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HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

 With more than 85 million members in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn is a professional social network worth using, understanding and optimizing.
After you’ve covered the basics of setting up your LinkedIn presence, features including recommendations, applications, LinkedIn Answers, and the Resume Builder can add value to your profile. Many of these highly useful features, though, are often overlooked or underused by newcomers.
We spoke with four LinkedIn aficionados to get their top advice on making the best use of these tools. Read on for their thoughts and let us know which tips you’d add for optimizing LinkedIn profiles in the comments below.

Cover the Basics

The first step to spiffing up your LinkedIn (LinkedIn) profile is to fill in as much information about your work experience as possible. It’s your online resume; pay as much attention to it as you would your cover letter or paper resume.
Sharlyn Lauby, president of Internal Talent Management, HR blogger and guest contributor for Mashable (Mashable), believes that a person’s LinkedIn profile should, at minimum, reflect his or her current situation. That includes an up-to-date headline along with information about his or her most recent position. A recent photo and contact information are also musts.
If you’ve covered those bases, our experts recommend focusing on making connections, joining groups, getting recommendations and posting status updates. Once again, the focus should be on quality additions in each of these areas.
“[A status update] is a great place to share an article of interest or something new you’ve been working on. People do comment on status updates, so it’s a nice way to start a conversation,” says Lauby.
If all else fails, just follow LinkedIn’s built-in status bar for recommendations on how to complete your profile. When you hit the 100% mark, though, don’t think you’re finished; there’s plenty more to be done.

Ask for Meaningful Recommendations

Astute recruiters aren’t going to take your word for granted when you describe your top-notch abilities. Instead, just as in offline recruiting, they will want to hear from those who have worked with you and have a grasp on your working style, personality and skills. That’s where recommendations come in.
Lauby notes that gathering recommendations is all about quality over quantity. “If someone has dozens of recommendations that are generic in nature, it’s not as valuable as a handful that are specific about a person’s experience and contribution.”
Focus on asking for meaningful recommendations from your supervisors and colleagues who work closest to you. Before sending out a request on LinkedIn, approach each contact in person to explain the importance of his or her recommendation. Adding a personal touch to your request will probably result in a better response rate, as impersonal, default requests can sometimes fall on deaf ears.
Be sure to thank each of your colleagues who recommend you on LinkedIn, and consider returning the favor with a follow-up recommendation.

Use Value-Added Applications

One of the hidden jewels on LinkedIn is its ability to incorporate applications. Check out its Application Directory for a taste of apps that can spice up your profile.
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
  • SlideShare Presentations: If you’re a public speaker or publish lots of reports, SlideShare is a useful tool for getting the word out about your work. If you don’t have a SlideShare account, get one. If you do, this app is a great way to showcase your most recent reports or presentations on your LinkedIn profile.
  • WordPress (WordPress): Add personal flair to your LinkedIn profile by importing your latest WordPress blog posts onto your profile. You can choose to display all posts or only those tagged “linkedin.”
  • Tweets: If you’re a huge LinkedIn buff with a passion for Twitter (Twitter), Tweets is a great Twitter client for accessing the microblogging service right from LinkedIn. Plus, you can choose to display your most recent tweets on your profile.
  • My Travel: Powered by TripIt (TripIt), this app enables you to see where your professional network is traveling and post your upcoming trips. It then shows you who in your network will be close to you on your travels.
These apps give visitors to your profile a better idea of who you are as a person and job candidate. Lauby also recommends checking out the Events app, which enables you to discover professional events and indicate which ones you’re attending, giving you more opportunities to connect with fellow attendees.

