In presentations to sales and marketing teams around the country, I talk about the role of social media in networking and building a strong personal brand. In this blog post, I share ten tips for using one platform in particular: LinkedIn.

First, if you don’t already have a professional profile on LinkedIn, now is the time to create one. Here are some recent stats that highlight LinkedIn’s rapidly growing usage:

  • 100 million LinkedIn users in the U.S. and 300 million users worldwide
  • 67 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S. (43% of the total labor force)
  • 41% of LinkedIn users in U.S. have 500+ connections, up from 30% in 2013
  • 50% of all LinkedIn users spend more than two hours per week on LinkedIn

How to Build Your Personal LinkedIn Brand

Use your personal LinkedIn brand to increase repeat and referred business opportunities by following these ten tips:

1. Follow prompts to complete your profile

Reach all-star status by clicking the blue box labeled “complete your profile” which is visible from your regular profile page (i.e., you do not have to be in edit mode). LinkedIn will walk you through a series of questions to help increase your discoverability score. The higher the score, the more your profile will appear in searches for people who match your skills and background.

2. Increase your public profile visibility

To control how you appear in public search results (i.e., when people search for you on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.), choose “manage public profile settings” from the menu of drop-down options that appear under the “edit” button. From here you control the amount of information that is visible to people who are not directly connected to you via LinkedIn. It also allows you to claim a personal URL.

3. Add a highly quality, professional photo

No selfies. Enough said. You might also consider investing in a 1-2 minute video in which you explain what you do and how you do it. As with your professional photograph, you can repurpose your video for your website and/or other social media platforms.

4. Optimize the headline below your name

Right after your name, your headline is the most important piece of real estate on your LinkedIn profile page—so make it interesting. Unless you have a catchy job title, consider using the limited number of characters to come up with a headline description that helps increase your search engine visibility and makes you more intriguing to fellow LinkedIn users. Whatever you do, don’t leave your headline blank.

5. Write a compelling summary

Your LinkedIn summary is a chance to highlight what makes you and your business unique. Think of it as a personal brand statement. Don’t squander it by rattling off a list of titles and accomplishments (there’s room for those in other sections). Instead, write in the first person to convey the passion you have for your work and to explain how you work with clients. This is the type of emotional and engaging information that is missing from most professional profiles.

6. Join groups and associations that demonstrate your connections and commitment to your profession

By joining relevant groups and associations, you stay on top of your industry and better yourself professionally. It also makes it possible to reach out directly to fellow group members (whether they are first degree connections or not).

7. Give spontaneous recommendations

Most people need to be asked to make recommendations. Stand out by writing unsolicited recommendations for the people in your LinkedIn network whom you respect. It will not only help you build stronger professional relationships, but it will also inspire people to reciprocate. More important, it only takes five to ten minutes to write a personal recommendation that makes you (and the recipient) feel good.

8. Provide periodic activity updates

Stay top of mind with your network by offering occasional updates on what you’ve been doing professionally. Include comments and explanations as necessary. At the same time, “like” and share the activity updates of people in your network.

9. Manage the quality of your connections

As in the “real world,” you are the company that you keep. Yet too many people focus on the quantity of their online connections instead of the quality. Personally, if I don’t know someone well enough to recommend them to members of my network, I won’t connect with them on LinkedIn. (Although, I’m more than happy to arrange a meeting in an effort to get to know them better.) Also, if you find yourself with poor quality connections, you can remove them quietly without them receiving notification of their removal.

10. Keep it personal

Of the last 100+ connection requests I’ve received in the past few months, only five contained personal messages. The rest used LinkedIn’s default language: “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This is the digital equivalent of “Dear Occupant.” It only takes a minute to write a personal invitation. Similarly, when you receive an invitation, thank the sender and tell him or her why you value them. Just a few words can fuel better relationships.

Remember Your Real-World Personal Brand

Here’s one last bonus tip: Allocate the time you spend online by using a management technique called The Pomodoro Technique. Technology should reinforce your personal brand, but it shouldn’t be used to replace brand-building in the real word. Use the information that LinkedIn provides to reach out and connect with your network in ways that are personal and meaningful to you and to them, whether it’s in the form of a face-to-face meeting, a phone call, or an old-fashioned letter or card.

Have fun building your personal LinkedIn brand!

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The Connector's Way by Patrick Galvin

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