In 2019 New Zealand woke up to the power of LinkedIn. In 2020, LinkedIn will become THE social media platform for business to business (B2B) commerce.
Companies have begun realising the advantages of a corporate approach to LinkedIn and are now training staff on best practice. And during 2019, increasing numbers of business professionals joined the platform with Kiwi LinkedIn members now numbering nearly 1.5 million.
This article provides LinkedIn members a checklist of everything you need to know to make LinkedIn work for you – whether that’s becoming known in your industry; developing as a thought leader in your business; generating leads for your company; widening your network of peers, colleagues and leaders; or enhancing your profile to boost your chances of being spotted when a potential client is searching for someone with your skills.
This article is arranged by topic. Find the topic that most interests you and skip what you already know. The sections are:
- Top Secret Tips
- Company pages
- Direct messaging
Disclaimer: each point on this list is briefly made. An entire page could be written on each one. More information can be found at the sources listed at the end of this article.
Top Secret Tips
- Send voice messages.
When connecting with someone for the first time, send a thank you voice message. It makes you stand out from everyone else and starts the relationship off well. Voice messages are sent from the mobile app and can be found under messaging.
2. Text-only posts receive the highest number of views.
While they are not counted in the same way as videos, text posts are still the most viewed of any of the four post formats.
3. Posts attracting likes and comments in their first published hour are seen by more people.
Engagement is the key to posts performing strongly. Comments are the most useful, shares are the least.
4. When inviting a LinkedIn member to connect with you, make it personal.
The recipient is more likely to say yes. Use the Add a Note field to write a message that explains why they should connect with you. The default invite message is akin to cold calling.
5. Delete duplicate profiles.
Duplicate profiles are common but send all the wrong messages about your interest in and activity on LinkedIn. They are also confusing to potential connections. Get rid of any profiles except your main one by following the links at https://bit.ly/33JXWBK
6. Use your personal address to log in to LinkedIn, not your work address.
Many people lose access to their LinkedIn account because they use their work address to log in. When they change jobs, they no longer have that email address and can’t get into their account.
7. Create a longer headline to properly showcase your skills.
Most headlines are a maximum of 120 characters. But when typed in on the mobile app, 220 characters can be used. It can only be edited on the app, too, but the longer headline will follow you around LinkedIn.
8. ‘Events’ is a new feature that helps with organisation and promotion.
Still in its infancy and with a few glitches, Events is nonetheless a great feature to have on the LinkedIn platform. Try it next time you’re running an event.
9. Google now indexes LinkedIn posts.
Google has long indexed LinkedIn articles, but never before has it extended this to posts. But in September it began doing so. This means your posts may appear in search feeds for specific terms if you write them with that in mind.
- Update your profile image to a current, professional head and shoulders image.
Wear your usual work attire, smile and look either directly into the camera or slightly from right to left. Zoom in so your face is still recognisable when viewed on mobile.
2. Make your cover image visual and information rich.
This adds visual interest to your LinkedIn profile, helping you stand out. When you include a tagline, web address and relevant background image to your cover, it grabs attention. This is valuable and important real estate that is often overlooked. Read more here.
3. Ensure your profile image doesn’t hide an important part of your cover image.
Profile photos move from the left to the middle depending on the device being used to view LinkedIn, so don’t place critical information where it could be hidden.
4. Cover image words need to be BIG.
The dimensions of the cover image change, depending on the device being used so always look at how it will display on both desktop and mobile to ensure the text can be clearly read. The size ratio between profile image and cover image also changes; on mobile the cover image becomes smaller than on desktop.
5. Claim your personal LinkedIn URL
Having a personal URL allows you to use it neatly and tidily in your marketing without a multi-digit suffix. The result is then your version of www.linkedin.com/in/lynnairejohnston rather than www.linkedin.com/in/lynnairejohnston-a9b16343.
6. Update and complete your contact information so people can easily find you.
LinkedIn allows you to add an address, physical/postal address, an email address, two phone numbers, three websites, your Twitter handle and a range of instant messenger platforms including Skype. Include as many as you have.
7. Write a meaningful, impactful, attention-grabbing headline.
This should not be your job title. A good formula is what you do, who for and the benefits they gain. In a longer headline you could also include your delivery method, if that’s relevant, E.g. personal coaching.
8. Use all three website listing opportunities offered in the Contact Info section.
Even if you have only one website, choose three different pages, list those URLs and describe what visitors will find there. There are 30 characters available for this.
