I don't often write about LinkedIn because it's considered a business-to-business social network and my educational focus is helping entrepreneurs connect directly with consumers. That said, today I'm going to share how you could use this network to your advantage.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a professional social network. The goal of this network is to allow you to maintain your curriculum vitae and connect with those you've worked with throughout your career. You can connect with co-workers, industry colleagues, business associates, old classmates and professors, and anyone else that might be related to one of the jobs you've had.
This is not a network to socialize with your friends and family, although there's nothing wrong with connecting with them on this network too; just make sure not to post personal status updates to LinkedIn the same way you would on Facebook.
Many companies have business profiles on this network, and use it to post updates and job openings. Many headhunters also use this network to scout for new employees.
Fleshing Out Your CV
As a small business owner looking to connect with local customers it might not seem worthwhile to create a LinkedIn account, but it is something you should do to help illustrate your entire career and even your local accomplishments. This is especially important if you are interested in establishing yourself as a trusted authority in your industry.
Your LinkedIn profile, i.e. your curriculum vitae, will show how you've built your trust and authority throughout your career. Your profile should include full details of your accomplishments instead of a brief summary of your skills and experiences that you would include in a resume.
For example, on a resume you might include a simple paragraph explaining the highlights of your recent job, but on LinkedIn you can list all the associations you belong to along with details of how they relate to your job. You can also spotlight awards, training/certifications, presentations, videos, and any time you've been published. You don't have to be a paid professional speaker to spotlight your presentations and videos; even presentations at your chamber of commerce or meetup groups should be included.
In addition to career accomplishments, you can also include all your local volunteer work, education, spoken languages, patents, and a lot more. LinkedIn makes it easy to show your well rounded skills as a business professional.
Become the Local Expert
LinkedIn profiles rank very high in Google search results. Savvy customers will often search for local reviews about a business and even look up the business owner's name before committing to a large ticket purchase. While you might struggle with your company website SEO to achieve high placement in Google results, it's easy to rank highly for your own name when you have a LinkedIn profile detailing your entire career.
When it comes to business websites, Google must evaluate a lot of online information and determine how to rank it, sometimes putting the incorrect or misleading information ahead of the right information. But when it comes to your own name, you have a lot more control.
Google has tried to build a search engine that will provide well balanced answers. They want savvy internet users to trust the validity of the information provided. Searches for local businesses will often times show a mix of business reviews, websites, social media posts, videos, etc.; but searches for specific people have less information to pull from, primarily public records and LinkedIn accounts because they are public. Personal Facebook accounts do not usually appear in Google search results because, by default, personal Facebook accounts are blocked by the Google spider.
The beauty of your LinkedIn profile is that you have full control over it, and therefore you can portray your professional expertise in the best possible way. I'm not suggesting that you falsify anything in your profile; I'm simply saying that it behooves you to take advantage of this power. Even though you have full control over what's in your profile, customers will trust it, and therefore give you the credibility you might need to close that large ticket sale.
Again, don't falsify anything in your LinkedIn profile; just illustrate your credentials exactly how you want them explained in order to establish yourself as the local expert in your field.
Building Your Profile
Visit linkedin.com today and get started building your profile and connecting with people. I've spent a lot of time maintaining my own profile, which you can see here. Feel free to use mine as an example for your own, and I invite you to add me as a connection.
LinkedIn tries to control how you connect with other people. They don't want you to connect with people you haven't done business with, and they will ask you know the people you want to connect with. When connecting with me through LinkedIn, I give all of my readers (that's you) permission to list me as either a "colleague" or say "we've done business together" as the reason why you want to connect with me.
Get started today and work on your profile a little bit at a time. Like all social networks, this one is a time-suck, so take it slow.