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How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Practice Part 1: Getting Started

Nov 1st 2013
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By Mark Ginsberg

LinkedIn is the most professional and business-oriented of the popular social media sites, but it's not just for job seekers or for making connections. LinkedIn can help you get things done, be more productive, and grow your practice.

While most accountants would rather spend time doing what they do best – working with clients to solve a problem – most tend to neglect the basics of networking. We know we need to network to build our businesses, yet we stop ourselves from doing this because we think it either takes too much time or it takes time away from what we most like to do.

Using LinkedIn to grow your practice is smart, because keeping it current and building your network only take a few minutes a day. First, however, you must begin building your LinkedIn Profile. Yes, you may have a LinkedIn Profile, but how long has it been since you've updated it, or have you even completed it 100 percent?

Here are some simple ways to make a great first impression with your LinkedIn Profile.

Set Up Your LinkedIn Profile 

After you create your LinkedIn account, the first thing you need to focus on is completing your LinkedIn Profile. The Profile completeness gauge on the right-hand side of your Profile page shows you how far along in the process you are. In order for your LinkedIn Profile to be 100 percent complete, you need to put in your:

  • Current position
  • At least two previous positions
  • Education
  • Profile Summary
  • Profile photo
  • Specialties

Create Your Brand

Your LinkedIn Profile is one of the best ways to create and project your personal brand. Here's how to do that:

Step 1  Upload your photo

Your LinkedIn photo is the first thing any visitor's eye will be drawn to. Based on your photo, visitors will unconsciously and immediately form an impression of you. Above all, your photo should be professional. If you would like to display your personality in your photo, you may do so through your facial expression and pose, but keep the photo professional.

You don't need to go to a professional photographer for a photo, and don't put in any pictures of you wearing a T-shirt. My photo, although I'm not in a suit, is considered professional. LinkedIn crops the photos to be square, so you may want to do the cropping on your own before uploading to get it just the way you want. If you don't crop in close enough, your face may be too small to be seen clearly.

Try standing with your body slanted so that one shoulder is nearer to the camera instead of facing the camera directly. Have your photographer snap lots of photos while you adjust and get into position. Have a conversation with your photographer while he or she snaps photos. This will help you to appear more relaxed and less stiff and posed.

Go through all the photos taken, discard the bad ones, and pick the one you feel represents you best.

A camera with lots of pixels is best, but you can also use a smartphone camera. Just be sure your photo is taken at close range.

Step 2  Create your headline

After your photo, the next most important item in your personal LinkedIn brand is your headline. Your headline is what everyone will see next to your photo and your name when you show up in search results or connection suggestions. You want it to be brief and inform viewers of what you do or what you want to do.

Keep it specific! Don't just say "CPA", "Accountant", or "Consultant." Think "business card." Your LinkedIn headline is the equivalent of a personal tagline you might use on your business card.

Step 3  Fill in your Summary and Specialties

Your Summary on LinkedIn can be in paragraph form, but try to keep the length to a few paragraphs. Write it from the prospective of potential clients looking for a consultative person to help them solve problems – not a salesperson telling them how great you are and how much money you can save them.

You want to separate yourself from the others, so be low key and explain how you excel in various areas; this is a much better approach to your Summary. These should all be items that you cover in your personal thirty-second introduction. It's what people read after your headline and before they move down to your experience.

Your Specialties should be specific skills that set you apart. This is where you can list certifications and credentials as well as specific subject matter areas of expertise. Your Specialties must be filled out for your Profile to be considered complete.

Tip: You can list your website(s) on LinkedIn, but instead of using the system's default and generic "My Company" and "My Website" labels for your sites, select "Other" and type in more descriptive labels.

Step 4  Add work experience

After completing the sections above, it's time to add all of your work experience. When adding your work experience to your Profile, write position descriptions carefully to showcase your skills and accomplishments. Don't pattern your description after the examples that LinkedIn provides!

Don't just list your responsibilities. When people read your LinkedIn Profile, they don't just want to know what you are/were responsible for doing; they want to know what you actually do/did. Use the description box to show what impact you made in each of your positions. 

Most people who view your LinkedIn Profile may never see your actual resume, so make sure that your LinkedIn Profile is just as good as your resume, if not better. You're not limited to two typed pages, so there's no reason to truncate important accomplishments. At the same time, no one wants to scroll through screen after screen after screen, so make sure you highlight your most important accomplishments for each position, not every accomplishment. A good rule of thumb is to pick the two or three most significant ones.

Once you've completed your work experience, you may choose to further personalize your Profile by adding widgets, called Applications. One that's definitely useful is the Events application. Here's where you can publish events that you want to share with your connections. Other popular applications include Presentations, Blog Links, and Reading Lists. Add whatever ones you think augment your Profile, but don't add too many. Remember: LinkedIn is not the same as Facebook.

Once your Profile is complete, it's time to use it to build your network, which I'll explain in my next article.

About the author:

Mark A. Ginsberg is a business consultant with Staff One, Inc., a company delivering a comprehensive range of HR solutions to clients in more than forty-one states. Contact Mark at [email protected].


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