There’s no denying that LinkedIn gets a bit of a bad rap. Part online resume, part awkward networking tool, it’s often seen as the Frankenstein’s Monster of social networking sites. At career seminars it gets hammered into us over and over again that you must have a LinkedIn profile. It’s the digital equivalent of a first impression, and first impressions count.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve neglected my LinkedIn account. Up until now I’d only update it when I landed a new job or wanted to start job hunting. However recently I’ve come to the realisation that I may have been looking at LinkedIn all wrong. There’s far more to this platform than you might think.
Using LinkedIn to develop your brand
It sounds a bit on-the-nose, but our modern approach to work requires the need for individuals to develop their own personal brand. Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that young people will have more than 17 jobs in their lifetime, spanning five different careers. We’re no longer landing a job and climbing the corporate ladder, expecting to stick it out for thirty or forty years.
With the prospect of constant career swapping, there’s a definite need for individuals to develop a cohesive working identity. A type of individual ‘branding’ that will help people to sell themselves to their next employer.
That’s where LinkedIn comes in.
Networking done right
To many people, face-to-face networking is downright terrifying, let alone the thought of having to sell yourself and pitch your business to strangers.
LinkedIn provides a viable alternative: It gives individuals a way to network with other professionals without having to do it face-to-face.
LinkedIn provides the ability to ‘follow’ other users. This differs from a full connection, because it only shows you when that person likes or comments on a post or article. However, this gives you the opportunity to see the things they’re interested in, and react to their social activity.
You can easily follow those who are leading in your field of expertise. Not only can you keep an eye on what they’re discussing, but you can join the conversation by adding your own thoughts and viewpoints on issues, and by posting updates and articles.
By doing this tactfully, you can begin to build your branding. Plus, when the opportunity presents itself to meet people in your industry you can use it as a springboard to kick-off conversation. If you persist, the chances are that other people will have noticed your activity and provide you with a more organic networking introduction.
Marketer and copywriter D.P Knudten believes that LinkedIn is a veritable gold mine for developing personal branding. It can be used to demonstrate value directly to your clients. In episode two of the Nonfiction Brand podcast, D.P talks about a construction company that specialises in pipe laying and communication installation.
In a video uploaded to LinkedIn, this company show off their technique for laying fiberoptic cable under a major highway in just a few of hours. This helps develop their branding, and demonstrates their value proposition to perspective clients. This is what individuals on LinkedIn need to start doing.
I’m excited by the fact that what I’m doing today may not be what I’ll be doing in ten years time. But I’ll freely admit that the idea of personal ‘branding’ makes me feel just the tiniest bit uncomfortable. I don’t want to be famous. I want to dive under the doona and do all my work using a nom de plume. But as a freelance writer, that’s just not a viable solution.
By developing my personal brand, I can demonstrate to the people my network that I’m not resting on my laurels. It says that I’m continuing to developing my skillset, and that I’m actively participating in my area of expertise. I’m also sharing my knowledge with others to help build a community. It allows me to show off my latest work and achievements.
It also allows me to network with potential employers.
LinkedIn can also be a fantastic way to generate new leads. Freelance journalist and writer Lindy Alexander has covered the value of LinkedIn, and how it can be a valuable tool for writers. In her blog she talks about how small businesses aren’t always the best clients. They can have multiple competing priorities, and often take days or weeks to respond to a freelancer’s emails. This is something I’ve experienced first hand.
To make matters worse, the amount of money they budget for marketing and content creation is often small. Sometimes depressingly so.
However, Lindy writes of how she uses LinkedIn to connect with potential leads, and stay in touch with her clients. Sometimes the simple act of reaching out to a previous client can produce work. It’s how she landed one of her highest paying jobs of all time.
She even suggests that you can use it to find the editors or marketing professionals that work in the industries you might want to work for. By targeting those relevant people, you can send a letter of introduction directly to the people who might be able to use your services.
Not every connection will be successful, but by sending out a few connections every week you can raise the possibility of making new connections and finding additional work.
It’s clear that there is far more to LinkedIn than just an online resume. By taking a proactive approach you can begin to develop your individual brand, network effectively, and generate potential leads in the areas that could offer new work opportunities.