Business cards? We don’t need no stinking business cards.
All kidding aside, does anyone carry a business card anymore? I suppose some still do. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I used a business card.
But these days I use something different. Something kinda, sorta new. And it’s name is LinkedIn. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
If you’ve not looked at LinkedIn lately, you’re missing the boat. It’s new and improved. And it’s a far superior, more user-friendly business tool than it once was.
Go back and update your LinkedIn profile and toss your business cards in the round file.
Better Than A Business Card
You’re probably familiar with LinkedIn. You may even have a profile, even if you haven’t looked at it in ages, and it doesn’t reflect who you are in any way.
If that’s the case, it’s time to dust off your LinkedIn profile and put it to work.
Yes, LinkedIn is another social networking site. But unlike other sites — Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram — when people connect on LinkedIn, they’re all about business. They’re not there to rant about their annoying neighbors, or to post cute cat and dog photos, or to discuss their dinner plans.
People are on LinkedIn to do business. And as a business connecting tool, it runs crazy circles around that tired old dinosaur that is your business card.
How can that be, you ask? Well, you got questions. I got answers.
Why use LinkedIn?
Perhaps the biggest reason to use LinkedIn is SEO. That’s right. Search engines read LinkedIn profiles. I bet your business card can’t make that claim.
When it comes to audience visibility, having your LinkedIn profile found by Google and other search engines is a major coup. A well designed LinkedIn profile often shows up in the top 5 search results when you Google a business name or business person.
And from there, it just gets better.
Because LinkedIn is a business connection site, users tend to be employed. Being employed means they likely have money to spend.
People on LinkedIn are networking. They have jobs or are looking to fill jobs. They’re seeking business tools and training material. They want to connect with professionals in their business niche.
LinkedIn users have an entirely different mindset than those on other social networking sites.
Not to denigrate Facebook, but Facebook is, in my humble opinion, more of a party site. It has a more relaxed, playful feel.
Yes, people can do business on Facebook, and some business models thrive there. But not all of them. For many businesses, I would venture to say maybe even most, when it’s time to put on your business face, LinkedIn is where you want to be.
Build A Better Profile
To get the most out of LinkedIn, it pays to understand the importance of a robust profile, and how to design one that works for your business. Lots of people are making costly LinkedIn profile mistakes that are hurting their marketing efforts. But I’m here to help you avoid those mistakes and create a strong, robust LinkedIn profile.
Focusing just on your profile for purposes of this post, let’s discuss some common mistakes and discuss how to fix them.
1. Your Profile Picture:
Problem: You have no profile photo at all, or you have the wrong type of photo.
Solution: Post a professional, inviting photo, preferably a head shot, as your profile photo.
Your profile photo is the first thing people see when they land on your LinkedIn page, and far too many people miss the mark when it comes to choosing their picture. They post a fuzzy-looking picture or one that’s too busy. Or worse, an entirely inappropriate photo. Please don’t use the slightly tipsy looking photo from your BFF’s engagement party.
It’s usually best to use a head shot. Some businesses can get away with an edgier photo, but in most cases, a head shot is your best bet.
If possible, have your hair and makeup done and use a professional photographer. But if that’s not in your budget right now, with a little care and planning, you can still get a photo that will work well for you.
Make sure you have good lighting, have a friendly, open expression on your face, and be careful with cropping. You don’t want the top of your head cut off or look like only a floating head.
Most of all, experiment. Take tons of pictures. You can’t take too many. Stand against a solid background, if possible. When you have a crop of photos, pick and choose until you find one that works.
2. Your Professional Description:
Problem: Your professional description, which appears under your name and beside your profile photo, is too long or too touchy-feely or overly clever, making it hard to tell what you do or what you have to offer. It focuses on you instead of on them — your visitors.
Solution: Remember that your description is essentially a headline. It should be short and descriptive and quickly convey who you are and what you do, as well as how you help your audience. Resist the urge to be cute and clever. Use audience specific keywords that you want found in search engines.
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn here. If your description doesn’t make you feel a bit nervous when you’re ready to hit send, it’s not strong enough.
Along with your photo, your professional description is your visitor’s first impression of you. Make sure it’s a good one.
3. Your Summary:
Problem: Your summary is too long, too dense, nondescript or boring. Worse, it’s all about you, you, you, and you.
Solution: Google and other search engines do scan your summary. So you want to make your summary, as Karen Yankovich, self-described LinkedIn evangelist puts it, client facing. You want your summary to be about you, but not for you.
Don’t be shy. Fill this space with plenty of mixed media, like videos and photos. Variety makes your summary interesting and tells your visitor more about who you are and how you can help them.
Avoid filling the entire space with one long, boring, hard-to-read paragraph. Just as you would write any marketing piece, readability should be foremost. Break the text up with plenty of white space, bullet points, and short paragraphs. The easier it is to scan, the better.
Third person or first person? There’s some debate on this issue. Since search engines scan names, using your business name and writing in the third person can increase your SEO ranking. For example, “Terri Cruce Writes helps small businesses ………,” rather than “I help small businesses……..”
However, many people don’t like the third person tone and prefer to write their summaries in the first person. Experiment and see what works best for your audience.
Keep in mind, nothing is set in stone. You can go back and make changes if you wish.
Problem: Most people are too timid with their experience section on their LinkedIn profiles. Titles in this section often read like business card titles.
Solution: There is so much more you can do with the experience section of your profile. You aren’t limited only to past job titles and things you were paid to do. You can leverage any experience you’ve had, going back years, that adds to your overall expertise and increases your influence and authority. Even a stay-at-home mom can list organization and planning skills here, for instance.
Highlight any volunteer work or group activities you’ve led in your experience section. Essentially any experience going back years, even, that has made you an authority in your field is fair game. Don’t be afraid to fill this area with as much of your background as you can. It all counts. It’s all valuable.
Problem: You don’t realize that you have publications. You leave this space blank.
Solution: Anything you’ve written and published online qualifies as a publication. Blog post links, video links, anything you’ve published online and has your name on it qualifies.
If you’ve written for other sites under your byline, include it in your publications. Choose some of your best blog posts to include in this area. If you’ve published it somewhere, it’s okay to include it.
Problem: There aren’t any recommendations.
Solution: The more recommendations you have, the more you increase your influence and authority.
Collect recommendations from people you’ve worked with and who’ve said nice things about you. As simplistic as it may sound, according to Karen Yankovich, one of the best ways to get recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is when someone tells you what a good job you’ve done. When that happens, thank them and ask if they would mind heading over to LinkedIn and posting a recommendation.
Most of the time if someone is happy with your work and is already talking about you, they’re delighted to provide you with a LinkedIn recommendation. Don’t be afraid to ask.
7. Skills and Endorsements:
Problem: You don’t do anything much at all in your skills and endorsements section.
Solution: Like recommendations, your skills and endorsements tell people more about you. They should be precise and up-to-date. Top skills and endorsements should be, well, at the top.
The skills and endorsements section is editable. You can manage this section to reflect best who you are. You can reorder them and even delete any that no longer apply.
Don’t leave the skills and endorsements section up to chance. Take control of what appears on the list as well as how they’re prioritized.
Some Final Thoughts
These simple tweaks will optimize your LinkedIn profile so that people who’re looking for what you have to offer will find you. You’ll look more professional and increase your overall authority in your niche.
And you’ll have an online business presence that makes you shine while it enhances your marketing efforts.
If you’ve been neglecting your LinkedIn profile, it’s time to change that.
Go and build a better profile.
And toss those business cards in the trash. You won’t be needing them anymore.
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