28 September 2016

The key questions are how do you begin and what should be the things you focus on to get better results? Here are 6 things you can action today to strengthen your LinkedIn presence.

Working in professional services, you need to invest time in writing a strong LinkedIn profile. You also need to build your network, one of the greatest assets you can have in a consulting career. The upsides are clear, from helping you in your next career move to generating leads for your consulting practice. Expanding your professional network and credibility on LinkedIn is worth the effort.

The key questions are how do you begin and what should be the things you focus on to get better results? Here are 6 things you can action today to strengthen your LinkedIn presence:

- Start with an end goal in mind

- Craft a LinkedIn headline that sells

- Win people over with a compelling LinkedIn summary

- Keyword optimise to appear in relevant LinkedIn searches

- Expand your LinkedIn network and ensure you’re visible and engaging

- Use social proof by adding recommendations to your LinkedIn profile

Let’s run through these step-by-step so you have an action plan you can implement in the coming days and weeks.

1. Start with an end goal in mind

As with so many things in business, planning ahead ensures you get the best possible results. Decide the audience you want to reach with your LinkedIn presence. Think through what you’d like this presence to achieve for you in the coming years. The answers to these questions will alter how you write your LinkedIn profile and will influence the activity that you’ll want to sustain on LinkedIn.

For example, maybe you’re fast approaching the stage in your career when you’re going to need to start generating prospects and winning new work for your firm. In that instance, you’ll want to write a LinkedIn profile that appeals to potential prospects in the particular niche market you’re targeting. You’ll want to research groups and see if there are any where those prospects are particularly active - and then proactively join in those conversations and connect with those people. That’s quite different from a consultant who’s thinking of making their first major career move. For that person it’s going to be invaluable to connect with university alumni and former colleagues, to facilitate being referred to relevant recruiters. It’s also going to be important to keyword optimise your profile to be found by recruiters.

So plan ahead - it’ll impact how you choose to invest your time on LinkedIn and ultimately boost the results you get.

2. Craft a LinkedIn headline that sells

So have a think on this for just a moment - what do people see about you on LinkedIn more than anything else?

The answer is your name, photo and professional headline. Whether it’s people seeing your updates on their homepage feed, or how you appear on search result pages, or your activity in LinkedIn groups – the information that people see the most is your combination of name, photo and headline.

I trust you’ve already taken care of having a professional portrait style photo on your LinkedIn profile? If not, make this your absolute top priority. Once this is taken care of, that leaves us with your professional headline - the line of text that appears immediately under your name on your LinkedIn profile.

To see the importance of this, take a look at your own LinkedIn homepage. Look through a few pages of updates from people in your network and ask yourself if you can tell what people do – or why you should be interested in contacting them – purely from what you see in their headline. From my experiences on LinkedIn, I suspect you’ll only find a handful of examples where you can really tell that from their headlines.

One reason for this is that people often put their job titles here, which isn’t a great use of the space. “Manager at Watson Hubbard” or “Partner at Taylor Jennings” gives no indication of what you do or why I should want to contact you. It’s not even obvious that you work in Consulting, rather than say Law or Accounting. Compare those headlines with “Digital Marketing Project Manager specialising in the luxury goods market” or “Business Restructuring Partner helping companies in the energy sector”. More insightful headlines increase the likelihood that relevant people will click through to read your full profile, be that potential clients, business partners or recruiters. So do invest time crafting a good one.

3. Win people over with a compelling LinkedIn summary

Your LinkedIn summary is the first thing people see on your profile page - and so is important for creating that strong first impression about yourself and winning over your target audience such that they want to connect with you or contact you. A great read for getting this right is the Mashable post on writing great LinkedIn summaries.

You’ll see in this post that you’re advised to 1) make sure that your personality shines through, as people are much more likely to react in the way you’d like if they warm to you first. In addition, your summary is the perfect place to subtly make people aware of what it is you can offer them.

For even stronger results, it’s recommended that you 2) write an irresistible opening line that makes people want to carry on reading. Having done that, you should then 3) connect the dots of your professional experience so people understand your journey and why that makes you outstanding at what you now do.

Your summary is important because it really impacts the conversions that your LinkedIn profile will go on to achieve. Ultimately we want to ensure that people we’ve succeeded in having look at your profile will then go on to reach out to you - be that to engage your services or to try and tempt you with a career move.

4. Keyword optimise to appear in relevant LinkedIn searches

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client, or a recruiter, for just a moment. If either were on LinkedIn searching for an expert in your field, what skills and keywords would they be likely to use in their search? Whatever your answer here, these skills and keywords need to appear on your profile or there’s a risk you’ll simply never show up in relevant search results. Brainstorm this for even ten minutes and you’ll be surprised how many of the keywords you come up with you then find aren’t included anywhere on your profile. It’s such a simple concept, yet can have a dramatic impact on how many of the right people ever end up on your LinkedIn profile page.

5. Expand your LinkedIn network and ensure you’re visible and engaging

Your LinkedIn success will partly be a function of how many relevant people see you and your updates on LinkedIn. Often I find that people in professional services haven’t been at all thorough in connecting with everyone they’ve previously done business with, or met at conferences, or worked alongside in a former role. A quick win on LinkedIn is undoubtedly to have the site check your email contacts for people you know but are not yet connected to.

On its own, having a big network of relevant business contacts isn’t enough though. Those contacts need to regularly see you active on LinkedIn so that you remain on their radar and are fresh in their minds when possible business opportunities arise. There are two keys to achieving this. The first is to ensure that you are regularly and consistently sharing quality content with your LinkedIn network. In this post on social media tools I run through how you can use tools to quickly find valuable content for people in your niche market - and then schedule that content to be shared over the coming days, even when you’re in a workshop or flying out to meet a client.

As a first step, doing this well is great. But were you aware that LinkedIn also skews what your contacts see on their homepage, according to how interesting and engaging the people in their network are? Someone whose posts are regularly commented on, liked and reshared will be deemed to be a high value member whose content will be shown more frequently to other LinkedIn users. So alongside sharing valuable content, the other key to being visible on LinkedIn is to regularly take a few moments to interact with other people’s posts on LinkedIn. This increases the likelihood that they will reciprocate and give your updates the interactions they will need for you to be regularly featured on your connections’ homepages.

6. Use social proof by adding recommendations to your LinkedIn profile

All of which brings me to one last point - and it’s one that’s crucial for anyone providing a professional service like Consulting. Social proof is incredibly powerful. What other people say about you, your expertise and your professionalism is far more persuasive than anything you yourself might write. Some people feel distinctly uncomfortable reaching out to contacts to ask for these written recommendations. But LinkedIn has made it so much more mainstream to do so - and has even given you a process to follow to request a recommendation. So overcome your reservations and reach out to your network for this help - the chances are you’ll be thrilled with people’s willingness to help and the quality of the recommendations that they’re willing to write for you.

Tony Restell is the Founder of social media agency Social-Hire.com and helps businesses and businesspeople figure out how to leverage social media for maximum results. Tony is a published author and a guest lecturer at business schools across Europe.