Become an Expert With LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers is a Q&A platform that enables members to demonstrate their business acumen by answering questions from other members. When questioners choose another user’s answer as best, that user gains points of expertise. These points rank members on the Answers leaderboard, called “This Week’s Top Experts.”
We asked three of this week’s top experts about their best practices on using the product. Each of these experts spend a few hours per day answering up to 50 questions daily, which is the maximum for 24 hours.
Cristina Falcão, lawyer and pharmaceutical manager at Farmácia F. in Portugal, says that the biggest reason for using Answers is networking. “‘Expertise’ [points] is given by the person who asks and categorizes a question. Networking is about meeting people, sharing knowledge, and helping each other,” she said. “I enjoy learning from other professionals and the input from other users’ real life experiences is priceless.” For Falcão, Answers is a platform for demonstrating expertise, as well as a platform for getting answers to her own pressing questions.
“I consider it my daily marketing investment,” said Christine Hueber, a social media and search marketing strategist, referring to her activity on LinkedIn Answers. She said she usually answers questions until she reaches the daily maximum. Her dedication has paid off thus far, as she now sources most of her clients from LinkedIn. She explained:

“Since I started focusing on Answers about a year ago, all of my new clients I’ve gained either directly or indirectly through Answers, since my ranking and demonstrated expertise is very impressive to them. Plus, it’s brought other opportunities my way, like giving presentations on LinkedIn, being featured in YouTube videos, being interviewed by people like you, etc.”

Hueber isn’t alone in having benefited from being an active Answers user. Dinesh Rãmkrishna, NeST technologies business development manager, agreed that his input has been rewarded in the form of “connections, friends, well wishers, business queries and job offers.”
All three experts recommend answering questions in areas that you are well-experienced in — they also get lots of great feedback for answering questions about how to use LinkedIn, in general.

Use LinkedIn’s Resume Builder Tool

Remember when crafting the perfect resume entailed sitting at your computer for hours, using the perfect action verbs and nitpicking the formatting? Sadly, much of that process has remained unchanged for decades, but formatting is getting a bit easier, with tools like LinkedIn’s Resume Builder.
The tool enables LinkedIn users to craft resumes by simply choosing a template and customizing the content. Lauby commented on Resume Builder’s usability:

“It’s incredibly easy to use, and I was very impressed with the number of different resume formats available. Keep in mind, the quality of the resume is directly attributed to the quality of information on your profile. If people want to take full advantage of this feature, they will need to keep their profiles updated regularly with the information they ultimately want on their resumes.”

If updating your resume in Microsoft Word, again and again, is one of the monotonous tasks you’d like to shake, check out Resume Builder the next time an update is needed.
These recommendations will help LinkedIn users utilize their profiles as much as possible. Which tips would you add? Let us know in the comments.

10 Essential Social Media Tips for B2B Marketers

When we write about how companies or individuals are using social media in their marketing strategies, it’s usually in the context of a business to consumer relationship. However, business-to-business (B2B) marketing is really getting a boost from social media as well. According to a recent study, 60% of B2B marketers plan to increase social media marketing spending this year.

Non-B2B-centric services like Twitter and Facebook can still offer great opportunities for B2B shops. Sometimes, the approach is the same as it would be in non-B2B marketing, sometimes it can be very different.

Figuring out how to best implement and harness social media in the course of B2B marketing can be difficult but we’ve put together ten tips to help get you on the right track!

 1. Use Twitter Effectively

This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of businesses and even B2B marketers aren’t on Twitter. Get an account on Twitter and start engaging. While having profiles on other social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can be equally important, Twitter remains one of the best ways to find and engage with others.

How do you do that? Start by searching for phrases relevant to your business and by monitoring those searches regularly. Look at what people are saying and join in the conversation. If people aren’t necessarily looking for your business offerings right away, start joining other conversations of interest. The more you build bridges, the more likely you are to be noticed.

Second, use hashtags. The #B2B hashtag, for example, will connect you with several other like-minded businesses who are also trying to leverage Twitter to build an online presence. Don’t overdo it, though. There are some people #who #tweet #like #this.

We’ll discuss this in the next point, but consider Twitter to be an informal medium. With social media, businesses can (and should) be human again. That’s why it’s safe to use Twitter not just for pure self promotion but to build a meaningful relationships with those who you are likely to do business with you in the future. If you feel comfortable using your business Twitter feed to talk about what makes you tick (versus purely promoting your business), you might be pleasantly surprised to see that your audience might very well be receptive to that messaging.

