But I wonder if you see it as anything more than an on-line version of your CV?
Don't get me wrong. Having an all singing, all dancing profile with some great content embedded on your profile is a fantastic thing to focus on. Judging by the number of profiles that still have no picture, I suspect there are more than a handful of people who have created a user profile and done nothing else. What a waste!
If you're curious about your on-line profile, you could do worse than a regular search on Google or Bing. If you're lucky, your LinkedIn profile will appear on page one. But, if you can't see it or it's mixed up with a slew of similarly named people, it may not be that easy for a putative customer or client to pick you out.
One quick tip would be to look at your user name - this is mine http://www.linkedin.com/in/juliansummerhayes - and see if you need to create your own unique URL, rather than leaving your name in the format created by LinkedIn. This will include a sequence of numbers making it: a) harder to be found in searches; and b) problematical to use on business cards or your website.
If you have time, I strongly suggest that you change your URL. If you find, which is likely, that your user name is already taken, then try to avoid using numbers but take something you are comfortable with.
To make things easier, below are a couple of screen-shots showing the edit page of your profile (see the highlighted portion) and then the pop-out, which gives you the ability to change your URL.
[Remember if your name is taken don't leave it as is, but take something as close to your name as possible. Anything is better than what LinkedIn gives you.]
For me, buffing up your profile is the bare minimum you should be aiming for. Without wanting to bore you senseless with all the functionality of LinkedIn - you can read their blog and help page if you need to know all the nuances - there are two things that are sorely ignored:
- content creation and syndication (sharing) to your connections; and
- its (basic) CRM capability.
Up to now, probably as a result of not being on LinkedIn enough, you have ignored it. But that's a mistake. If you do, which I highly recommend, get around to creating your own content (a blog) and share it, you have to ask yourself what incentive does your network have to like, comment or share it to their connections if you've never taken the time to consider their shares?
In my experience, based largely on the work of Dr Robert Cialdini, you have to think win-win. In other words, if you offer support and encouragement to your network they will, in time, help you. This won't happen by itself. You have to show an interest and produce content that is meaningful and useful to them. As an aside, but linked to the CRM point (see below), before you blithely accept invitation after invitation you are going to get lost when it comes to creating content that works for your audience.
In my case, I'm challenged all the time to come up with content that will syndicate across the three main platforms that I share to with this blog - Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. I'm very conscious that the same piece of content may not work for all three platforms. It's still trial and error but I have noticed an uptake when I create more original content or if I share from elsewhere it helps to add more than the odd pithy content.
The other aspect that is ignored is the CRM capability of LinkedIn. The biggest sin is that people don't know that in order to 'manage' their connections they need to tag each one as they accept them into their network.
If you look under your contacts tab you will see the tags link on the left hand side. You can't add new tags from that menu but if you go to a contact you will see that LinkedIn may have already tagged them or if not you need to either use one of the pre-ordered tags on create a new one. The point of tags which is critical is that once you have gone through the process of identifying your connections by sector or work type, you can start creating email lists. In other words, if you've created a tag for 'prospects', you could, subject to a limit of 50 people, email them with your proposal. Likewise if you had an event you could do something similar.
The other thing that LinkedIn offers is a sort function on the drop down menu situated towards the top left of the page. I find this particularly useful for geographical searches.
I recognise that this might seem an awful lot of work, particularly if you already have a CRM system, but the problem is that once your network grows you will struggle to understand the significance of your network. Also, you often find that unless there is an explicit edict to transfer LinkedIn connections to your CRM, a lot of them will get missed off.
In summary, if you are on LinkedIn my advice is to be much more deliberate in your use. Set aside time everyday to look and comment on what is being shared, understand if you need to be part of all those groups and think of it as your personal website where you need to keep it relevant and on message.
Love it or loathe it LinkedIn is not going away, and I'm convinced that those people who continue to invest meaningful time in the platform will reap the biggest reward.