9. Display the university you attended.
If you have a tertiary qualification from a recognized university or polytechnic, tick the box that asks if you wish to show Education in the top section of your profile. If you don’t have a tertiary qualification but went to a ‘good’ school, add its name. Otherwise leave it blank.
10. Add your location and post code.
LinkedIn claims that profiles with a precise location (city as opposed to country only) come up in more searches. More precise locations are gradually being rolled out so you will be able to choose your town/city instead of the region.
11. Use the About section to tell your story.
Previously known as the summary, this section is an opportunity to summarise your career, showcase your skills, identify your points of difference and persuade readers you can solve their problems. Write it in the first person, not the more impersonal third.
12. Add a call to action to your About.
Make it easy for people to get in touch by adding those contact details you are comfortable sharing. Give them a reason for doing so by offering a free download, useful document, white paper or other helpful information.
13. Add media to the Featured section for visual appeal.
To give your profile visual interest, include media. This could be images, videos, documents, certifications, website links – anything that is relevant to your work. This helps you stand out from others in your field while also enhancing your own credibility and reputation in the industry. Update this often.
14. List all relevant and most recent jobs in the Experience section.
Go back to at least the beginning of this century if you have sufficient experience but don’t include roles that do not relate to your current work or show clear career progression. Don’t worry about gaps in your Experience, this isn’t a CV.
15. Link each role to the appropriate company page where possible.
Not all companies have an official company page, but when they do, link to it in order to display the logo on your profile. This will mean ensuring you have the same name on your profile as the LinkedIn company page listing.
16. Write about each job as though you were telling a friend.
Don’t copy the text straight from your resume, write about it more conversationally, including highlights and milestones. Like your About, add media which at the very least could be the company’s website.
17. Be creative – use the Experience section for more than just jobs.
If you have had senior roles with a voluntary business or not-for-profit organisation, written a book or done something noteworthy outside your employment, add it to your Experience section. Leaving it to the Accomplishments section virtually guarantees it won’t be seen. Plus, you can include images, links or visual media here.
18. Don’t ignore the Accomplishments section just because it’s at the end.
The categories you can add include courses, honours and awards, organisations, publications, projects, patents and languages. You can add descriptions and URLs but not images.
19. Add to your Recommendations. You can never have too many.
Research the number of recommendations that your industry peers have and aim for more. Send a request for a recommendation by going to the person’s profile, clicking More under the cover image and choosing Recommend. Always send a personalised message with your request even if you’ve previously arranged for a connection to write one.
20. Give recommendations. You can never be too generous.
In general, people will respond in kind if you write recommendations for them. Especially if you recommend someone who is in a position to recommend you. But if they don’t reciprocate, it is unlikely to be in your best interest to harass them!
21. Tidy up your Skills section and turn on Skills & Endorsements.
Remove duplicate or similar skills so your endorsement numbers are higher. Delete anything not relevant to your work, especially skills LinkedIn has added automatically. Take out any skills with less than 10 endorsements or work to get them into double figures.
22. Where possible avoid the default grey box in Experience.
For all your past and present jobs/businesses add a logo through the appropriate LinkedIn company page. Unfortunately, if the organisation has no LinkedIn page you can’t display a logo.
- Set up a company page for your business.
Every company wanting to use LinkedIn in its marketing needs a company page. This should include all the contact and business information, plus an overview of what the company does, for whom and the points of difference.
2. Add followers.
The minimum number of followers a company page needs to start having impact is 150. While the page may attract followers organically, it takes time so get the ball rolling by requesting follows from team members, suppliers, clients, business colleagues, networking group members, friends on LinkedIn and anyone else you feel might benefit.
3. Replace the default company page cover image with one that represents your brand.
If possible, have it match the cover image on your profile so there is continuity between the two. Elements you could include are a tag line and/or web URL. LinkedIn recommends the image be 1536 x 768px.
4. Include your logo. Without it your profile won’t display it, either.
The designated space for the logo is a square, which makes it difficult if your logo is long and thin. An alternative is to have a second version of your logo that is ‘stacked’, with one line above the other so it looks squarer (see below).
5. Add images, documents and videos.
This is free online real estate so make the most of it by including media (videos, images, documents etc) that represents your business in the best possible way. These are added by way of posts as you would on your profile page. Documents aren’t common on company pages yet, so stand out by adding some to yours.
6. Post regularly on your company page.
While followers of your company page will be the most likely to see posts from there, if you share posts through your own feed they will be more widely seen. Have other team members do the same.
7. Separate your company page from yourself.
If you are a business owner, you may be seen AS the business. Make it clear that you are not just the business by publishing posts from the page that are different from your personal profile posts. This could be as simple as talking about the business in the third person and yourself in the first.
