With over 500 million members, LinkedIn is the world's largest business networking site and one of the best social media platforms for small business owners and consultants.
Even if you're not a premium (paying) member, an optimized, active LinkedIn profile shows potential customers and clients that you are a serious and credible enterprise dedicated to your business. You can use your platform for promotion, as well as to connect with like-minded individuals who may even become business partners or collaborators or mentors/mentees.
Here's how to help make LinkedIn work for you in 10 steps:
1. Fill in Your Profile to Reach “All-Star" Status
LinkedIn ranks its profiles by strength, and “All-Star" is the strongest. Your personal profile is the starting point for anyone who finds you on LinkedIn, so give them as much information as possible by filling out all the requested information—especially photo, current position, location, and skills—to reach 100% profile completeness on the LinkedIn meter.
2. Link Your Website to Your Profile
LinkedIn expert Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain Media told LegalZoom that linking to your website is her “number one tip" and noted that “LinkedIn drives four times the amount of traffic to company websites than either Twitter or Facebook."
To add your website, click on the pencil on the upper right side of your profile and customize the link so that it doesn't simply say “My website." Something catchy, preferably a call to action, will urge visitors to click through.
3. Make it Pretty
Visuals matter, and there are a couple of things you can do to make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible.
A well-chosen profile photo—professional but still personal—is perfect. Your profile photo's pixel size can range from 400 x 400 to 20,000 x 20,000. You also have the option of customizing the background or cover photo; its best size is 1584 x 396 pixels (4:1 proportion). For either photo, you must use a JPG, PNG, or GIF file under 8 MB.
Consider, too, customizing your profile's URL so that it's your name or something easier on the eyes than a long string of numbers. Follow LinkedIn's instructions on how to do this.
4. Use the Right Keywords
Keywords are crucial because they help users find you. Think about what words people would use to search for you, research job descriptions similar to yours on sites such as Indeed.com, and use a free service such as Wordle, which generates word clouds based on provided text. All of these can help you narrow down the best keywords for your profile.
5. Post Interesting Content
Blog posts are an excellent way to reach your LinkedIn connections but don't limit your awesome content to just those. Include interesting stories, tips, and links in your summary and status updates as well.
LinkedIn expert Christine Hueber told LegalZoom that once your profile is built, if you do nothing else, you should “strategically cultivate relationships," which will bring you to your “ideal clients" and position you “as an expert and generate business."
One important way to go about this is to engage with your LinkedIn connections through liking and commenting on posts and status updates. In other words, keep the “social" in “social network."
7. Join and/or Start Groups
One of the fastest and easiest ways to find your LinkedIn tribe is to join groups dedicated to your niche—and if you don't find any that suit your particular needs, start one! Think about groups as independent, more focused social networks, and use them to build your brand.
8. Use the “Recommend" Feature
A great way to reach out to your connections is to recommend them without asking. LinkedIn is all about relationships and networking. After all, putting in a good word for others can mean a great deal for their businesses and inspire them to return the favor.
9. Create Your Company Profile
LinkedIn now allows you to have a separate company profile, which can add further credibility to your business. Just as with your personal profile, complete as much information as possible. You can even include a video.
10. Be Patient
Few LinkedIn profiles will attract substantial attention overnight, so don't be discouraged if you don't see immediate results.