Using LinkedIn: your game plan

LinkedIn is the premier business networking website, yet compared to the millions of people who have LinkedIn profiles, few of these people use it effectively.

Before you build your LinkedIn profile, make sure you have a plan in place: your personal business plan, or business vision. This plan will tell you how to work with LinkedIn.

To sketch out this plan, use the questions in this blog post to brainstorm your networking goals. Once you accumulate this information, you’ll be ready to build an accurate and effective profile and use LinkedIn in ways that will help you meet your business networking objectives.

Define yourself

Whole workshops and books are devoted to helping people figure out who they are. You can spend time on those workshops and books (and if you have, find any notes you took) but to save time, quickly jot some answers to the following questions:

  • What is your ideal type of work?
  • What business value do clients want from you?
  • What skills do you like to offer?
  • What companies are your ideal, “poster-child” clients?
  • What industries do you belong to, or want to serve?
  • What people are doing the types of work you want to be known for?
  • What do clients say when they’re really pleased with your work? (List clients who have actually said these things.)

Who do you want to network with?

LinkedIn is a great place to cultivate business relationships. What kinds of people do you want to interact with? To figure this out, quickly jot a list of names, companies and job titles for:

  • potential clients
  • current clients
  • former clients
  • current colleagues
  • past colleagues
  • industry contacts
  • others?

How do you want to interact with these people?

What would you like to discuss with each person listed above? Think about potential business ventures, industry issues, professional interests and other topics of discussion.

What types of professional groups would these people join?

Joining the same groups can provide you with the opportunity to meet these people

How do other people currently see you?

Google yourself. Seriously. Few things turn up other people’s viewpoints and observations like a Google search.

If your name is common (e.g. Jim Smith), you’ll need to do a little more work. For instance, search on your name plus your town, your job title, your company, and other things people would associate with you.

Don’t forget to check out any comments left on other social media profiles.

NOTE: If you’re worried about some of the things you turn up, don’t worry – you can remove many of these things, and building a strong LinkedIn profile is a great way of “pushing” those worrisome things lower down in search engine rankings.

How do you want to be seen?

Google terms that touch on the kind of work you want to be known for (for instance, “freelance travel writer”). Check your search results for the types of professional profiles (LinkedIn and other) that appear, and study those profiles. Write down what you learn from those profiles (keywords, meta tags, title tags, effective page titles and so forth) that you can use to build a valuable LinkedIn profile.

Other questions?

What else do you think you need to understand before you use LinkedIn effectively? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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