Organizer Debbie Rootman, left, and guest speaker Janice Porter at Temple Sholom Sisterhood’s networking event Feb. 28. (photo by Baila Lazarus)
If you’re a decision-maker in business, and especially if you’re a small-business owner or entrepreneur or are looking for a job, LinkedIn should be one of the main tools in your arsenal.
That was the message from LinkedIn trainer Janice Porter, who spoke at a business networking event sponsored by Temple Sholom Sisterhood on Feb. 28.
“LinkedIn is about relationships,” Porter told the group. “It starts with having a fully optimized profile that will have more people see it. But it’s about building connections. Even a good profile won’t be seen if you don’t have any connections.”
Porter said the first step, however, is to determine if the platform is right for you.
“It’s not for everybody,” she said. “If you’re looking for a job, you should be on LinkedIn. But, if you’re in business, if you’re promoting something, you have to know whether your target audience is on LinkedIn.”
LinkedIn, a professional networking platform, was launched in 2003. It has 590 million members in 200 countries. Users create profiles and then reach out to other users to connect online and possibly take the business relationship into the “real” world. Such relationships can lead to direct sales, referral partners, strategic alliances and, if you’re on the job hunt, interviews.
At the Temple Sholom event, Porter outlined five steps that would help users get the most out of the social media platform.
- Have an authentic profile. Having a well-done, completed profile allows a user to be seen as an authority. As well, Porter pointed out, if you have a strong LinkedIn profile, it will come up high on Google search results. Be sure to include a good photo. People are 14 times more likely to look at profiles that have a photo.
- Create an optimized headline. This is the first line people see when they are searching. The headline should include a benefit positioning statement – what you do and what the result is. For example, Porter’s headline says, “LinkedIn trainer, relationship marketing specialist, networking coach, increasing qualified leads online & nurturing them into sales offline.”
“Most people just say ‘my job at my company,’ which focuses on the company rather than the person,” Porter explained. “Usually people search for the type of job that you do, so putting your company name in is wasting space. So rather than say, ‘Mortgage broker at …,’ say ‘Mortgage broker with specialty in.…”
- Be visible. Having a profile is not enough, said Porter. Users need to be active by writing and sharing new content, and commenting on other members’ posts. “The more you engage with other people, the more people will want to connect with you,” she said.
- Be personal. When reaching out to connect with other members, customize the connection request. Put in a sentence explaining why you are reaching out to this person.
- Make new connections. Porter recommends that users connect with five new people daily.
When asked if it’s worth it to buy a premium account on LinkedIn, Porter suggested starting with a free account because there are enough people you can connect to without the upgrade. However, if you really need to connect directly with certain C-suite employees or you feel a need to follow up on everyone who has looked at your profile, a premium account would make that easier. A third level – Sales Navigator – is particularly useful for those whose focus is selling products or services.
You can try the paid versions on a 30-day free trial, but Porter cautioned that, if you’re not interested in continuing, cancel the trial early. After 30 days, you get a bill for a year, not a month, she said.
Karalee Greer, an independent market partner with Monat Global, attended the event because she wants to be more active on LinkedIn. “Having a more complete and updated professional profile will help people find me on the site,” she said. “Also, by being regularly active and connecting with my target market potential, Linkedin will help me find people more suited for me to build relationships with. I feel my time will be better spent on this platform.”
Mortgage planner Deborah Burnstein said she attended the event not just for the guest speaker but for the networking opportunities. She was already familiar with LinkedIn before attending the event. “Now it’s about finding content to post,” she said.
Baila Lazarus is a Vancouver-based writer and principal media strategist at bailalazarus.com.