It’s time to get over it, folks.
LinkedIn: Not your digital resume
OK, OK, let me back up a step or two.
If you’re just out of college, sleeping on your stepsister’s couch and subsisting on Top Ramen, by all means, fill out your LinkedIn profile like a resume and get it in front of as many eyes as possible. You need it.
After all, recruiters now use LinkedIn as a one-stop shop in many cases, and they will often view your LinkedIn profile in conjunction with – or instead of – the paper resume you send them with your job application.
But that’s not all your profile can do. And if you’re currently happily employed, or – and these are the real culprits – you’re running your own business, maintaining a standard digital resume on LinkedIn is a complete waste of space.
In these situations, you don’t need to be concerned right now with fielding job offers. Count your blessings. Instead, you can utilize the incredible networking and marketing power baked into LinkedIn to your advantage rather than sitting on a stale resume-style profile and leaving it at that.
Here’s how to do it:
Optimize your LinkedIn profile
I won’t spend a lot of time on this because I wrote a full post on it a short time ago, so if any of the following bullets give you an “oops” feeling in your gut, take a closer look at How to Audit Your LinkedIn Profile for Inbound Marketing Success.
- Fill it out completely.
- Make it visual (without going overboard)
- Take full advantage of the SEO capabilities available (especially in the headline and summary)
- While it’s about you, it should be focused on them (the prospects and influencers you’ll be drawing to your profile)
- Don’t get lost in the past. Unless it’s completely relevant to what you’re doing today, leave it out.
The key thing to keep in mind when filling out and optimizing your LinkedIn profile (if you’re not currently seeking a new job) is that you’re not looking to wow prospects and influencers with your achievements in college or the number of times you won “Employee of the Month”.
Your goal is to grab their attention and focus it clearly on “what I can do for you.” Or, by extension, “what I can do for your (clients, audience, tribe.)”
With that in mind, your profile should come out of this process as a laser-focused advertisement that clearly positions you as the very best source available to your target audience.
Target influencers in your niche
This is a broad topic, and one that comes with a stern warning:
The people who have already established themselves as influencers in your target market have worked hard to get where they are, and they’re too busy to deal with shameless self-promoting upstarts. That being said, they’re generally very nice folks who are working hard to do what they do and would love help where possible, and a kind word when it’s sincere.
You can locate these folks on LinkedIn by doing a few basic searches and looking for common names:
- Start on Google by searching a handful of keywords and phrases you know your target audience uses to get information on the topic at hand. (You know, those keyword phrases you’d love to appear on page one for, but haven’t gotten there yet.) In many cases, one or two people’s LinkedIn profiles will show up high in the search results for these phrases. Those are people who are already doing LinkedIn right, and you should get to know them.
- Then, go to LinkedIn and do the same thing in their universal search bar. In this case, you’ll likely find those same individuals plus a few more who are also well-known in the field and are marketing themselves well on LinkedIn in relation to those terms. You’ll also likely get a long list of groups that have some connection to the topic you’re searching.
- Go to these groups in turn and focus on the section on the right side of the screen that lists the “top contributors”. This isn’t a perfect gauge of who’s truly influential for a given topic because some people may have jumped into a group that week and commented on every discussion going, but generally these top contributors are consistently active in creating and continuing conversations within the group. If you see the same name pop up in multiple related groups, you likely have a winner.
- Finally, go back to the LinkedIn search bar and focus on the “Posts” results for your main keywords and phrases. These will be posts made directly on LinkedIn’s publishing platform by members writing on the topic you’re searching. In many cases, you’ll unearth some up-and-coming influencers who may have slipped through the other cracks or who have only recently started concentrating on LinkedIn. You’ll also confirm many of the other names on your list.
At this point, you should have a solid list of names in front of you. These are people who have proven to be influential, which is to say highly visible, on LinkedIn for the topics you’re hoping to be connected with.
Connect with these people
In some cases, you’ll find you’re already connected to them or you’re connected to someone else in their network. That makes it easy. Simply introduce yourself as a connection of your mutual friend, or ask your current connection for an introduction.
If that's not an option, join a group the individual is a member of and connect with them that way. Include a personalized message in your connection invitation that makes clear you are interested in topics X, Y, and Z and have noted that they are similarly interested.
You see, LinkedIn is not like Facebook or some other networks. It’s not creepy to connect with strangers if there’s a shared interest because the entire point of LinkedIn is for business people to expand their network, learn, and grow.
In many cases, connecting with these folks will be quick and simple. At that point, stop, look yourself in the mirror and promise to yourself out loud:
“I will not blow up this relationship.”
You have identified and connected to a powerful marketing ally on the premier professional marketing space available. But, more importantly, you’ve connected with another human being. Don’t screw it up by being selfish or self-serving.
Instead, ease back, converse naturally, add value in any way you can, and when the time is right and it’s a win-win for everyone involved, reach out for help reaching their audience with your message.
For more help establishing and maintaining influential marketing relationships, take a look at our new strategic influencer marketing program.