While you probably use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch and share content with friends and relatives, it’s worth bearing in mind social networking sites can also be used for professional purposes. Whether you are self-employed or work for a large business, I think you really need to have a LinkedIn profile.
There are many benefits to being on LinkedIn, but I believe the biggest advantage of it lies in the scope for you to connect with millions of other professionals and businesses. Indeed, the website is the biggest online professional network in the world, with more than 200 million members (including 11 million in the UK alone) located across the globe. With around two people signing up to LinkedIn every second during the third quarter of 2012, you may already be missing out on significant opportunities to connect with new and existing clients.
Once you’ve registered on LinkedIn, you need to put in a little effort to ensure you continue to gain maximum benefit from it. In the same way as any other social networking site used for professional purposes, a LinkedIn profile should be regularly updated with good-quality content that puts you and/or the organisation you work for in a positive light.
Many people use LinkedIn as a way to showcase their professional experience and work history when searching for a new job. If this is something that you’re planning on doing, you should make sure all the information you put up about your skills and qualifications is correct. Don’t be tempted to embellish the truth, this will only get found out later and could cause a job offer to be rescinded.
Companies that are using LinkedIn as a way to source potential candidates, meanwhile, should sign up to the network’s Career Pages function. You can also get prospective employees to ‘follow’ your organisation, so they are able to keep up-to-date with any company developments or job vacancies that arise. Doing so means you can instantly get in touch with candidates should a new role suddenly become available.
Banners and videos can be used to make a profile visually-appealing, while the employee spotlights function offers the opportunity for existing members of staff to give their views on why your organisation is a great place to work. According to LinkedIn, a strong employment brand can reduce the cost associated with hiring someone by 50 per cent.
Putting in the time and energy to create a fantastic LinkedIn profile is all well and good, but your efforts will be wasted if people don’t know how to access it.
Upon creating an account you will be given an automatically-generated profile name, because this will often feature random characters, it is not going to be one that people will automatically associate with your brand. As such, you need to use the custom URL feature to make something more memorable. When I created my own LinkedIn account, I set my URL to feature my name and the year I was born before adding a picture so my colleagues could instantly recognise me.
Once you’ve done this, I suggest you put a link to your LinkedIn page in as many places as possible. This could include business cards, company letterheads and email signatures, while it’s also a good idea to put the URL on promotional products such as branded memory sticks and pens. Whether they’re given out at conferences, exhibitions or sales meetings, promotional items aren’t just incredibly useful, but also enable recipients to subtly interact with your brand and, with any luck, they should have the incentive to add you to their LinkedIn network.
How are you using LinkedIn – or any other networking website, for that matter – to raise awareness of your brand and establish new contacts? We’d love to hear from you!