Social media is important, but it shouldn't take up all your time. Today, let's focus on nine tips to make your LinkedIn presence the best it can be.
• First things first: Update often. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me LinkedIn is something you only use when you need to find a job, I'd have so many nickels from so many incorrect people. Not only should make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated, you should check it as often as any other bio on any other social network. Granted, your LinkedIn profile contains multiple sections and takes more time to polish, but it's one place where you really don't want to cut corners. Your employment history and profile should shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.
• LinkedIn is not Facebook. If you're looking for a Facebook-like experience, go to Facebook. On LinkedIn, you should not post memes and quizzes. I'm seeing more of that lately, and frankly I don't like it. You are entitled to have a personality, but remember there's a place for everything. You risk alienating your audience if you use the network incorrectly.
• Smile: Your photo is important. Yes, you need to have one. If you skip this step, LinkedIn will identify you with a generic gray head and shoulders. Nothing says I'm lazy like a generic gray head and shoulders. And no, a photo of you in a t-shirt from 20 years ago isn't acceptable. Put on a nice shirt, maybe even a tie and look professional. How important is it? I won't connect with anyone who doesn't have a photo.
• No spelling mistakes ever. When it comes to financial advice and retirement, details matter. Don't make a bad impression by not knowing how to spell impression.
• Your endorsements and recommendations say a lot about you. People can endorse you for all sorts of things, and if those things aren't in your profile they won't appear unless you approve them. But don't accept everything just because you think more matters. It doesn't. Now, recommendations are different. They're like endorsements in that they showcase your strengths, but they read more like personal reviews. Thank people when they endorse you and only ask people you know and trust to recommend you. Always choose quality over quantity for both endorsements and recommendations.
• Introductions should be meaningful. When you request to connect with someone, you are asked how you know the person and get a chance to include an optional note. Use the note to your advantage and write something nice, because the default text that's already filled in "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" is so impersonal. Typing in something memorable shows your future connection that you took the time to research and gives the person a reason to want to connect with you. In other words, don't assume people are going to connect with you just because you ask. Give them a reason, and the relationship will be that much stronger.
• Status updates and posts are two completely different things. A status update is like a tweet where you enter a link and type something short. A post is an actual blog post with photos and multiple links. Status updates are meant to be informative, helpful and quick. Posts show off your knowledge. Both brand you as an expert on one or more topics, so try one of each. Just don't go overboard. Remember: Quality over quantity.
• Watch your mouth. There are some things you just don't mention on LinkedIn, not even in a private message. Everything you do online leaves a digital paper trail, and LinkedIn is no different. Keep your chin up and be positive, because what you say reflects on you. You do not want your clients, colleagues and peers to see you badmouthing something or someone. This goes for politics too. When in doubt, use my little typing trick. Close LinkedIn. Open notepad (or TextEdit on a Mac) and type out everything you're thinking. Bang the keys if you need to. Then, delete the file and go back to LinkedIn. Typing it is therapeutic. Sending it isn't.
• Get your group on. LinkedIn has its share of flaws, but groups isn't one. Sure, they can stand a design touch-up, but LinkedIn has millions of groups that can connect you with people in your industry. Your next partner or employee could be a member of the group you join, so start connecting. One word of caution: Don't join hundreds of groups unless you are going to participate in hundreds of groups. It's easy for your profile and notifications to get unwieldly quickly. You might have to test the waters before you find the groups you like best. Experimentation encouraged.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, or if you have thoughts about this column or any previous ones, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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