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LinkedIn is a social networking website targeted more to business owners and professionals all around the world. It could be described as a professional networking service where people post their professional profiles, which include past experience, education and recommendations. Once a personal profile is set up, you can establish a network of “connections” composed of friends, family and any other person who interests you professionally.

Even though you won’t know many of these professionals either personally or at all, the great advantage of LinkedIn is that they reach you through people you know and trust. This makes it easier for both of you to interact with each other since you both have a common connection that can speak for your good work and reputation.

To get a good idea of how LinkedIn works, think about it as an open, online interpersonal contact network. These networks exist in real life as well, but they remain hidden from us until we actively go and ask some of our friends ‘if they know someone who can do’. By being open and connected, LinkedIn removes all the hassle and wasted time of going through friends, the web and even the yellow pages in order to find someone who knows how to do what you need done.

By exposing people’s professional networks, LinkedIn also allows everybody to become a part of, as well as to take advantage of these networks in a far easier and practical way.

The funny thing is though, that a lot of people who are actually members of LinkedIn do not know how to use it, neither do they realise its potential.

LinkedIn for People

Without its focus on business, LinkedIn can be used as a regular social networking tool, where people can share some relevant information about their careers and jobs. There, anyone can ask questions about particular jobs or topics to people who have some experience in the job, and have the answer in a matter of minutes. Perfect for any last minute doubts about that financial report or for that last ingredient of the exotic recipe you might be trying at home.

Even more so, LinkedIn also provides a great platform for keeping track of the career and professional advances of the people you care about, allowing you to recommend and promote their business as well.

Linked in for Business and Professionals

Professionally though, is where LinkedIn really shines. Whether you are part of a company, a business owner or an independent service provider, LinkedIn offers the best platform to make new and useful connections that will help you and your business grow.

However, as much as people know about the potential of this platform, most make the wrong choices and end up treating their LinkedIn profile like the one on any other social networking site. But the truth is that if you intend to use LinkedIn as a professional and to grow your business, the least you can do is to treat your LinkedIn profile with the same care and thoughtfulness you would treat your own resume.

Even more so if you consider that if someone looking for a professional and who finds your profile will see just it and nothing else. In this sense, your LinkedIn profile serves as your business card, first impression, resume and press kit all at the same time.

And now, knowing the importance of your LinkedIn profile, let’s discuss briefly the most important aspects of it to consider when building it.

Keep your profile focused on your clients: This one is maybe the hardest to do. The problem is that since your LinkedIn profile has blank spaces for you to fill up with past experiences and your education history, you will likely want to make it resemble your CV.

People look online for fast gratification. They need immediate solutions to their requirements and showing them the same info you have on your CV makes no sense. Most likely, they got to you through a mutual friend or acquaintance so you are not a total stranger to them. Close the deal by filling your profile with relevant information about what you do, not what you are or what you current position is. Tell them how your skills will benefit them and you will become far more attractive as a prospect.

Connect wisely: In LinkedIn there are two different ways to connect with people, either through Open Networking or via Trusted Partner Networking. The first one lets you access any profile on LinkedIn, which can help you find exactly what you are looking for faster. However, this turns your account into a virtual yellow-pages directory since you most surely will not know them from before, thus making it harder to trust in each other.

The other connection method is the Trusted Partner Networking, which only connects you with people you somehow know and with their connections. Even though this method doesn’t offer as much variety as the first one, it is far more reliable and comfortable, letting you easily build rapport with any potential employer or employee.

Get testimonials: If you have ever worked with someone you trust before, ask him or her for a short endorsement (one or two lines would be enough) and for permission to place it on your LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t sound like much, but a real-life testimonial will go a long way towards reinforcing trust and reliability.

Personalise your headline: LinkedIn includes your current job position as your headline (like “Owner of .”) by default, but if you want to create real impact on your connections and your prospects, change it to what you do. Make it a mix between your skills and a slogan. Something like “Helping small business owners take full advantage of the web” will do a lot more than just showing off your current job position.

Lastly, even if after this short overview you still have doubts about the importance of LinkedIn for your professional life, you should consider all the time and effort it can save you if you learn how to implement it properly. Because in the end that is what LinkedIn is, it is for those who learn to take advantage of it. It’s not just a social networking tool, not just a ‘Facebook of business’, but a modern and different way to help you be more productive.