When I first used LinkedIn, way back in the primitive 2000s, it was basically an online CV. You just uploaded your education, skills and work experience, and miraculously employers, clients and colleagues would, at least in theory, get in touch. It was business networking without the lukewarm coffee and awkward silences. But now LinkedIn has evolved (or possibly devolved, depending on your views about social media) into a ‘professional Facebook’, where your personal brand must regularly accrue likes and comments to ensure it stays afloat in crowded, fast-flowing news feeds.
Marketing ourselves successfully is a challenge at the best of times. If only someone could give us some tips on how to attract attention and keep it. Luckily, LinkedIn expert Jan Willem Alphenaar came to the Starters SIG session on 29 April to do just that.
He told us that more than 80% of the working population in the Netherlands uses LinkedIn, the highest proportion in Europe. But using it effectively is key, and JW explained some of the secrets behind its mysterious – and ever-changing – algorithm. For example, ‘Liking’ someone’s post will boost that post but will have no impact on your own visibility. If you comment, a small percentage of your contacts will see it – in fact, more than if you share the post. But the best results come from posting native content, or at least apparently native content (Jan Willem showed us a handy workaround if we want to share interesting external links with our network).
Have you checked your social selling index lately? This illuminating concept – new to most attendees – is a score based on how well your LinkedIn profile fulfils the criteria that the platform regards as important. Jan Willem’s SSI was, naturally, in the top 1% of both his industry and his network. The rest of us have some way to go to reach that level of visibility.
To help us out with that, Jan Willem addressed different ways of making our personal profiles work harder, via key words, prominent contact information and recommendations. By coincidence, I’d also recently attended a free LinkedIn ‘Glow Up’ via Creative Mornings, presented by the effervescent Portia Obeng. Her virtual workshop focused specifically on remodelling the prime real estate of your profile to ensure it catches the attention of both clients and Google. Her excellent advice included low-cost ways to secure the perfect profile shot, and using your ‘headline’ to explain how you can help people (your value proposition). ‘Do not sell yourself short,’ she urged us modest freelancers, telling us to use our ‘About’ section to state what we do, how we do it and why we’re so good at it. ‘What motivates you to keep doing this work?’
Despite their very different styles and approaches, both Jan Willem and Portia have the same message: effective use of LinkedIn, as with any form of marketing, will help you reach the people who want to do business with you, and encourage them to engage with you. Stay active, optimize your profile and always include a call to action. Who knows what stimulating, well-paid projects – and stimulating, well-connected contacts – may result?
Thanks to the Starters SIG conveners Anne Oosthuizen, Danielle Carter and Martina Abagnale for organizing such a useful session. Now all I need to do is put it into practice…