With 175 million registered users at last count, LinkedIn is by far the largest professional networking site on the net. There’s no better way to get connected with others in your industry than by setting up a LinkedIn account.
LinkedIn is built on the concept of connections: each user maintains a list of contact details for other professionals they know (or hope to get to know). There are a myriad of ways you can utilize LinkedIn for your business, including:
- Getting introduced to other professionals through your connections (‘2nd degree connections’)
- Showcasing your skills, experience, awards, publications and professional education and training
- Finding new employees
- Seeking out new business opportunities or joint ventures
- Identifying influential individuals at specific organizations
- Finding potential customers or clients, and
- Building your reputation as a thought leader in your field.
Upon signing up for a LinkedIn account, you’ll be taken through an extremely detailed set-up process. This process will guide you through setting up your profile, including entering your educational and work experience, skills, awards, publications, interests, and more.
While the process itself is rather straight-forward, it can be confusing to know exactly where on your profile page specific information will be shown. For this reason, I’ve included a screenshot below of my entire LinkedIn profile page with descriptions for your reference.
Feel free to refer back to this screenshot throughout this tutorial or as you’re setting up your own profile.
My LinkedIn Profile with Descriptions
How to Sign Up for a LinkedIn Account
Step 1: Go to www.linkedin.com and enter your personal info in the ‘Join LinkedIn Today’ box.
You’ll need to verify your email by clicking the confirmation link sent to you. After you’ve confirmed your email, your LinkedIn account is officially created and you can continue setting up your profile.
Step 2: Create Your Professional Profile
Now it’s time to start filling out your professional profile. Your profile will be how contacts will find you, and will outline your skills, training, and experience. Your profile is the most important aspect of LinkedIn. That said, feel free to move through this at whatever pace you like; you can come back later and edit any of it.
(Note: At any point, you can choose to skip a step by clicking the ‘Skip this step’ link at the bottom of the page.)
Perhaps the most important field here is the ‘Job title’ which is also known as the ‘headline’ (see screenshot of my profile page above). This is featured right beneath your name, and carries a significant amount of weight for on-site search. Be sure to use your most relevant keywords here.
Business owners should be sure to check ‘I am self-employed’, as this will allow you to select an industry from a drop down menu.
If you’d like to find people you know, you can opt to allow LinkedIn access to your email contacts. If you use a web client like gmail or yahoo, enter your email address and password. If you use a desktop client like Mail or Outlook, click the ‘Import your desktop email contacts’ at the bottom of the box.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to go ahead and enter a Yahoo email address. Regardless of which email client you use, you’ll be asked to login with your email and email password (note: this ISN’T your LinkedIn password, but the password you use to log in to your email account).
After logging in to your email account, you’ll be asked to authorize LinkedIn to access your contacts:
After allowing access to your email contacts, LinkedIn will pull up a list of everyone in your address book who’s on LinkedIn. You can then choose who you’d like to connect with (In the screenshots below, I’ve left out the bottom half of the screen for privacy, but this is where it will list all your email contacts).
It will then ask you if you’d like to invite people in your address book who aren’t already on LinkedIn. You can either select their names to send them an invite, or select ‘Skip this step’. In either case you’ll be brought to step 4 of the process.
Step 4 will allow you to promote your LinkedIn profile to your friends and connections on Facebook and Twitter. You can customize the message, or use the default message. Click ‘Share on Facebook’, ‘Share on Twitter’ or simply skip this step if you prefer.
Next, you’ll be asked if you’d like to upgrade your plan. I would recommend signing up for the free plan, as many people find this is sufficient for their needs. Upgrading your account will mean increased analytics, the ability to directly contact anyone on LinkedIn, and other features, but you can always come back and upgrade later if you would like.
Step 3: Improve Your LinkedIn Profile
At this point, your profile is set up, however it will be pretty bare-bones. LinkedIn will now guide you through the process of adding details to expand on your professional profile. Don’t worry too much about making mistakes or skipping steps…you can come back to later and make changes.
1. Enter the date you began your current business.
2. Next, you can choose to add previous jobs you’ve had or businesses you’ve owned. I chose to skip this step, however if you have relevant prior experience in your field, or if this isn’t your first company, I’d recommend filling this in.