What’s great about Twitter, especially from a B2B perspective, is that you can follow just about everyone. Take advantage of the opportunity to follow your industry influencers, connect with potential customers, and keep a heads up on the competition.

A great example of Twitter usage from a B2B perspective is @salesforce. Salesforce has used its Twitter feed to share relevant news, to empower current customers, and to offer customer support.

2. Figure Out Your ‘Social Voice’

Social media works best when it is personal and authentic, and thus, it’s important to make sure that the way you communicate when using social media tools comes from a personal and authentic place.

Kevin Dugan, the Director of Social Marketing for Empower MediaMarketing recently wrote a blog post about finding your social voice. I spoke with Dugan about establishing a social voice, and he had this to say:

“It is critical that brands understand a social voice is different from brand voice. Social voice reinforces the brand voice indirectly. Social voice doesn’t follow communication guidelines or identity standards. That’s because a social voice equates to a person. A brand voice is anonymous while a social voice can be found on Google. They must also have an understanding of the brand and a passion for it.”

Social networks are now helping to put the “human” back in businesses again. The traditional messaging of yore has been replaced by businesses who actually appear to show that they care about their customers. With a social voice, informal is perfectly acceptable. Having a social voice, as opposed to just a generic “brand voice,” is an important step when connecting with potential customers. Prospective customers want to connect with businesses who think just like them.

Just because your clients are other businesses doesn’t mean that the “social” aspect of social media needs to disappear.

3. Take Advantage of Opportunities on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is continuing to get bigger and bigger and it continues to be a great resource for businesses and employees to connect with one another.

One of the best things about LinkedIn is the Shared Connections feature. This feature makes it possible to find people like potential clients and then see what connections you have in common. Shared Connections then makes getting a virtual introduction that much easier.

building up a strong LinkedIn network and being willing to introduce others (in good faith, of course always use your best judgment) can also increase what opportunities you can get in the future.

B2B marketing is often built through trust and word of mouth. Having a shared connection is a great way to start establishing some of that trust from the very beginning.

LinkedIn also has a community of active participants. LinkedIn Answers serves as a knowledge base where business representatives can establish authority and expertise by participating in the ongoing discussions. LinkedIn Groups is an opportunity for business professionals to interact with other topics relevant to his/her interests. One business successfully used LinkedIn Groups as a way to build business leads. This business opted to engage in relevant industry discussion and offered business services when requests were made, thereby bringing in a highly targeted business lead. Actively participating in LinkedIn is often one of the best ways to not only help people out, but also to make a connection for your service and even generate leads.

Answering questions across LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups doesn’t mean to simply put out the marketing blurb, but to really engage and offer feedback and solutions. Again, social media is most effective when it is genuine.

4. Start a Blog

Social media provides the opportunity for companies to promote themselves but also to welcome commentary from a community of peers. By starting a blog, you give your readers an opportunity to see you with your social voice outside the typical corporate website’s newsroom. Blogs become platforms where you can announce new product releases, share personal company stories, answer any specific questions from your customers, and empower customers to achieve success with your products and service offerings. Blogging can also establish business professionals as thought leaders in their field, thereby aiding with client acquisition.

Blogs can build up qualified prospects through search engine rankings too. Be sure to update your blog regularly with valuable content and follow up with the comments written on each individual post.

5. Monitor Your Industry

Social media means that content is being posted everywhere, and businesses have a unique opportunity to gather intelligence to make well-educated and informed business decisions. Google Alerts is a great tool to keep up with what’s happening in relation to your company, your industry and your competitors. You can get updates via e-mail or in RSS (and even in real-time) about new search results or news stories for a certain query or topic.

Further, free tools like Social Mention and YackTrack will monitor the social sphere for other mentions of your business on social sites, especially. BackType will take that a step further and monitor phrases in comments on blog posts. All of these aforementioned services can be emailed to you in a daily digest format which your team can evaluate to find opportunities.

If you don’t already have alerts set up on these services for your company name, do it now. Also set up a more generic alert for your industry as a whole to see what people are talking about. If you want to see what your competition or other big industry players are doing, add those to the mix as well.

