Contributor William Arruda gave Forbes readers good reasons last week to give LinkedIn a much more serious look in 2014.
Now that Arruda has covered the “why” of updating your profile, I’d like to take a closer look at the “how.” So I’ve reconnected with Wayne Breitbarth, the LinkedIn consultant and author behind the LinkedIn user research in the Forbes Most Read article I presented last month.
Whether you’re a power user or a casual LinkedIn participant so far, here are the 14 straightforward things Wayne suggested to me that are within the reach of every one of us as we bring the current business year to a close. Practice the ongoing steps and by the time the New Year arrives, you can have them committed to a habit you can conduct in just 10 minutes a day, if possible. But even 1-2 times a week could put you well ahead of the typical curve.
Here are the 14 steps he suggests you take right away:
1. Update your photo. Your picture should be recent, professional, and recognizable. An extra tip from Contributor Ken Krogue: Make the photo black and white—since the majority of the photos are in color, the black and white choice will help to set you apart from the crowd.
2. Craft a killer Headline. These are the most important 120 characters on your profile and should include your most important keywords and a short version of your branding story or elevator speech.
3. Revisit your Summary. Think of a tone and style akin to having a cup of coffee with the people who visit your profile. Your description should make them want to pursue a lasting business relationship with you. Would you want to know the person you see in your description, or do you sound entirely self-focused? Now’s the time to give it a bit of thought.
4. Insert a call to action in your profile. Don’t assume readers of your profile know what to do next to find out more about you and your products or services. Be specific and share a link or document that will help them move another step closer to a meeting, phone call, or request to connect on LinkedIn.
5. Join 50 groups. Well, consider at least joining 10. With more than 1.8 million to choose from, you have the opportunity to increase your relevancy, find new people to join your network, and send direct messages to thousands of people who are not in your direct network. To avoid “email overload,” adjust each group’s contact settings to your liking.
Wayne Breitbarth, LinkedIn Expert, image courtesy of Power+Network
6. Connect with all of your current clients. Just a brief note of contact and thanks will suffice. They are hands down your very best source of referrals, so be sure to keep the contact points sufficiently frequent and fresh.
7. Share a relevant status update between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM each workday. Just one is fine. Don’t miss this easy opportunity to share helpful information and remain top of mind within your network.
8. Find your most relevant group and get involved. Choose one group where most of your customers are hanging out and post your own discussion or get involved in one that seems to be generating good interest.
9. Download your network database. It’s always wise to safeguard your important information, and this list of names, titles, companies, and email addresses may also prove to be helpful for your marketing efforts outside of LinkedIn (subject to appropriate opt-in restrictions, of course).
10. Save your best Advanced People Searches. LinkedIn will send you a periodic email containing a list of people who meet your specific search criteria. This function is like a 24/7 virtual assistant, and it’s free. So you may as well take advantage of this feature at least a little bit more.
11. Maximize your Professional Gallery. This is a great place to showcase your current best work. You can display video, audio, presentations, documents, and links to your best customer-focused resources.
12. Use the Alumni search feature to expand your network. With just a few keystrokes, you can get a list of all the LinkedIn members who went to your school. It’s a great way to reconnect with old friends and make valuable new connections.
13. Manage your Skills & Expertise section. Eliminate entries that are not significant to your career and business. Replace them with your most relevant skills and expertise as well as your most current products and services.
14. Pursue recommendations. Despite LinkedIn’s recent focus on endorsements, well-written recommendations are still the best way to boost your reputation on LinkedIn.
Can you accomplish these steps within the next three weeks? I’m betting you can, and I look forward to hearing your results.
Cheryl Conner, Contributor, Forbes.com
I write about communications, business and the ways the two intersect