The Maraia Minutes

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Getting Started On LinkedIn

Vol 13, Issue 10

I’ve made it clear in previous posts that LinkedIn is the one social media tool that 98% of professionals need to become familiar with.  Why? Because if it’s used wisely it can leverage your analog networking and relationship building.  

If it’s useful, think of it as an online gathering place for business people.  The other 2% are either nearing retirement (although I know of retired folks who love it because it allows them to stay connected to the business world) or are rigorously opposed to it.  As with all things, if you hate the thought of joining, don’t join.  Your life will go on just fine.  Missing opportunities to connect isn’t the end of the world.  

However, don’t feel like you have to spend large chunks of time learning it all at once.  Instead, I suggest you approach it in several phases.  
 
In phase one, you’ll want to create a LinkedIn profile. Budget about 30-60 minutes for this phase.  
 
In phase two, you’ll download the names and email addresses from your email address book [Outlook et. al.] to your LinkedIn account.  Budget about 30-60 minutes for this phase.  
 
In the third phase, you’ll set criteria for who to invite. You will also send an invite to those people who you’d like to connect with via LinkedIn.  

For the duration of this article we’ll provide some thoughts on how to create your LinkedIn profile.  In order to do that you need to go to the LinkedIn site and create a user name and password.  It may ask if you want a paid or unpaid account and for now just go with the unpaid account.  You can always go back later and convert to a paid account if you become a power user.  

Often the hardest part to getting traction with social media is getting started.  What follows are the first five major sections you’ll want to complete in your LinkedIn profile and the number of characters you’re limited to in each.  
 
The thing to keep in mind with LinkedIn is that the search engines put the most weight on the information contained at the top of your profile. As you work your way down the profile (and down the page) to things like work experience and books you’re reading it will have less and less relevance to Google.
 
Hence, you name, your picture, your headline, your summary and your specialties will be the five most important parts of your profile, at least for purposes of getting started.  We’ll deal with other things like your websites, recommendations, joining groups, asking questions and providing answers in later blog posts so don’t worry about them right now.  

1. Name

Your name is self explanatory.  According to Terms of Service with LinkedIn that is all you’re allowed to put in that area.  Some people cheat and put descriptive terms other than their name but that will leave you vulnerable to getting booted off LinkedIn.  We don’t want that.  

2. Picture

Be sure to include a picture!!  The real value of LinkedIn is allowing people to connect with you and without a picture that is much harder to do. Make it easy for others to connect.  BTW, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.  
 
I’ve noticed my own delight as I connect on LinkedIn with people whom I’ve spoken with by phone but have never met in person.  When there’s a picture a stronger connection is formed. Weird but true.  Am I the only one who thinks that way?

3. Headline (appears with blue background)

Your headline is limited to 120 characters.  Try to use all 120 characters in describing the work you do and who you do it for.  There is a temptation to say “Partner at XYZ Firm” but that won’t help someone who doesn’t know you at all nor will it help people who you’ve known for decades quickly grasp what it is you do and who you do it for.  
 
Put some thought into this portion of your profile because, if done well, it should prompt your ideal client to respond with, “Sounds like someone I need to meet.”  In addition, this is the part of your profile that appears in searches and in a listing of all your connections.  If you're trying to create a personal brand this is the place where you can best promote it.  
 
I already shared with you Dale Burket’s headline in my newsletter. Let me give you another example. One of my clients is a tax advisor based in Chicago.  His headline used to read “Director at Ryan and Company.”  That’s not at all descriptive of what he does.  

I proposed he try this:

“Tax advisor whose won multi million dollar state and local tax awards for Fortune 1000 and private companies.”  This would grab the attention of any VP of tax in Fortune 1000 and private companies wouldn’t you agree?  

4. Summary

Your summary is limited to 2000 characters.  Try to use most if not all of this space to describe what you do. The summary is not supposed to read like a resume. That will put readers to sleep.  
 
Think of your summary as an open letter or invitation to your ideal or target client.  Your summary is for human eyes whereas the next section on Specialities is for “Google’s eyes” which means search engines. 
 
Here is what my client Brian wrote which is effective:

"Mr. Browdy is a Director -- Tax Strategy, in the Chicago office of Ryan, Inc., the leading tax services firm in North America, with the largest transaction tax practice in the United States and Canada. His practice focuses on identifying, developing, and implementing state and local tax savings initiatives for public and private companies across the commercial and industrial spectrum. Mr. Browdy has played a key role in securing multimillion dollar tax recoveries and assessment reductions for clients across the United States.

"Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Ryan provides a comprehensive range of state, local, federal, and international tax advisory and consulting services on a multi-jurisdictional basis, including audit defense, tax recovery, credits and incentives, tax process improvement and automation, tax appeals, and strategic planning. With a multi-disciplinary team of more than 850 professionals and associates, Ryan serves many of the world's most prominent Fortune 1000 companies."

5. Specialties

You’re limited to 500 characters for this part of your profile.  As Lori Ruff and Mike O’Neil put it in their book, Rock The World With Your Online Presence: “The Summary section is among the most important places for the human eye, the specialties section is among the most important for the computer’s ‘eye.’”  This should include key words that someone might use in a Google search or LinkedIn search.  Again use all of the allotted space and be sure it contains descriptive terms.  

Okay, if you’ve gotten this far you’re making progress. In another blog or newsletter, I’ll cover phase two and phase three. Let me know if you found this newsletter helpful by sending me a message from within LinkedIn.  Be sure to make reference to this issue. 
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