Monitoring can also be useful because you can then highlight the big stories on your own social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, etc.

6. Be Consistent and Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up

While you don’t want to be creepy, it’s important to not let potential opportunities slip by when using social media. If you’ve answered someone’s question on LinkedIn or on Twitter, don’t be afraid to reach back out to that person to ask if they have any follow-up questions or if you can send them more information. There’s an abundance of opportunity to strengthen a business relationship but it starts by initiating and then making sure that your business is fresh in your prospects’ minds.

Staying engaged and staying communicative is really important. Social media is not about setting it and forgetting it. It’s about being social, so don’t be afraid to reach out and check back in with potential leads you meet using social media. Similarly, don’t be afraid to direct message your followers on Twitter when an opportunity presents itself. They followed you because they want to hear from you. Use that opportunity to your advantage but don’t overdo it. Auto-DMs are a no-no.

If you’re going to blog, don’t leave that blog stagnant. Provide valuable content on a regular basis. Give employees of your company an opportunity to help build your brand. You can get a lot of great blog content by involving many company employees in the process. Similarly, get many employees of your company to utilize the social networks and to be continually responsive to customer inquiries. Remember, the more visible you are on the social networks, the more likely you are to be remembered when another business actually needs to utilize your services.

7. Leverage Your Analytics for Business Metric Measurement

After you’re involved enough in the social space, you’ll likely see tweets, retweets, traffic, and social network links that point to various parts of your company website. Take a look at your website analytics and start seeing where you’re making a difference, especially as it relates to ROI measurement. Don’t lose sight of your business metrics and start considering practical social media measurement to assess clickthroughs, popularity of links, and other important metrics.

As part of measurement, consider using URL shorteners. Not only do they make links more manageable (and limit the number of characters in a Tweet or Facebook message), they also can be a great way to track data as many URL shorteners provide valuable statistics about the performance of each individual shortened URL. Monitor this data throughout the process with your main website analytics package to see if your message attached to the shortened URL resulted in conversions.

When looking at conversion trends or successful tools in building leads with social media, reviewing analytics data is crucial. It gives you insight into content that performs very well in the social space but also through other marketing techniques, such as search engine optimization. Use the data as an opportunity to improve your content or your social media/search marketing efforts.

8. Find and Follow Industry Influencers

B2B social media marketing is often about connecting with the right people and about building relationships. Social media makes both of these actions simple and painless. Being aware of who the influencers in your industry are and then following them, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or their own blogs, is the first step to building a connection with those influencers. With a genuine relationship, these influencers may be able to help you make your mark in the social media marketplace. This is especially true of influencers who may already have your target audience at their disposal.

This doesn’t mean you need to retweet every tweet or share every blog post on Facebook, but it does mean that you should be aware of who the movers and shakers are. By following them and then reaching out when appropriate or just to get to know them further, you have a much better shot at getting some attention.

Even if you’re not necessarily connecting to influencers, social media affords the opportunity to connect with other people in your industry and your customers. Use the various social media platforms as an opportunity to connect with these industry colleagues and peers and build upon each other. Consider celebrating your colleagues’ or customers’ success. Make it known that you’re here to help them not just yourself. Repeat this process with anyone of interest and you’re bound to attract eyeballs.

9. Use Social Media for Giveaways and Promotions

Sometimes, the hardest part of social media is sticking out from the sea of other users. Giveaways and promotions are a great way to help differentiate yourself and your business. Using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, you can target your desired customer base and then let them know (if appropriate) about different promotions or giveaways related to your product. If you offer a service, consider giving a free year to a loyal customer. If you manufacture products, give some away.

Offer a coupon on your company’s Facebook Page and pair it with a lead-generation form for future contact. Let people know on Twitter about specials or contests that are going on and follow-up with those that show an interest. Perhaps you can have a retweet contest where you can monitor responses or host some trivia on your Facebook Page. You can also open an online survey to get feedback about your offerings and reward participants. The possibilities are endless. Creativity in this capacity breeds success.

