Are you looking for a new job or new clients right now? Would you like access to over 125,000 recruiters and over 125 different industries? Did you know that the all professional social network LinkedIn touts 55 million members and has members from all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies—many at the senior decision making professional level?
A strong professional presence on LinkedIn is a part of building your personal brand and strengthening your overall Internet presence; both of which are vital in succeeding in today’s attention economy. As we all would agree, it is human nature to want to do business with people you know and like, and most importantly, that you have confidence in and trust. A stand-out professional profile along with a strong professional presence on LinkedIn is a great calling card for potential clients and customers to increase familiarity and confidence in you and your company. Did you know the majority of potential employers and customers look at your connections and recommendations in your profile first? Have you considered that visibility and thoughtful participation is a key in your brand on LinkedIn?
Getting the Most Professional Internet Presence from LinkedIn:
Connections: LinkedIn is about networking, and networking is about connecting. You are significantly more likely to receive a job inquiry or a positive first impression with a recruiter or possible new client viewing your profile if you have at least twenty-five connections. The first place to start in building your connections network is naturally to connect with family and friends along with past and current clients, partners, vendors, classmates, employers, managers, reports, and co-workers. An effective Networker accepts invitations from people met on LinkedIn in other industries too. A great Networker sends connection invitations to those they desire as an employer or client; to those from a different industry they would like to work in or know more about; to those from non-profits or charities they support or just admire; to those from mutual LinkedIn groups; and to recruiters if job hunting. Search new companies and industries for contacts you may already have in them to add to your connections.
Personalize the connection invitation by including a note expressing how nice it is to reconnect on LinkedIn with someone you know or a note introducing yourself and prefacing why you would like to connect with someone you do not know personally. In the prefacing note include why you want to connect, what you liked about the person’s profile, and what mutual benefit connecting might have. You may also use the introductions request feature to connect to a person that is a connection of one of your connections. There is a limited amount of introduction requests, so choose these with careful purpose and only send to those connections that are likely to actually provide the introduction. Make introductions yourself if asked. It is fine to initially ask the person requesting the introduction for their purpose if you are not sure to clarify.
LinkedIn does have rules regarding connection invitations, and all invitations should adhere to these to maintain a good reputation within the LinkedIn community. Spamming is not allowed and is in poor professional taste frankly. There are rules to sending invitations to people you do not know. They may mark the invitation with an “I don’t know” response. Should you reach the “I don’t know” response limit, you may be asked for the invitee’s email address to send any connection invitations in the future.
It is also perfectly acceptable to not approve a connection invitation from someone you do not want to connect with on LinkedIn. I think it is in best taste to ignore the invitation as opposed to marking it as an “I don’t know” response or to be negative about it. It reflects your personal integrity and brand to not connect with a past contact you do not believe is of high integrity from your past association with them. I don’t think it reflects the negative of holding a grudge necessarily if you do not want your network connections; and therefore, your indirect endorsement, to have people in it you would not recommend to someone. You can sincerely forgive someone for past transgressions without welcoming them into your professional network and brand.
Be open to meeting new people and accepting invitations to connect, for that is what networking is about. Be proactive in requesting connections that make sense like people at top companies you want to know more about; you want to work for; you want to sell to; you seem to have common goals; you share a group or discussion; or you met in the Answers section. It is good business to have a purpose in your connections and to be able to provide a mutual fit in either interest or benefit or both. It is important to be thoughtful and to send a “thank you” message to those that accept your invitation or that you accepted an invitation. Allow connections to be browsed by others. Be collaborative and provide two-way networking.
Reccomendations: As with twenty-five plus connections, you are significantly more likely to receive a job inquiry or a positive first impression with a recruiter or possible new client viewing your profile if you have at least four to ten plus recommendations. Recommendations for you and your work or company build confidence, presence, and brand. Even college students should have recommendations from professors or other professional contacts. Ensure recommendations have a 360 degree presence—all degrees of relationships—manager, reports, co-worker, partners, and clients. When asking for a recommendation, it is perfectly acceptable and smart actually to include in the request specific skill sets or projects for comment in the recommendation. This actually helps the person writing the recommendation by refreshing their memory of your work with them, targeting specifics for them, and minimizing their time in completing the request.
The recommendations you write and give for others on LinkedIn are also a part of your profile, presence, and brand. This reflects on your network quality. It is important for all members that recommendation integrity is of a high standard. If you are asked for a recommendation, and you do not know the person that well; did not personally work with them; or simply would not recommend their work, it is important to decline the request. A non-offensive way to decline is to simply indicate you want them to have the best recommendations possible, and you do not feel the depth of your knowledge of their work would allow you to provide this.
Privacy Settings: Set your account privacy to everyone or public where available instead of network only. Unlike the intelligent desire for some privacy on pure social networks, you want as many eyes as possible on your LinkedIn profile especially if you are looking for a job or new clients. You also want your name and public profile to appear in Internet searches on your name and in general to maximize your Internet and LinkedIn presence.
Public Profile: Ensure your LinkedIn public profile URL link contains your actual profile name to maximize consistency in your Internet presence. For example, my LinkedIn profile name is Brenda Krueger Huffman. My LinkedIn public profile URL is LinkedIn.com/in/brendahuffman. Again, you want your name and public profile to appear in Internet searches on your name and in general to maximize your Internet and LinkedIn presence. Keep your name and photo consistent in all professional profiles and URL links including your blog, company website, Google profile, Yahoo profile, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile as much as possible when setting these up. This will come into play in the quality of your overall Internet presence and brand.