By Allyson Lu
Times have changed: LinkedIn is no longer only a platform for prospective employees to contact their potential employers. It’s also become a way to expand your network of connections, drive traffic to your website, and establish yourself as the go-to authority in your field.
Learn how to master LinkedIn in four steps:
1. Update Your Headline
Let’s pretend that you are attending a conference with the hope of making valuable connections. If a person walked up to you, how would you introduce yourself? Of course, you would say your name and a little about your company (what you do).
On LinkedIn, a headline is this introduction. As the short section right below your name (it has a maximum of 120 characters), your headline will immediately determine whether a newcomer will care about you or not.
So how should you write your LinkedIn headline?
First, answer the question, “What can I do for you?” As an actuary, what can you do for your clients? By knowing your professional worth, you already have the foundation for a great headline!
Second, make sure to emphasize that you are not a doer but an achiever. In order to do so, avoid using words such as “communicated, worked and organized,” essentially those with passive rather than active connotations. Instead, swap them for “built, created, secured …” and your headline will be much more appealing to readers.
2. Update Your Summary
There are two practical reasons for you to have an outstanding summary. 1: Most people will venture towards this section after reading your headline (meaning that they are interested in your value). 2: Google indexes this section. In other words, if your summary includes a specific keyword (for example, “social media marketing”), your LinkedIn profile may appear when someone searches that very term.
Logically, since people reading your summary want an elaboration on your headline, be sure to answer these questions: Who are you (what is your title)? What can you do for a client (don’t be afraid to emphasize this!)? How can you achieve this? And, is there any proof of what you promise to do? Also, make sure to insert your keywords every so often.
If you have extra characters left over (you are given 2000), add a “specialties” section at the bottom where you can once again list your keywords.
3. Join a LinkedIn Group
Now that you’ve mastered your profile, it’s time to expand your LinkedIn presence. Without doing so, your work so far will have been wasted: indeed, most of the people who will view your LinkedIn profile will have found you from your activity on the site itself!
By joining and actively participating in LinkedIn Groups, you will draw beneficial attention to yourself and establish your position as a thought leader. This, in turn, will lead to more connections and potential clients.
So, how do you know which groups to join? First, think about your ideal customer/client and use these insights to focus your search and develop a list of five to 10 possible groups to join.
Next, “ask to join” most, if not all, of these groups—keep in mind that one to two may be inactive and/or not accept your request.
Once you have entered a LinkedIn Group, you must join the conversation.
As an actuary, you are undoubtedly familiar with the professional status quo: a lower-level employee—especially a newcomer—should not disobey or embarrass his/her employer. This same standard applies to interactions on LinkedIn; just as it may seem so in person, if you all of a sudden assume a leading role within such a specialized and exclusive community, your presence may be seen as an intrusion rather than a benefit. However, you can avoid this mistake by first participating in less conspicuous ways (i.e., liking and commenting on others’ posts); as always, it will be easier to gradually gain people’s acceptance and respect than reverse a bad first impression.
By now, you may be asking these two questions: 1. How long will it take to read and comment every day? and 2. What should I comment about? You will be relieved to hear that it only takes 15 to 20 minutes per day to do the job! As for the types of comments, you could expand on the author’s ideas, state your opinion on the topic, provide a personal example in support or opposition, or even begin a lively debate (by commenting on someone else’s comment).
People will thank you for drawing attention to their material and may even request to connect with you. After all, in the social-media world, every “like” and (meaningful) comment is worth as much as a good review.
4. Post Articles
This is the step you’ve been waiting for: the one most likely to bring you partnerships and clients, authority and success—if done well.
So, what should you publish? The simplest answer is anything that would be interesting/useful to your target audience, which is usually a LinkedIn Group or your connections. From there, you could detail a personal experience, share advice (through a how-to article), make predictions about your industry, comment about an innovation, or even link an external article which you read that morning. The possibilities are endless.
Now on to the easy part: where to publish your article. If you would like all of your connections to see it, click on the LinkedIn homepage, find the button “write an article” in the center box, and insert your article there. If, however, you think that it pertains more to group members (keep in mind that these people may not be your connections), click on that group, “start a conversation,” and link your article in the description box.
But before you hit that “publish” button, take a moment to reconsider your photo and headline. Do not just insert that standard picture of a pencil and paper or a growth graph with a red arrow pointing upwards. Select that photo with emotive colors or a featured person. Make your audience want to read your article!
As for the headline, emphasize why someone should read and listen to you. Will your article’s value exceed the cost of reading it?
Note on Republishing
For those interested in republishing material from their blogs/websites, know that there may be consequences of doing so (you are safe if you are linking it in a group conversation): if you are planning to copy and paste it as a general article, you may confuse Google’s search engines.
What does this mean? A duplicate article may rank above the original one (the one on your website) in Google’s “most relevant” list and thus decrease traffic to your main website. While this may not affect those who have not made use of SEO marketing, it could overturn the benefits for those who have already done so. A safe way to make your original content accessible to curious LinkedIn users would be to add them to the “media” section (located under the summary) instead.
In the last few years, LinkedIn has become the most important tool for innovative people and businesses; no longer do they need to attend conferences to fish for business cards, hope that strangers accidentally run into their websites, or one-by-one search for partners on Facebook.
LinkedIn has the power to transform you and your business from a minor voice in the crowd to the leader on the stage. But it is you who must take the first step.