While no two professionals are identical, there are universal LinkedIn strategies that can open the door to job opportunities and boost personal branding.
Professional networking site LinkedIn is growing at a faster rate than its social media competitors Facebook and Twitter, according to recent research from digital intelligence data site Compete. The difference between engaging LinkedIn connections and getting lost in a sea of online profiles comes down to two actions: investing time and building a marketable profile. Yet getting noticed on a site that boasts more than 150 million global profiles can be a challenge.
IMT spoke with a handful of experts to get some LinkedIn tips for building a better professional presence.
Rules that apply to paper résumés - think clear, error-free copy - also apply to the LinkedIn network. As experts point out, it's a good idea to blend the traditional résumé with Web content for personal branding.
"I advise all of my clients to include their LinkedIn profile's URL on their résumé and in their email signatures to facilitate quick review by anyone who is curious or interested," Meg Montford, an executive career coach and president of Abilities Enhanced, told IMT.
Don't just cut and paste from your paper résumé to your LinkedIn profile, HR solutions provider Adecco Group advises. "...Write for the screen, formatting text in short blocks of copy with visual or textual signposts."
As with a standard résumé, language is the key to getting recognized. "Embed the appropriate industry key words into your text to be easily found via online search," Montford suggests.
With that in mind, a résumé should never be confusing or too drawn out.
"Find ways to explain what you've done in a concise way," Laura Mazzullo, a staffing manager at specialist recruitment services Page Personnel, told IMT.
While a traditional résumé may feature an objective line, LinkedIn's taglines - essentially personal descriptors - are among one of the first pieces of information a recruiter or connection may come across and, therefore, can significantly affect your online presence.
"A professional should not use generic headlines, like 'Business Executive' or 'Seeking a Job,'" according to Melissa Llarena, CEO and founder of Career Outcomes Matter, a career coaching business.
"Be sure to be descriptive. It's important to be detailed, especially if your role or expertise is very technical," Mazzullo said.
But don't get too creative. Career and recruitment blog The Undercover Recruiter recently published a list of the craziest LinkedIn job titles. Among the top 10: "Digital Overlord" and "Creator of Happiness" - titles that are more likely to garner attention for their outlandishness rather than professionalism.
A Web profile also provides an opportunity to showcase other talents that cannot be found on a traditional résumé.
"Consider linking to your professional portfolios, an interview or a video that expresses your talents and interests," Llarena recommends. "Share your creative side. If you are interested in photography, then show us your portfolio."
Once your profile is up, expand it to reach "100% Profile Completeness," which is indicated on members' profiles when they sign in.
"The 100 percent is important because complete profiles show up at the top of search results," Robb Pardee, a LinkedIn speaker and the founder of Strategic Leadership Coaching, says. Pardee, a certified coach with the International Coach Federation, outlines the following checklist for a complete profile: an industry and postal code; a current position with description; two more positions; education; at least five skills; a profile photo; at least 50 connections and a summary.
As a bonus to your completed profile, use the "Recommendation" feature to your advantage. "Get recommendations from managers, supervisors, clients, faculty or anyone else that can recommend you with some authority," Pardee says.
Other site features include an "Honors and Awards" section and a "Skills and Expertise" section. In addition to highlighting desirable certifications such as LEED and Six Sigma, it's also a good idea to sell your inventions and creations, Llarena says. "LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for budding thought leaders," she says.
Among the most common LinkedIn mistakes are abandoning a profile and not networking enough, experts say. Try to dedicate 15 minutes of your day to connect with others by posting status updates about your professional happenings and joining group discussions.
"Lots of people create a profile and then never touch it," Pardee warns. "They wonder why nothing is happening in their job search."
Moreover, move outside your inner circle and don't be afraid to send a direct message to someone who can provide you with a job lead.
"Candidates often email me once they've reviewed our current job portfolio," Mazzullo says. "I encourage that."
Above all else, keep up a presence. "Success can be defined many different ways, but proactive LinkedIn users are more industry-savvy and respected for their expertise," Montford explains.