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When it comes to networking these days you really need a network.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LinkedIn, the social network focused on business and employment, existed to bring together like-minded professionals to share business and professional achievements, advice and information.
LinkedIn still exists for these reasons, but also represents a way to make those valuable contacts and maintain those valuable relationships without being in the same room.
Dr. Katie Hill, director of the RM “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State University, recommends LinkedIn for refining and elevating your business profile in order to make connections that can inform and enhance your career.
There are many ways to maximize the benefits of LinkedIn, says Hill, and some things to avoid.
“Some of these things can seem really basic,” she says. “But I see they are not finished.”
1. Be URL-self
Whether you have the paid or basic version of LinkedIn, Hill recommends using your profile settings to create your own URL, better known as a web address. A more personalized URL makes your profile more searchable and gives you credibility by showing the LinkedIn community “you know what you’re doing,” says Hill. Put the URL on your business card to improve your accessibility. Also use your bio to describe yourself in a concise and interesting way. It is not a CV. Make it clear who you are as a professional and what your brand is. “After about three sentences, do I know what I really need to know about you? Hill said.
2. Fly your banner
A LinkedIn banner is the image behind your photo. Personalize it by uploading a photo or group of photos to represent your professional side, or head over to image and document creation site Canva.com to create your own banner. Avoid vacation photos and choose images that showcase your brand. If you are involved in some professional organizations, use pictures of this. A distinctive image makes people more likely to read your profile.
3. Look at the skinny
Keep your network thin. Don’t try to connect with everyone. You want your posts to stay relevant by attracting comments, which means having a network of people with whom you actually have connections and commonalities. The algorithm will know if you are related to dozens of strangers. Limit your hashtags to three to five and identify people in posts that might be useful to them; by tagging an insurance agent in a premium article, for example. “You want people to like it, but you also want people to engage with you in the first 40 to 60 minutes, to stay relevant,” says Hill.
4. Keep up to date with household chores
Like houseplants or relationships, your LinkedIn profile needs regular attention to thrive. Daily and weekly efforts will help you build your network. Praise people for milestones and promotions. Recommend or approve professionals whose services you are familiar with. “When you write something believable, people will want to reciprocate,” says Hill. Publish regularly. Hill says some people take time on Sundays and schedule their posts for the week, but it only takes 15-20 minutes each day to keep your profile up to date and relevant. “Sometimes I come on LinkedIn with my morning cup of coffee and post,” says Hill.
And a ‘don’t’
LinkedIn is not to be confused with Facebook, says Hill. Don’t try to see how many connections you can make. Be specific and focused. Share information that is relevant to the people in your network and make sure that the people in your network are relevant to you. This isn’t about posting cooking tips or complaining about the person who occupied two parking spots at Walmart.
“It’s the brand of your business,” says Hill. “Celebrate people’s business accomplishments. Celebrate business people and don’t connect with people you don’t really know. It will backfire on you. … Get people to do presentations for you and don’t go posting every day or six hours a day for a week at a stretch and then nothing.