Linkedin is the primary tool recruiters, fans, employers, colleagues, customers and friends use to learn about you. It’s a powerful application and an open-book. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – review what other people in your profession have done and use their profiles as a benchmark to measure your story. You should even ‘borrow’ ideas that represent you from anyone who says it better than you think you could.

This isn’t everything but it will give you a good start. Even a brief profile can be effective and allow you to generate thousands of relevant connections.

Linkedin is one-part of a complete brand-building strategy. You’ll learn a lot by becoming an expert user so it’s worth focusing on it as a starting point.

1. Getting started – You need a starting point to measure your progress so create a network map of your connections before you make other updates and changes. Visit Socilab.com to create a report about your network. It’s even better than inmaps, as long as you have fewer than 500 connections, since it shows your network ‘developing.’ Capture a screenshot to use later (save it as a pdf, jpeg, or other photo file – most computers have “Paint”, just “Paste” the screenshot into it, and “save as”).

2. “Turn off notifications” as a courtesy to your connections (since you’re about to get busy). From your thumbnail photo select “Privacy & Settings”, then, in the lower-center choose “turn on/off your activity broadcasts.”

3. Select groups to join and companies to follow. You should choose associations and groups you have in common with your co-workers, colleagues, friends, family, and classmates. Once you’ve joined a group, you can manage visibility – many groups should be public on your profile, but “connection generators” should be hidden. Consider turning off notification messages from the groups you join, but you should allow members to contact you.

4. Join the following groups (you can join 50):

A. Ten trade associations in your profession.
B. Your school alumni associations.
C. Military and veteran groups.
D. TED: Ideas worth spreading (400K+ members).
E. Another 20 that are specific and important to you. E – J (below) should be hidden from view (you can select this option in ‘Manage Groups’
F. Jobs (+750K members)
G. Linkedin:HR
H. Linkedin Residential Real Estate
I. Linkedin Accounting
J. Linkedin Entertainment
K. eMarketing Association Network.

5. Follow companies and organization (not included in the 50 “groups” you can join):

A. Your employer
B. Previous employers
C. Competitors
D. Your suppliers
E. Local colleges/universities
F. Local companies

6. Follow influential people and trend setters:

A. Elon Musk
B. Mark Cuban
C. Tony Robbins
D. Seth Godin
E. Nassim Taleb
F. James Rickards
G. Influential people in your industry

7. Add 10 skills: Leadership, Management, Strategy, Venture Capital, Startups, Procurement, Product Development, Marketing Communications. Keep this list small so you can hit 99+ endorsements for each one as soon as possible. Once you have many endorsements for those, then add new skills.

You’re on your way with a more complete profile.

8. Add connections.
Do not send blast emails. Personalize connection requests – it doesn’t need to be sophisticated, but you should show recipients that you care enough to personalize the note. Here’s an easy example. John – I hope you’re doing well. I’d like to add you to my network on linkedin. Regards, Dianne. Short, easy, personal.

Tips: This fact is a goldmine: you don’t need to know someone’s email address if you are connected to them through a group.

Another nugget for your consideration: Linkedin prevents spamming through sophisticated algorithms that keep track of how many invitations you send out, how quickly people respond, and the percent that accept your requests. This is why personalization is crucial. You want quick ‘yeses’ to keep going. This means your friends’ parents, or kid’s soccer coach plays a role – they’re likely to say yes, so when your CEO sits on hers for a few days you don’t get locked out.

Find people who are well connected – they will give you exponential reach. It’s better to have ten connections that each have 5,000+ connections, than a thousand people who have 10 connections.

Look for LIONs – Linkedin Open Networkers (they have a circle logo next to their profile). These are people who encourage others to connect with them. Authors, speakers, consultants and senior executives are more open to connecting if you send them a good argument. As your work advances It’s a great idea to search for people who are similar to you or have the same title. In the search box type “Product Development” or “Sales Manager” to find the highest ranked people. Look at their profile. What groups do they belong to that you could add? How did they write their job descriptions? What skills have they listed?

Now – do the same thing for the current and former trade association Presidents and Board Members… how can you incorporate information from their profiles into yours?

Search Engine Optimization – This is a book by itself. To get started, select five words or phrases you think describe you or the roles you’ve had and are looking for. For this example use “Software Developer” – next, use http://www.google.com/trends to search for your term. You’ll find that it’s not a great search term, but a similar term is, “Software Engineer.” So if you decide to stick with “Software Developer” you should also seed your profile with “Software Engineer” to maximize the number of times you will appear in Linkedin Searches for one of those terms. It doesn’t matter what your key words or phrases are, what matters is what other people think and how often recruiters use those terms, so embrace “Google Trends” and use it to guide you towards relevant, high-frequency key-words to give you the best advantage.

Have fun and share what you learn.

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