A few months ago I read posts from a number of people saying that LinkedIn was a massively underutilised tool for bloggers, in terms of traffic generation and finding brand opportunities. Since then I have been putting it to the test - on the free version of the site, of course! (Find my profile HERE.) These are my findings:
#10. What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn bills itself as 'a networking tool to find connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners.' Essentially, it's like Facebook if it was set up by the HR department.
#9. Crunch Me Some Numbers!
Founded in 2002, LinkedIn has steadily expanded and now operates in over 20 languages, with offices around the globe employing some 9,200 people. More pertinently, it has around 430 million user accounts, primarily based in the USA (c. 120 million) but with a fair amount in the UK (c. 19 million). 25% or so of users log in at least once a month, and 13% are said to check in daily.
#8. First Impressions Count
The top section of your profile is going to serve as your first impression. Here's a rundown of what it includes, and which parts you can edit.
IMAGE: Your headshot is advised to be all-white-background professional, but my council one is massively out of date and I still haven't got around to taking a suitable replacement. I decided to go with the photo I use across all social media in the interim, as that way people can be sure they've found the right person if they're searching for me.
NAME: You can easily edit this, say to include a nickname, and you can add a former name visible to your connections, your network, or everyone, which is handy if you've married and taken your partner's name, etc.
PROFESSIONAL HEADLINE: Again, this is easily editable to whatever you want, from 'Visionary Entrepreneur' (one of LinkedIn's suggestions) to your actual job title.
COUNTRY & INDUSTRY: You choose these from drop down boxes - blogging isn't an option, but you can pick things like 'online media' and 'writing and editing'.
CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: This is added automatically from the 'experience' section of your profile.
PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT: Ditto. It just pulls your last three roles.
EDUCATION: Again, it automatically adds your most recent listing from the 'education' section of your profile.
SEND A MESSAGE: This is a drop down which gives you the option to remove connection, block / report connection, save profile to PDF, share profile, recommend connection, view recent activity (i.e. status updates and timeline interaction), or send a message.
CONNECTIONS: Once you hit 500, your profile won't go into any more detail. You can still be nosy though by clicking 'view recent activity' on the send a message drop down which will reveal all.
PROFILE LINK: You can customise this to change the generic numbers to your name, as I've done.
CONTACT INFO: Should you fill them in, your connections will be able to see your phone number, email, postal address, and instant messenger names. Everyone will be able to see your Twitter link, WeChat account, and up to three web links.
#7. But You Get a Second Chance
The next section of your profile is the summary. This is often deemed to be one of the most important parts of the LinkedIn profile, and you're given space for 2,000 characters with which to sell yourself.
Like the other main sections of your profile (experience and education), the summary section allows you to upload media: a document, photo, link, video, or presentation. Other examples of media I've used in my profile include a lecture I gave during my time as a student lecturer, a speech I gave while working at a youth charity, and a link to my councillor profile for my current position at Torfaen County Borough Council.
#6. Optional Sections
LinkedIn also offers a range of optional sections you can add to your profile, to provide extra detail and showcase your achievements. Pick and choose as you see fit from the following:
Additional Info; Certifications; Courses; Following [LinkedIn Company / Organization Pages] ; [LinkedIn] Groups; Honors & Awards; Languages; Organizations; Patents; [LinkedIn] Posts; Projects; Publications; Skills & Endorsements; Test Scores; Volunteer [Experience]; Volunteering Opportunities.
Another optional extra is to add a background image to your profile page - premium users can pick from a gallery, the rest of us need to find our own. Supported formats are .jpg, .png and .gif, maximum file size is 8mb, and recommended resolution is 1400 x 425 pixels. Above is my background image, put together with the help of Canva and a free stock image from Pexels. Your first profile section will cover about 40% of the image so it's the sides and top that matter most!
#5. All-Star Profile
'All-Star' is what LinkedIn calls a properly filled out profile - below it are four other potential ranks; beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. (Note: the little profile strength bar never hits 100%, because it reminds us all that there's always room for improvement. See what I mean about Facebook created by HR?) All-Star profiles rank higher in LinkedIn searches, and are supposedly 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the site.
To get an All-Star rating you just need to fill out your basic profile sections in as much detail as you can - you'll need to have a headshot uploaded, an educational establishment listed (your secondary school will do), country and industry chosen, at least 3 skills listed, a current job/position listed, two previous ones, and a minimum of 50 connections.
#4. How Can I Make More LinkedIn Connections?
The average LinkedIn user has 190 connections and, as far as I know, there is no upper limit. But as a newbie it can be confusing - and a little intimidating - working out how to make new connections. LinkedIn has pop up 'advice' messages warning you not to just randomly invite strangers to your network, and wants to know where, when, and what you were wearing when you met. (I exaggerate, but it is a little full on!)
In reality, a lot of the people you want to add to your professional network are not going to be individuals you have a strong existing relationship with - chances are, you're already connected with friends, colleagues, classmates, etc, on more personable networks. Still, LinkedIn sadly lacks options for 'someone whose talk I attended but didn't interact with', 'stranger with a cool website', or 'interesting person I met very briefly at a conference'. What you can do is search by industry or job title and just click 'connect' on the names it lets you - individuals too far removed from your network will still require you to send a proper invite request, but this one click option is quick, easy, and will rapidly expand the number of connections you have.
