By Laura Haight
Originally published as the Digital Maven in Upstate Business Journal
There’s a networking event going on. You’ll find the c-level leaders of most of the companies in your area as well as a lot of colleagues and potential resources for you. Not only will you have the chance to learn a lot about them, but you’re also invited to provide information about yourself and your business, as well as insights you’ve gained over the years in your specific area of expertise.
Now, who wouldn’t go to that?
It seems disingenuous to suggest that an online networking marketplace with 350 million users is underutilized, but given its potential, I think you can make that argument about LinkedIn. Its stated goal is to have 3 billion users (Facebook currently has 1.44 billion) and it’s been growing significantly in the past few years. But there’s a way to go: Among social media sites LinkedIn ranks 7th behind Facebook, QQ (No, I never heard of it either), What’sApp, QZone, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.
I imagine a lot of us would say ‘I do have a LinkedIn profile, thank you very much. That is checked off my list!’ Consider that the average US user spends 17 minutes per month on LinkedIn. Having a profile and making the best possible use of the opportunity are two different things.
So let’s take a look at three opportunities with LinkedIn that you may be missing.
Telling your story. LinkedIn is not a resume service and yet a lot of people treat it that way. Pick any 10 people you know and check their profile. I’d be surprised if eight of them have not diligently and accurately listed every position on their resume. Don’t do that. LinkedIn doesn’t require it and it doesn’t help you. Tell your story instead. Not many networking relationship engines give you as much leeway, so take advantage of it.
What should your story include? What are you passionate about? How did you experience it, how did you get better, what experiences shaped you and your business. Leave out the things that don’t work in your story. You don’t have to mention the 8 months that you spent selling cars if it doesn’t advance your story or promote what you currently do. In fact, it can actually hurt you to include jobs/titles that you don’t have good references for.
2. References are very important. Make sure you have references for any position you break out on LInkedIN. This works in your favor and will improve the number of times you come up in relevant searches. On the other side, however, having positions with no references actually works against you. If you feel really strongly about including a position and you cannot get any references for it, weigh the benefit vs. the risk before adding it.
3. You know those emails you get every day from LinkedIn publicizing content from “people in your network”? That could be you. The key is to write and publish long-form posts, similar to a blog post, via your LinkedIn profile. These articles should tackle topics of interest to your industry or relevant to something going on in the news. They are generally original content, not just posting articles or recasting others’ content. A popular post that touches a nerve can reach thousands of readers while building your credibility. Those posts stay on your profile and become another asset. This is a great way to get your ideas and expertise front and center. The more you contribute content that other members engage with, the more you LinkedIn will promote your content and profile. Here’s how long-form posts work. More than other social media sites, perhaps, LinkedIn values information and influence, not sales and marketing. Leave the self-promotion at home and let your ideas speak for you.
If there was one word to describe LinkedIn, I would use interesting. Are you interesting? What are you interested in? Do my interests and yours dovetail? What can I learn by reading some of the things you have found interesting? Like most social media, you get out of LinkedIn exactly what you put into it. But the opportunities to grow your professional footprint are much higher for just a bit of focused effort.