As a LinkedIn group manager, I have the daily opportunity to view profiles of nonprofit leaders from all over the world. Although I’m delighted to engage with so many social entrepreneurs using this platform, there are some unwritten best-practices about using LinkedIn that I’d like to share that will help you grow your network and help spread the word about your organization’s important work more effectively.
- Use a professional, classy picture of yourself. LinkedIn is a professional network, not Facebook. Use a classy looking picture of yourself that helps build your brand as a leader. It is ok to use an image of yourself with your family, friends, pets or participating in some activity on other platforms but not here. If you don’t have a a current, high-resolution picture uploaded yet, do that right away.
- Use your headline as a place for a benefits statement instead of your job title. LinkedIn gives you tons of space to write up a killer one-liner; add some spice to your headline. Which do you feel is more engaging to a potential donor or colleague? Headline #1 that says “Executive Director of ABC town Community Services” or headline #2 that says “Helping at-risk youth in ABC town increase their self confidence through learning practical job skills”.
- Make your full profile public for anyone to view. If you’re looking to make strategic connections through LinkedIn, make sure that anyone can view your complete profile any time. When someone wants to connect with me yet has blocked huge portions of their profile from the public, I am immediately skeptical about what they’re hiding and automatically decline the connection request.
- Don’t have too many (or too few) connections. We’ve all seen them; LION networkers with tens of thousands of “connections”. If you’re in the game of quantity over quality when it comes to first-degree connections, you should probably focus on Twitter as LinkedIn works best when you organically build yourself a network of people you know or legitimately want to get to know. On the flip side, having too few connections (let’s say under 50) gives the impression that you’re not really serious about using LinkedIn.
- Write your profile in the first person. This one I don’t understand. It’s your profile, you’re writing it. Why write in the third person? It’s not a resume, a book jacket or a biography. It’s a professional personal ad. Referring to yourself as your first name doesn’t make you look smarter or more professional, if anything it creates an emotional gap between you and the person browsing your profile. Use “I” instead.
- Strategically filter your displayed endorsements. It’s always exciting when someone endorses us for our work but that doesn’t mean we have to display all the kudos on our profile. I’m a big fan of picking the top 10-15 endorsement categories that align with the message you’re trying to send and deleting the rest. By eliminating random, off-topic endorsements from your profile you’ll look tidy and focused.
- Display authentic recommendations. People like doing business with those whose talent has been vouched for by other credible leaders. There are probably dozens of people who would be happy to recommend your work but until you ask them to write up a quick note about their experience working with you, there will be no social proof to show your prospects that you’re really great at what you do. Take the plunge and ask for some support from your network. Most people will easily say “yes” (if you sincerely did a great job for them).
- Go easy on the status updates. The trick in navigating social media is that each platform is completely different from every other. On Twitter you can easily get away with posting 15-20 times/day; however, on LinkedIn, this is just not done. The name of the game on LinkedIn is professional courtesy – only post relevant, informative updates 2-3 times/day. (Oh yeah, don’t accidentally use hashtags or @mentions – looks super tacky).
- Reply to your direct messages in a timely manner. Someone sending you a message and not getting a reply within 3 business days is like someone calling you personally on the phone and you never calling them back – pretty rude. No matter what, make sure you have a system in place to get those messages and reply to each and every one as soon as possible. Stand apart from the crowd and actually check your inbox regularly – this one is a LinkedIn game changer.
- Send personalized connection requests. When you send a connection request to someone and just use the default request script, it gives the impression that you don’t really care about the person you’re sending the request to. Take ten extra seconds when expanding your network to write a personal note about who you are and why you want to connect with them. Go the extra mile, it makes a BIG difference.
The thing I love (and hate) about LinkedIn is that unlike Facebook or Twitter, there is a very distinctive culture and unwritten set of expectations that each user should adhere to. For many people, the amount of work that goes into setting up a proper LinkedIn profile, is so overwhelming that they don’t even try to figure it out then end up being one of the millions of profiles that no one looks at and no one engages with.
What could you accomplish and who could you meet by deciding to become an expert at using LinkedIn instead of trying to get by on just the basics?
Got a question about any of these ideas? Leave a comment and I’d be happy to reply. .