The LinkedIn Diaries: Making Critical Moves Offline

The following article by Write On The Money’s President, Andrew Brown, was originally published on the Financial Post:

Last week, in The LinkedIn Diaries – Day One, I identified three things you need to do to establish a strong LinkedIn foundation. These included defining your goals for LinkedIn as well as reviewing relevant profiles and key settings. But, to truly ensure your success stretches well beyond building your initial LinkedIn profile, there are five key activities that you need to do – and, perhaps surprisingly, all of these activities are conducted offline.

1. Determine, and align with, your company’s social media plans. Regardless of your professional title, your LinkedIn profile and activity reflects on your company. Companies that successfully leverage social media to achieve corporate goals have established practical guidelines and tips that focus the energies, messages and resources devoted to social media. In that way, companies can cost-effectively harness the diverse and unique power of social networking tools (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Ning, Orkut), social communication tools (i.e. blogs and microblogs like Twitter), social bookmarking tools (e.g. Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg,) social multimedia tools(e.g. Flickr, YouTube) and social collaboration tools (e.g. wikis) while mitigating risk. For example, many companies are re-purposing key content created in one social media tool and then re-distributing it through others. Your social media content can also gain additional power by contributing to, and being supported by, that of your professional colleagues. The most forward-looking companies are charging their corporate communications and marketing teams to develop social media workbooks that help employees become effective social media communicators.

2. Establish a schedule of activity. To achieve your personal and/or professional goals requires you to devote time to using LinkedIn. For many busy executives, that means placing a reminder in their calendar. Alternatively, you can set LinkedIn as one of your home pages. Finally, executives who use LinkedIn for business development often schedule a weekly LinkedIn touch-base meeting to see how newly established connections can help them in researching, qualifying, engaging and closing new business.

 3. Gather updated and accurate assets. Whether you are establishing your initial LinkedIn profile or are a veteran LinkedIn user, make sure that your profile accurately reflects who you are today. Having a current photo and details is a minimal requirement — particularly to members of your extended network who only know you by LinkedIn brand. To ensure that your profile is current, review it at least every three to four months. During that time, most senior executives compile exciting success stories that can be used in their profile. According to David Kaiser, Senior VP and Partner at public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, “Updating your personal information on a regular basis demonstrates that you are an interesting person with valuable new experiences that are worth sharing. Regardless of what business you are in senior executives want to work with people like that.”

4. Identify your return on effort. LinkedIn, like many social media tools, provides you with some immediate gratification to get you excited about using and exploring the tool. However, to achieve the goals that executives most commonly set for LinkedIn requires effort over a period of time. Busy executives who don’t see immediate results can mistakenly neglect their LinkedIn activities, which, in turn, leads to a lower degree of success.

To avoid this trap, identify the minimal and short-term expectations that you have for your LinkedIn efforts. According to Jeff Hendler of Toronto-based group The Product Accelerators, the expectations that executives have for the return on their effort hinge on their individual approach to projects and problem resolution.” It is important for executives to translate their individual approach into a set of well-defined outcomes.” For example, successful executives are often guided by their desire to connect colleagues with one another. LinkedIn easily and automatically facilitates that action online. However, other executives need the personal touch that comes with making social connections. Those socially-motivated people will find their LinkedIn experiences more satisfying when they send a personalized email via LinkedIn and receive a call for their connecting efforts. Hendler continues, “As soon as those specific outcomes are clearly identified and quantified, it makes engaging in LinkedIn far more powerful and more likely to continue.”

5. Ask trusted advisors to ensure authenticity. Drawing from your current network of colleagues, ask people you know and trust to review your profile. Ask them to answer the following three questions about your profile:

  • Does the profile accurately and positively reflect who you are?
  • Does the profile demonstrate something unique and valuable to the audience you are targeting?
  • Based on the profile, would you truly want to meet this person?

Gather their insights and suggestions until they can provide you with an enthusiastic “yes”. Also, consider establishing a LinkedIn “buddy system” where you and a member of your network regularly monitor each other’s profiles, provide honest feedback and share key LinkedIn learnings. Finally, setup accounts with monitoring services (e.g. Social Mention, Klout and Google Alerts). These free tools help you see how you are being talked about online as well as provide you with a sense of your impact across social media.

In the next issue of The LinkedIn Diaries, I will share insights from two high-profile executives who effectively leverage LinkedIn to achieve their company and individual goals.

Andrew Brown is president of Write on the Money. He helps senior executives harness the power of digital and traditional business communication tools and strategies.