Companies like Wildfire make it really easy to build these sorts of promotions directly inside your own social media channels.

10. Don’t Be Creepy

If you use social media like a keyword searching robot, you are going to come across as creepy and turn off potential clients. Don’t be creepy.

Use best judgment and common sense when approaching people using social networks. If you wouldn’t want to be approached the way you are approaching another user, don’t use that approach. It’s as simple as that. Social media etiquette isn’t much different than real life relationships, so what won’t work in “real life” probably won’t work online.

Respecting boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t still answer questions, engage and follow-up with potential leads, it just means that if it’s clear that the other party isn’t interested, or more importantly, if the context of their communication really doesn’t involve or seek out input from your company, don’t do it.

Context is really important in social media and it is something that is very, very easy to overlook. While we think that using keywords and Google Alerts are good methods for keeping atop of your field, that doesn’t mean you can automate your responses or just go into autopilot based on those alerts.

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Using Influence Skills in Career Development

When you have a clear understanding of what you bring to an organization, you become an empowered individual who uses today’s projects to build tomorrow’s skills. Using the influence model in career development will give you an extra, powerful tool to achieve your career objectives.
The Three Steps of Career Development
Having a written career development plan with specific goals is important. But first you must understand yourself and your options.
  1. Understanding yourself. By developing an accurate picture of yourself, you are better able to educate others to what you can do. You can also demonstrate your potential for future learning. This step begins with the influence behavior of assertiveness. Identify clearly the key skills that you use now and have used in the past. How can you leverage them now? 
  2. Understanding your options. Today’s businesses are constantly changing, and the most successful professionals regularly seek to leverage those changes to achieve personal goals. It’s not enough just to do a great job at work. Developing multiple career goals will help you look into the future and be ready for the changes that will take place. Create opportunities for yourself by taking deliberate action. Network within your organization and the industry in which you work. Where will the industry be two and a half years from now? Whom can you talk with in your organization to find out more?
  3. Understanding your next steps. Once you’ve identified your career goals, you are ready to develop your career development plan. Your plan must be written and measurable with a specific time frame for completion. Once this plan is outlined, speak with your boss or a mentor in the organization. Gathering feedback and support for your plan is a key link to achieving your goals.
Using Influence Strategies
Once you have written your career development plan, it is time to put it into action using influence skills.
Sharon feels that she has reached a plateau in her career and has decided that she wants some new experiences. She wants to influence her boss to allow her to attend a three-day professional conference and have the company pay for it.
  1. Assert. State your objectives clearly and directly. Sharon’s boss likes direct talk, so she approaches him with a plan of action. She states when, where, why and how her objective will be achieved. “Joel, you know that I really want to attend the Technology Conference next month. We’re lucky to have it in town this year, and it will be a great benefit to my continued learning and my on-the-job performance. If I could have your signature on these forms, then the accounting department can send the $60 fee with my registration.
  2. “Suggest. Many people develop concerns when new ideas are presented to them. This is a natural step in an influence situation. Your challenge is to suggest solutions that are relevant to the concerns. Joel is worried that Sharon will fall behind in her work by missing three days of work while at the conference and questions how the rest of her group will benefit by her attendance. She has anticipated Joel’s concerns and presents her suggestions. “First, I will make sure that my priorities are delegated to the other members of the group while I’m gone. Second, as soon as I return, I will have a brief meeting with my group to report what I’ve learned and how it can be applied to our present and future projects.”
  3. Create a Vision. Paint a picture of the positive repercussions that will occur when the person you’re influencing agrees with you. Sharon notices that Joel is impressed by her forethought but still may be wavering over the decision. She knows she’ll get his approval by demonstrating at least one of the important effects that his decision will have. “It’s important that you support me in my continued learning. If you were to do so, I would definitely feel valued by you and the company, which really motivates me to do my best work.”
By creating a career development plan and actively involving influence strategies in that plan, you implement a powerful tool for your career advancement. Whether you are at a plateau (as in Sharon’s case) or just beginning in your career, a strong, written plan accompanied by your practice of influence skills will help you reach your goals.
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