Using LinkedIn effectivelyOn some social networks, you might feel a little awkward doing business or looking for a job. LinkedIn, however, is designed for professional use.

Many employers will search on LinkedIn when looking to hire someone new, and your LinkedIn profile will usually come up on the first page of Google results for your name.

This means that it’s crucial that you make the most of your LinkedIn profile: if it’s woefully out of date, or contains just a few scraps of information, it’s not going to impress employers – and it may well count against you. After all, if you can’t make yourself look good online, an employer may quite reasonably question your skills and your commitment to online marketing.

There are plenty of simple steps you can take to improve your LinkedIn profile. In this guide, we cover the quickest ones first, to get you off to a great start.

The basics

These first five steps probably won’t take you more than an hour… but they’ll make a dramatic difference to your LinkedIn presence.

#1: Make your profile open to the public

Employers, recruiters and search engines all like to see a full profile. You should be using LinkedIn to communicate in a professional manner – so while your Facebook profile may well be protected, your LinkedIn profile should be fully open.

LinkedIn has instructions on making your profile private or public here.

#2: Write a great headline

Your LinkedIn headline appears beneath your name, and you can write anything you like here. Instead of simply writing “Experienced SEO Account Manager” or “Social Media Marketer”, try to come up with something a little more compelling.

Here are two different ways to do that:

Robert Pratt on LinkedIn

Robert Pratt

Robert’s headline does a great job of showing his specialities. It also includes keywords that employers / clients might be looking for, like “Digital Strategist” and “Mobile Marketing”.

Steve Maurer on LinkedIn

Steve Maurer

Duncan takes a slightly different approach, using his headline to give several quick descriptions of what he does. The stars that he uses to separate these are eye-catching (though this could backfire if an employer thinks they seem gimmicky).

Think about the keywords that an employer or recruiter might use to find someone with your skills: perhaps “SEO copywriter” or “social media manager” – and try to use these in your headline. Don’t overdo it, though: remember you want a headline that reads well, not one that looks like you’ve stuffed it with keywords.

This article on Social Media Examiner has several more examples of good headlines (under section #2).

#3: Upload a professional-looking photo

If you don’t have a photo attached to your profile, employers will almost certainly skip looking at it: they’ll have the instant impression that your profile is incomplete. The photo, along with your name, headline and location, shows up in search results. It’s a great way to make an instant connection.

Choose a professional-looking headshot, preferably where you’re smiling. That blurry photo from last Friday night won’t impress an employer – and nor will that cute picture of your cat or baby.

#4: Customise your profile URL

Your LinkedIn profile has a default URL – a long, ugly one with lots of numbers, something like:

uk.linkedin.com/pub/your-name/18/254/8b6

You can change this to something much nicer: this not only makes it easier to include the URL in emails and your CV, it also helps demonstrate to potential employers that you know your way around LinkedIn.

As with many social networks, you may well find that your name has already been taken by someone else – but you should still be able to come up with a better URL than the default one. LinkedIn has full instructions here.

#5: List your skills

Just like your CV, your LinkedIn profile should list your specific skills – employers will look at these to see whether or not you’re a good match for their position. (And, although other members can endorse you for skills you’ve not listed, many of your contacts will only look at the ones you’ve already put down.)

Use your CV as a starting point, but consider listing extra skills here – you have more space on a LinkedIn profile. As well as skills like “SEO” and “content marketing”, you might also consider broader ones – such as “training” or “public speaking”.

Going further

These steps will take a little longer, so set aside some time for them, perhaps 20 minutes each day next week.

#6: (Re)connect to colleagues, friends, family…

The LinkedIn search function prioritises people in your own network, or 2nd degree connections – so the more contacts you have, the more visible you’ll be. More contacts also means more chances to receive endorsements and recommendations (see #7 and #8, below).

Search for past colleagues on LinkedIn, and former classmates from school or university. You might also try members of clubs or groups that you belong to. LinkedIn will automatically suggest new connections based on your current ones, so once you’ve added a few friends, you’ll probably find more popping up.

You may also want to add connections from other networks, such as Twitter or Facebook.

#7: Endorse others for their skills

When you visit a connection’s profile, LinkedIn will ask whether you want to endorse them for certain skills – this appears prominently at the top of your screen.

By endorsing others, you’ll find that many of them will also endorse you in return. Having lots of endorsements for a particular skill, like “SEO” or “content marketing”, will give employers confidence that you know what you’re doing in that area.

#8: Leave recommendations for people you’ve worked with

Recommendations are like testimonials or reviews: they’re written by former colleagues or clients, and they appear on your profile (once you’ve approved them) against your relevant work positions. Having several glowing recommendations can really impress potential employers.

New connections may not think to recommend you, though – so leave them a recommendation first. This alone is often enough to nudge others into writing one for you. Don’t be afraid to ask outright, though, with a friendly, polite request through LinkedIn’s messaging system or by email.

#9: Join and participate in groups

LinkedIn groups are forums where members can discuss different topics, generally careers-related (though you’ll also find groups like “Arsenal FC fans”). Some groups are huge, others are full of spam: it’s usually better to join a few well-chosen groups than to sign up for everything going.

By contributing to discussions, and avoiding self-promotion, you’ll meet new people through LinkedIn groups – and you can send invitations to connect if you want. Many groups will include useful job leads, and can be a great way to ask questions if you’re looking to brush up your skills.

MarketingProfs has a good piece on using LinkedIn groups effectively.

#10: Share updates (not too often)

Like Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to share updates. These  are a good way to stay visible to others in your network – but it’s a good idea not to overdo it. One to five updates per week is appropriate; several each day may overwhelm your contacts.

Recent updates appear on your profile, so make sure that each one gives the best possible impression of you: keep updates about your wild night out for Facebook (with appropriate privacy settings in place).

Potential employers are searching LinkedIn right now for people with skills like yours – so set aside an hour today or tomorrow to go through the first five steps in this guide, then schedule time to take your profile even further.