- Posting quality content regularly is the best way to build a following.
There are four main types of posts: text-only, video, image and document. Interchange them so there’s plenty of variety for your followers and connections to see.
2. Text-only posts get the highest views.
This may be true, and it may not. LinkedIn counts views on text posts differently than video posts so it’s hard to know. But they’re both popular.
3. Only post videos that have captions.
Many people can’t listen to a video if they are in an office, travelling or don’t have headphones. Give them the opportunity to see your text instead, via captions.
4. Be professional in your videos.
LinkedIn is a business platform so your videos should be about your business or at least business related. There’s no reason you can’t be personal in them, though. If you’re videoing yourself be warm, friendly, personable and professional.
5. Make videos technically proficient.
Reduce wind noise if you’re recording outside, use a lapel mic to improve voice sound and avoid recording in bright sunlight or dark rooms without additional lighting to give the most professional results possible.
6. Document posts display best in the dimensions of a PowerPoint slide presentation.
It’s possible to use Word for documents but these don’t display as well. If you’re creating a document specifically for LinkedIn, do so using the slightly rectangular size of a slide. Documents can be up to 100Mb and 300 pages. Add a title cover.
7. Text only posts can be made more visually appealing by adding emoticons.
This is extremely useful for bulleted lists and can include ?, ?, ✔ etc.
8. Adding a link to a post represses views.
LinkedIn tries to keep members on its site and so penalises posts with links. The trick is to upload the post first, without the link, and then go back and insert it. Somehow this seems to fool the algorithm.
9. Text in posts cannot be bolded, italicised or underlined.
Except it can! If you load your text into this link: http://qaz.wtf/u/convert.cgi you can choose from a number of options for display. However, be careful with this because it seems to affect the formatting or layout of the text once posted. It is great for headlines though.
10. Writing only promotional posts is not best practice.
A good rule of thumb is to upload one promotional post for every nine value-added posts. That way you are showcasing your knowledge while helping others instead of merely touting for business which is off-putting to many on LinkedIn.
11. Use 3–5 hashtags only at the end of each post.
Overuse of hashtags does not help a post gain more views and it reduces the amount of text you can include.
12. Make hashtags relevant to your post.
The intention of hashtags is to help people find posts about topics they are interested in, not topics they are not. Irrelevant hashtags will not win you any friends. Choose from the top 100 list compiled by Andy Foote at: https://www.linkedinsights.com/the-hot-100-linkedin-hashtags/
13. Don’t tag people in posts in the hopes they will comment.
This strategy doesn’t work; it only irritates those you’ve irrelevantly tagged. Do, however, tag people who appear in photos you post.
14. Articles still have a place in LinkedIn publishing.
While articles are more time-consuming to produce and rarely receive as many views as posts, they are nonetheless important for topics that require more than a mere 1300 characters. They build into a library which increases your credibility. Aim for at least one article per quarter. Furthermore, articles remain archived on your profile while posts tend to disappear.
15. Most LinkedIn members are voyeurs.
Many more people will see your posts and activity than those who actively engage with them or you. You won’t know who these people are unless they come out of the woodwork and get in touch with you but they are out there. Watching.
- Commenting is the most valuable form of engagement.
Commenting on another person’s post makes you a good LinkedIn citizen, gets you noticed by other people and, depending on what you write, demonstrates your own knowledge of the topic under discussion.
2. Hijacking posts is frowned on.
Making comments unrelated to the post and pushing your own barrow will not endear you to other LinkedIn members. By all means add to the conversation but not at the expense of the original poster.
3. Sharing doesn’t work. Except when it does.
It is generally thought that the algorithm doesn’t promote shared posts very widely but a colleague of ours netted well over 250,000 views of a shared post recently. The original poster received nothing like that number. Such success is, however, rare.
4. When commenting, make an effort.
A comment that reads “great post” is a poor comment which wastes your time and that of the poster because it doesn’t add to the conversation. Instead, ask a question or express your opinion. LinkedIn is one platform where it’s ok to disagree with someone provided you do so politely.
5. If someone tries to derail your post, delete it.
A post’s authors can control a number of aspects of the comments including removing any @mention (or tag), reporting it and deleting it. You can also copy the comment link and paste it into your browser to view the entire post.
6. Unhappy with a comment you’ve posted? Change it.
It’s easy to edit a comment, just as you can change a published post. Click on the …More icon on the top right of the comment, choose the editing pen, make your changes and save them.
