By Mark Lee
In Part 4 of my LinkedIn series, I'll explain how to use the recommendations and endorsement features that LinkedIn offers.
One way to help boost your chances as a start-up practice is to gather testimonials. These would ideally be from satisfied clients who've worked with you in the past. However, many accountants are uncomfortable with the idea of asking for testimonials.
LinkedIn provides a great alternative - the recommendations feature. You can use this to secure an alternative form of testimonial without embarrassment.
Also, recommendations can be checked to show the independence and credibility of the people who give them to you.
Asking contacts, ex-colleagues, ex-clients, and even current clients for recommendations is a very simple process. In the "Profile" down-down menu, click "Recommendations," and then simply select which contacts you want to ask for recommendations.
I suggest you ask groups of people on different days, perhaps spread over a few weeks. You can simply say you've been advised to update your LinkedIn profile and to get some recommendations.
Ask people you contact if they'd be willing to post a recommendation in regard to the value of your work. Then add something specific to the group of people you're asking; for example, while you worked together at XYZ and Company.
Research suggests that users with recommendations grow credibility, and they're more likely to get requests for advice and to be found in searches. And, of course, you can use the recommendations in other marketing materials and on your website.
I'm quite thrilled and also humbled by the large number of recommendations attached to my LinkedIn profile.
Sadly, few recommendations relate to the impact of my writing (yet), but if you take a look, you'll see that I have a significant number of recommendations from a wide range of people I've worked with over the last ten to fifteen years. This provides a degree of confidence in my skills and my approach.
I'm delighted to say that many such recommendations were unsolicited. Indeed, this is the way I give recommendations as well. I see the profile of someone I've worked with in the past, and I post a genuine recommendation. I don't believe in giving them out just because someone has recommended me. This will rarely be appropriate, and it diminishes the value of both recommendations when it happens. So ignore the prompt that pops up when you accept a recommendation for your profile.
If you only have a few weak recommendations from friends and family, this probably won't help your practice build new clients. It's much better to have a few really positive ones and to grow the number each year.
Many LinkedIn users consider the new endorsements feature to be simply a game and quite silly, which it is. While it's not as serious or as valuable as the recommendations feature, when used intelligently, it can prove useful for start-up practices.
You may choose to edit your profile and move the endorsements box right to the bottom, at least until you've accumulated a worthwhile number, whatever that might be.
Since the feature was added, when anyone you're connected with looks at your profile, they'll be asked to endorse you for your skills and expertise. You'll also be encouraged to do this when you visit someone else's profile. This only happens with level-one connections, so random strangers can't endorse you or vice-versa, unless you've connected with a lot of random strangers.
There seem to be two types of skills for which you can be endorsed. The first are those that you have chosen to add to your profile (see Part 1). The second are related skills that LinkedIn thinks you might have, based on the skills you've identified.
I would suggest that you only accept endorsements of skills that are relevant to your start-up practice. In my case, I now have hundreds of endorsements for a variety of skills. But, as I am no longer in practice, I haven't accepted or hidden those that referenced accounting and tax advisory, as those aren't topics for which I want to be known or endorsed.
Start-up practitioners, on the other hand, may want to gather endorsements across a wide range of accountancy and tax skills.
The point about endorsements is that it's too easy to click and post them without adding any context or meaning. Most users and LinkedIn experts I know say much the same thing. A few marketing types have gotten caught up by the hype, as they often do, without seeming to think it through.
I certainly wouldn't place any great store by a few endorsements on a LinkedIn profile, and I don't think many other users would do so either. I guess it's a little different when you have hundreds of them, but this is unlikely for start-up practices.
Still, if you want to be endorsed for things you're good at, be sure you've listed at least ten skills on your profile.
LinkedIn will prompt you to expand on some of these. For example, "tax" will generate a sub-list of different taxes. Pick only those for which you have real expertise. LinkedIn may be encouraging users to play a game with endorsements, but for a start-up practice, your profile is serious business.
If you have questions, ideas, or views on anything above, by all means, connect with me on LinkedIn.
Also by Mark:
- LinkedIn Tips Part 1: Getting Your Profile Right
- LinkedIn Tips Part 2: Getting Connected
- LinkedIn Tips Part 3: Your Status
About the author:
Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB UK and writes the BookMarkLee blog for accountants who want to overcome the stereotype of the boring accountant – in practice, online, and in life. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts.
Mar 15th 2013