The stakes are going up on LinkedIn. The business professional’s social networking site, which at the time of this writing boasts in excess of 225 million members, continues on a path of radical change to both its user interface and to the hallmark of its platform, the LinkedIn profile. There are new features to learn, new ways to format content, and new marketing strategies to master. And, to be sure, there are more changes on the horizon. In order to succeed on LinkedIn, you must adapt, adopt and engage.
In social business, LinkedIn has become the path of least resistance. The site is firmly positioned as the go-to resource for information on professionals, companies and associations. The new user interface offers quick and easy access, which has lessened the burden for those who feel compromised by technology. The primary goal of LinkedIn use remains ostensibly the same—that is, to build deep, cohesive social networks that become ripe with opportunities to reap real business.
Despite its immense popularity, LinkedIn remains a mystery for so many. Clearly, the innovation around LinkedIn is too rapid and the user base is having difficulty keeping up with the changes. Add to that the assorted challenges of living in our Age of Distraction. People are extremely busy. They have a lot coming at them, and from all angles. Not everybody has time to undertake a deep study of LinkedIn. Most just want to log in, take a token look, and get out with the least amount of wear and tear on their psyche. Those who opt to invest the time, explore LinkedIn, and participate in its forums will win.
Not a company to rest on its laurels, LinkedIn continues to humanize its platform, introducing new features that spark connectivity and cue engagement. Whereas many blogs and articles herald the new changes, very little attention is directed toward managing them and applying them to real-world business scenarios. Advantageous use of LinkedIn encompasses packaging yourself for success in your LinkedIn profile, connecting with the right people, and advancing an online relationship offline.
So, in light of the changes, what is expected of today’s success-oriented LinkedIn user?
1. More Vigilant Brand Management
The spotlight now shines on the brand known as you. The refined look of the individual LinkedIn profile page, the expansion of the LinkedIn Company Page, and the activity-directed platform that LinkedIn has become, necessitate more emphasis on the way you look and how you communicate. Whereas the look of one’s LinkedIn profile is the prime driver of successful lead generation, most LinkedIn users fail to maximize their presence on the site. You are ultimately responsible for the architecture of your own social brand. Yet much of what comprises this brand lies outside your control. LinkedIn now provides its users with the means to showcase themselves with greater creativity, enhance their perceived value online, and move them toward new heights of personal brand stewardship. When maximized, your LinkedIn profile brims with positive energy, highlights your uniqueness and illuminates a promise to those who see fit to engage with you. You convey trust. Moreover, the more powerfully you present on LinkedIn, the stronger your network becomes, and the greater social proximity you can create. In other words, you can close the distance between yourself and the people who you absolutely need to meet in business.
SUCCESS Tip: With new LinkedIn tools, use your profile to showcase your personal brand.
2. More Judicious Social Networking
With change on LinkedIn comes the need to redefine your “rules of engagement” on the site. Our fate in business is dictated by the strength of our professional relationships and how efficiently we manage them. Hence, the value of your LinkedIn network cannot be underestimated. Building a robust, opportunity-rich online community takes time, patience and critical thinking. Many LinkedIn users, who sought to build large networks early on, now realize that it is the quality—not quantity—of their connections that matters. Through its revamped Contacts system, LinkedIn affords its users with more flexibility in gauging network activity, tracking important conversations and keeping select connections top-of-mind. The time has come to examine the ways in which you interact with businesspeople (both on and off of LinkedIn) and, if necessary, shift your philosophy. Cultivate a giving mindset. Focus on the relationships that will bear fruit for both parties and exercise good judgment in advancing them. You may also wish to perform an internal audit of your LinkedIn network and expunge connections that have lost their relevance or fallen out of favor with you. (Note that these people will not receive notification after you have disconnected with them.)
SUCCESS Tip: Use the revamped Contacts system to pare down your connections—think quality over quantity.
3. More Aggressive Content Marketing
The Internet has become a crowded place where you have to fight to get noticed online. And it is a daily challenge. Search engine optimization (SEO) remains a valid visibility strategy for individuals and companies, but success in the digital era is not solely measured by where and how often you come up in the Google listings. LinkedIn becomes a key channel through which you can enhance your ability to get found, market content, and amplify your social brand. With its new Professional Gallery feature, LinkedIn enables the uploading of rich media—including videos, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, written work, links to your blog and other relevant sites—to the Summary, Experience and Education sections of your LinkedIn profile. Thus, LinkedIn becomes a logical and versatile content marketing hub that allows visitors to your profile a wider window to your world. Direct more people to your LinkedIn profile, encourage the direct connection, take an online conversation offline, and LinkedIn becomes your most valuable asset in business today.
SUCCESS Tip: Update your personal profile to take advantage of LinkedIn’s new tools to display photos and graphics of your work—all valuable SEO tools at your disposal.
We who are in the business of educating others on LinkedIn best practices are suddenly charged with greater responsibility in communicating these changes with clarity and timeliness. Realize that on LinkedIn, it is impossible to achieve long-term success with minimal time and effort. There is no cookie-cutter methodology for making LinkedIn work. In the end, it is your individual take on LinkedIn that will drive results.
JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, discusses LinkedIn profile optimization, personal brand management, respect-based social networking, marketing communication strategy, and classical business development techniques with neuroscience and psychology. JD is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing Communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart Graduate School of Business. His first book, The LinkedIn Edge: Creating a Psychological Advantage in Social Business, is due out in fall 2013.