The first box is for your occupation or title, and the second box is for the name of the company. If you don’t see the name of the company listed here, you can go back and add it later.
3. Here’s where you enter your post secondary education. Start typing the name of your college or university and then you can select from the drop down list.
4. Upload an image of yourself. Try to use a professional headshot, if at all possible. If you don’t have one, use what you have – it’s better than nothing. It’s been shown that profiles with a picture get more visits than those without, so just don’t leave it blank.
5. Add your skills. Consult the screenshot at the beginning of this post to see where these will be located on your profile page. This is where you’ll include your areas of expertise, particular topics of interest, and skill sets you may have.
There are tens of thousands of possibilities already entered into the system: For instance, if you’re a computer programmer, you can select all the different programming languages you know, software you’ve worked with, and specific areas of expertise.
6. At this point, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to continue improving your profile, or stop here. Selecting ‘Continue’ will take you back to the questions you’ve skipped previously, so you’ll likely want to click ‘Done’.
The basic format of your profile page is complete. To see what your profile looks like and to edit or add to it, click on ‘Profile’ and the ‘Edit Profile’ in the navigation bar. There are a number of sections you wouldn’t have been guided through in the setup process, however these are pretty straightforward.
You can click on ‘edit’ next to anything you’d like to add to or change.
Optional (But Highly Recommended) Next Steps
Although your profile is now set up, there are a additional steps I’d recommend to make sure you’re making the most of the LinkedIn experience.
Optimize Your Profile for the Search Engines
Your profile has the potential to be found and indexed by the search engines, so it’s important to make sure you’ve done a bit of SEO on your page. There are a few ways you can do this:
1. Edit your public profile url to include your name. Just beneath your profile picture, you should see an url that looks something like this:
Click on ‘Edit’. You’ll be taken to a new screen where you can select ‘Customize your public profile URL':
Simply add your full name to the end of the url. This will increase the chances of your profile page ranking for your name.
Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text for urls on Profile Page
LinkedIn allows you to have 3 urls on your profile page. Use customized anchor text to increase search engine rankings for those terms.
To customize the anchor text of your links, go to ‘Edit Profile’, and ‘Add Website’ (or edit website if you’ve already added an url). You’ll see 3 boxes here to enter your business’s website urls. From the drop down menu select ‘Other’, and you’ll be given the option of adding a website title.
Let’s say your company website is trying to rank for the keywords ‘Cincinnati Lawyers‘. Be sure to enter those keywords as your website title.
Include Keywords in Your Summary
The full text of the summary section of your profile has the potential to get indexed by the search engines. Be sure to include keywords you’d like to be found for, including the location of your business, services you provide, products you sell, and anything else you feel is relevant.
Find People to Connect With
There are a few ways to find people you know (or would like to know) on LinkedIn.
- Search for people or companies using the search box
- Browse through your connections’ profiles to find others you’d like to connect with
- Check out the right sidebar of your page for automatically generated suggestions
- Look through LinkedIn groups in your industry for people you may know (or hope to get to know)
- Answer questions on LinkedIn answers. This is a great way to make new connections in your industry.
Join or Create a Group for Your Industry
LinkedIn groups allow you to find and connect with people with similar interests. If you can’t find a group for your industry, consider starting your own. It’s important not to make the group for your company, but rather for your industry or niche itself. Invite your email contacts and social media fans and followers to join your group. Keep it active and keep the discussion going.
Ask for Recommendations
Your connections have the option of publicly recommending you to others. Being recommended is similar to getting an old school ‘reference’.
To ask your connections to recommend you, go to ‘Edit Profile’, scroll down to ‘Ask for a recommendation’, and then click the ‘Ask for Recommendations’ tab at the top of your screen.
You’ll then see a simple form where you can choose who you’d like to request a recommendation from, how you know the person (for instance through a particular school, job or business), and the option to customize a short message.
There’s so much more I could say about LinkedIn, but following the above steps will give you a good start. In terms of making professional connections, you won’t find a better way online than by creating and using your LinkedIn account.
Are you active on LinkedIn? Have you found it valuable for your business, or have you yet to see any concrete results? Leave a comment below!