First, I went looking for bloggers and clicked connect on all likely candidates in the first fifteen pages or so of the search results. This took me from c. 65 connections to over 500. Then I did the same for SEO / PR peeps, which bumped me up to around 900. My final outreach campaign focused on local government councillors and those working within the Labour Party; this has taken my network to 1433 and counting. Even though it goes against all the LinkedIn advice I have read, what I took away from this experiment is that many, possibly even the majority of, users are open to making completely new connections, it's just that LinkedIn's clunky interface doesn't encourage it. Even if they don't accept your invite, they may well check out your profile page which will please LinkedIn anyway.
So, your new connections have improved your reach, but what can you do to engage with them? Personalised messages, of course, or you can try liking their updates in your 'ways to keep in touch' box (upper right hand corner of the home page). Random endorsements are seen as big 'no-no' by LinkedIn gurus, but I gave it a go all the same to see what happened - I got quite a few endorsements in return, some thank you messages, and a couple of further interactions from people who had my name put on their radar via the endorsement. Not a long term strategy, for sure, but a quick, targeted campaign certainly brought good results.
Other strategies I tried were promoting my LinkedIn profile on my blog and asking people to connect (possibly had a small impact on single click invites, but if so it was hidden in the general influx of requests I was getting as a result of being a whirlwind of LinkedIn activity), and swapping connections / endorsements in Facebook blogging engagement groups. We're talking very small numbers here, but I would consider doing this again if I wanted endorsements for a specific skill or something.
Finally, LinkedIn won't tell you if people disconnect from you, but if you're masochistic you can find out via the Friend Check app.
#3. Updates and Interaction
To continue with the Facebook comparisons, LinkedIn has the same system of status updates and timelines. If you click 'Home' on the navbar you'll be taken to your network timeline (meaning you'll see the updates of yourself and your connections), or you can look at only your own updates (plus updates you've interacted with by liking, commenting, etc) by clicking 'Profile' -> 'Your Updates' on the navbar, or 'view recent activity' from the 'Send Message' drop down in the first section on your profile page.
You can 'share an update', 'upload a photo' or 'publish a post'. When I first read those articles about LinkedIn being fab, this is where I assumed I was missing out on the action because I already had an 'All-Star' profile. I tried sharing a variety of updates to see what response they got... it was basically the same as on any other social media network.
Best received were motivational quotes on visually appealing backgrounds. Next came updates which promised a benefit to the reader - win a prize, learn a skill, improve your social media statistics, etc. Then targeted posts - e.g if you blog, check out my new blog linky, etc. I had nothing particularly interesting to post but, looking at my timeline, personal posts about new jobs, health, new arrivals, etc, did very well, in spite of the truism that LinkedIn is only for professional updates. My view on this is you should work out what you want from the site and post accordingly.
If someone doesn't like your updates, they can mute you and prevent you from appearing in their timeline. This could be a loss if you're going to look for a job in an industry known for headhunting on LinkedIn (marketing, PR, tech, etc), but if your industry is home to the 75% of LinkedIn users who don't even log in once a month, I'd argue that the risk is minimal. If you are going for a new position and think they might check your LinkedIn profile, just log on and engage with a bunch of updates relevant to the industry so a recent activity view won't count against you.
The only feature I didn't try was publishing a 'long form' post. It allows you to use your LinkedIn account a bit like a blog, and post about relevant business type stuff which is visible to other users, the public, and on your profile page. There are around 30,000 of these posts published on LinkedIn every week, and most of the ones I read were fairly fluffy. The idea is to be short and snappy, I know, but as a reader all the content-lite listicles didn't do a lot for me. I might give it a go in the future, and if I do I'll make use of this in-depth guide from Hubspot.
#2. What is LinkedIn SSI?
I first heard about SSI - LinkedIn's Social Selling Index - from Tim over at Slouching Towards Thatcham who is a whiz at explaining online metrics. (Check out his Beginner's Guide to LinkedIn for Bloggers.) It ranks your LinkedIn influence and proficiency out of 100, and is as much about your ability to sell your personal brand as anything tangible. You can find your score HERE.
You can also check out how your score compares to those in your network, and in your industry more widely. This confirmed what I had already suspected about LinkedIn usage within my industry:
LinkedIn is also a factor in other ranking systems - a little interaction on LI can have a big impact on your Klout score, for instance.
#1. Is LinkedIn Worth It?
A LinkedIn account is definitely worth having, but in the same way your free graduate email address is worth having. It might be useful some day. Whether or not it's worth actively cultivating is a different question, and one which is going to be very dependent on your sector. I've seen no benefit to myself as a blogger through using LinkedIn regularly and, while I've made a few new local government and Labour Party connections, I could have gained many more had I put the same effort into engaging with politcos and their content on Twitter or even Membersnet.
The SEO and brand insight I thought I might gain through LinkedIn never materialised, and if you're looking for similar I'd recommend signing up to a network like Inbound instead. Because LinkedIn is what it says on the tin. It helps connect recruiters and job seekers - it might hook up the odd blogger with a paid opportunity, but not enough for it to merit all those glowing headlines which drew me in!
My LinkedIn account is something I'll return to and polish up next time I'm looking for a job but, generally speaking, I think 5-10 minutes a week is a more than generous allocation of time to check in, post an update, scroll my timeline, and invite a few new connections.
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