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Published 23 February 2011 14:29, Updated 24 February 2011 09:55
A staggering 87 million people across the globe are now using social networking site LinkedIn. It’s not as many as Facebook, which has 500 million users but LinkedIn is gaining in popularity for social networkers’ professional, rather than personal life. At its best, proponents say it’s the ultimate professional network: you have contacts, business opportunities and career tips at your fingertips. At its worst, it’s just another network you join but rarely use.
Because there are so many people on LinkedIn, it’s important to stand out. What people need to understand, says Toby Marshall from online marketing company Lead Creation, is that LinkedIn is not just about connecting with people you know. “It’s about building your brand, so people can find you online,” he says. “Using keywords is the first step in the process.”
LinkedIn profiles are viewed by peers and potential clients in the business community, he says, and people use LinkedIn much like Google, so your profile must be keyword based.
Marshall suggests researching or brainstorming terms that people might use to find products or services similar to your own. Then check the search traffic with applications such as the free Google AdWords Keyword tool.
“Your keyword [should] be the word most commonly typed into Google to find a business like yours,” he says. “LinkedIn users are thinking the same way they do on Google. They use the same words. For example, if someone were searching for a headhunter, they would use the word recruitment.”
The reason keywords are essential is because although people can find your business online if they know its name, what about those who are looking to find products or services like the one you provide but haven’t heard of you? If you are a smaller company, potential clients are unlikely to know about your brand, or even your name, before they search.
The most important space on the LinkedIn page is the professional headline section, “This has the most impact,” Marshall says. “There are 120 characters, including spaces, and you need to use every single one of those. The more you use, the more impact you will have and the more people will find you in searches.
“Use persuasive keywords and make it precise. For example, rather than just saying you’re a writer, be more specific: tender writer, proposal writer, ghost writer. Add who you write for, such as a legal writer, and don’t just put your title.”
The second most important area on your LinkedIn page is the summary. The summary is your resume or business profile. Marshall’s advice is to write it as though you’re speaking to your ideal client. Remember basic email etiquette and avoid using words in all capitals. Use your keywords sparingly in this section.
As for posting a photo, it is essential.
Marshall says people connect with people. “A photo makes your profile more personal and human,” he says. “Don’t just cut and paste your resume. Describe your experiences and abilities as you would to someone you’d just met.
“Add updates. People generally look at updates to know about recent changes among connections. Avoid sending promotional or sales material as this will make people think of you as a spammer.
“Update your profile regularly and don’t think of LinkedIn as social networking, think of it as your own personal business website.”