7. React to a post instead of just liking it.
LinkedIn offers five variations on liking a post – the usual blue thumbs up, hands clapping (applause or congratulations), heart (or love), a lightbulb (insightful) and a questioning face (curious). Any of these is counted as a like, and they display alongside the person’s face under Reactions immediately below the post.
8. View comments by Most Relevant or Most Recent.
By default, LinkedIn puts Most Relevant first but if you want to look at the entire thread in order, choose Most Recent.
9. Connect with generous commenters.
When you spot someone who’s regularly commenting on posts you’re interested in, invite them to connect if it’s appropriate. You can then reciprocate on each other’s posts which benefits you both.
- Have a reason for connecting.
Don’t connect with just anyone and everyone. Have a solid reason for asking another LinkedIn member to connect with you. Perhaps you know or have met them, they’re in your network, they’re a potential client or supplier, or you could learn from them because they’re industry leaders.
2. View someone’s profile before inviting them to connect.
This increases the likelihood of their accepting and also ensures you know something about them and can be sure you want to connect. Random connecting is not considered best practice.
3. Choose parameters for invitees.
If someone has no profile photo and an incomplete profile, they’re probably not spending much time on the platform so won’t see your posts or messages. Likewise, if they have only a few connections and there is little or nothing showing in the Activity area on their profile.
4. Never send the default connect message.
Take the time to send a personalised message of invitation if you want someone to accept. The chances of success are much greater if you have explained why you want to connect, mentioned a connection in common or shown that you’ve visited their profile.
5. Always follow up with a thank you.
If someone has agreed to connect with you it is only polite that you acknowledge this with a thank you. It can also open the door to a discussion or opportunity if you make it sufficiently personal. Voice messages (see above, Top Secret Tips section #1) make great thank you messages.
6. Follow up with connections.
While not everyone you connect with will want to hear from you personally, some will, and they’ll respond to messages. Forge relationships with these people by sending them voice, video or written messages that are useful and helpful.
7. Never spam a new connection.
A LinkedIn connection is about building a relationship, not about touting for business. Connecting to someone simply to sell to them is a mistake and your connection will most likely react badly unless you just happen to be offering the very thing they are looking for at that very moment. The chances of that are slim.
8. Check out the profiles of people who invite you to connect.
While LinkedIn is a much safer social media environment than other platforms, not everything or everyone is necessarily as they seem. Never feel obliged to connect to someone if you feel uncomfortable about doing so.
9. Follow instead of connecting.
If you want to see what a competitor is doing on LinkedIn but don’t want them to know you’re looking, follow them instead of connecting with them. Their activity will then show up in your notifications.
10. Opting out of company page follow suggestions.
On connecting with someone, you will be asked if you wish to follow their company page. It’s a nice thing to do of course but if you don’t want to see this option, turn it off. On the Settings and Privacy menu under Me on the top menu, choose Communications, then Invitations from your network under Who can reach you. You can choose to do the same for event notifications here, too.
- Use the direct message option to reach out.
While direct messages on LinkedIn are increasing in popularity and use, they have still not reached critical mass. If you want to personally reach out but don’t have their personal email address, send them a DM instead.
2. Don’t use direct messages to spam connections.
This is considered very poor form. Just because you don’t legally need their permission to contact them for marketing purposes (like you do with emails), doesn’t mean you should abuse the privilege.
3. Use the forwarding function to message the same attachment to multiple people.
The LinkedIn messaging feature is very basic and annoying to use because messages get lost in the stream. But if you are sending the same document to many people it’s easy to forward it instead of having to attach it to each message.
4. Beware of creating messaging groups.
Groups are useful if all members are aware of what’s going on, but they will get annoyed with it very quickly if they weren’t consulted about or agreed to being included in the group in the first place.
5. Instead of sending a document, send a link.
Documents don’t display well on small devices so offer an alternative to your pdf – a link. Still send the pdf if you wish, but you may find the link is more regularly opened than the attachment.
LinkedIn is constantly changing by adding new features and improving existing ones. This article gives you an overview of useful features and ways to use the platform going into 2020.
Many LinkedIn experts contributed directly and indirectly to this list and I am truly grateful for their dedication to their craft and to their willingness to share what they know. They are Mark Williams, JoAnne Funch, John Espirian, Janet Falk and Andy Foote among others.
If you want to learn more about LinkedIn, our Posts page is regularly updated, and we provide free information on LinkedIn profiles, how to use LinkedIn like a pro, and send regular updates to our connections. We invite you to follow our company page on LinkedIn and connect with us so our updates pop up in your notifications.