Manchester Discussion Forum in Google and you’ll see the new Manchester Salon website has managed to sneak in to prime position in the Search Engine Results (the site itself is only 3 months old). From Google Search Results - Results 1 - 10 of about 1,880,000 for manchester discussion forum.

 

This dramatic performance was managed primarily by having a link from a reasonably developed LinkedIn profile and by using a keyword phrase prominent on the landing page via the Other category for website links. Obviously selecting the right keyphrase for what people will actually be searching on is crucial and having that keyphrase prominent in the page title and body content of the page you link to, but to demonstrate how you may use this to good effect. For example, building on the link from LinkedIn using the keyword phrase of Manchester Discussion Forum, which is prominent in a mixture of the Page Title, Domain Name and body header section of the site's homepage it's possible to encourage people to search onthe specific term you've selected.

 

As part of the process of completing your Profile, you will need to get recommendations from some of your connections, and it would help to recommend some of the connections you value. There are instances where you’ve worked with people that a reciprocal recommendation is very natural but as in other areas of life there’s no need to reciprocate recommendations. And if you’ve recommended all the people who’ve recommended you it tends to look a little back scratching – some mutual recommendations, especially when getting started are fine, but don’t feel compelled to reciprocate directly, maybe by sharing the love with someone else.

 

Anyway, the recommendation process is fairly straight forward, but note that it requires you to have completed adding your various positions of employment or study as you get recommended for the work you have done in that position. The importance of this is that it’s a key differentiator of LinkedIn structure of social networking – human validation of personal standing in digital form, where the reputation of those recommending you is somewhat on the line. And this validation process brings the CV presentational view to life as a dynamic relationship of other reputations - hence why some keen observers as well as Google give such prominence to the expression of the profile’s standing in the digital world.

 

Joining and Creating Groups

As an attempt to digitally reflect the Grouping processes that happen offline, LinkedIn have provided a Grouping facility for profile owners to associate. So for example, there are Groups for marketing experts to join and collaborate by asking and volunteering answers to questions raised in these groups. Additionally profile owners can have their answers marked as to how useful the answer was for the questioner. This is both useful to have questions answered, but also by way of having your value as an active agent in the problem solving process, on display for others including potential employers to see.

 

Groups like university alumni or professional bodies are also useful ways of validating the content of profiles, and indeed making connections through social networking with friends and colleagues who you’ve lost touch with. The more focussed the content of the Profile the more likely to be found for niche activity, like ‘IPC Certified PCB Designer’

 

Raising and answering questions also takes place on an industry segmented basis, so that questions relevant a particular industry are on display for others in that industry segment to answer. The application Huddle Workspaces is something of great use as an ad-hoc meeting space for connections to Group over a specific and more private topic for discussion. An example that springs to mind would be say for various technical specialists, marketing and regulatory specialists to work through the issues involved in launching a proposal for wind turbines in a National Park.

 

The keen observer as well as Google use membership and activity in Groups as a validating indicator of other aspects of the Profile and award importance accordingly.

 

Using the Status Update

The Status Update is a good way to keep your connections up to date with some the exciting or even day-to-day work you’re involved in (or just want to promote), so maybe something like ‘programming PCB control board I designed for new low power LED fish tank lights’ is a great way of advertising to your connections some of what you do.

 

Linking from other sites

For those who already have a web presence that reflects a personal profile, like profile on your own company website or blog, it generally makes sense to advertise your LinkedIn Profile with a link from there, and there is a useful corporate identity link generated from within your own LinkedIn Profile from the Profile menu and then the Edit Public Profile Settings link in top right of page. In the Public Profile section, click on the ‘Promote your profile with customized buttons’ link and select the code to paste the most appropriate logo link to your own website from there.

 

The benefit of having such a link on your own website or log is that you will encourage people to connect to you on LinkedIn, and it will cascade some of the PageRank from the source location to your LinkedIn Profile which will then be passed on to your preferred websites linked to from there.

 

Appendix: Closing duplicate accounts

Sometimes, due to changing Email addresses and responding to invites to join LinkedIn without developing profiles, occasionally people can create more than 1 profile. To delete a profile, Login to the LinkedIn Profile to delete, select the Account & Settings link from the top-right corner, click on the Close Your Account link and complete the closure form.

 

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