Become LinkedIn Power User | SMCLT Virtual Event Recap

Sep 14, 2020

By Allison J. Koch

By nature, humans crave social interaction. Whether to make new friends, develop a competitive edge or build professional relationships. Today, with social distancing restrictions in place for public health, we’re looking towards new and old ways to stay connected. For many professionals, the transition to virtual “coffee dates” was made easy by almost 20 years of product development by LinkedIn.

During Social Media Charlotte’s virtual panel on How to Become a LinkedIn Power User, our moderator Nicole Stephens, V.P. of Social Media Strategy at Wells Fargo, discusses how to leverage your LinkedIn profile with these Charlotte-based social media and content experts:

How to Leverage your LinkedIn for Personal and Professional Success

“LinkedIn is an opportunity to brand yourself.” Jonathan McFadden, LendingTree

When LinkedIn launched in 2003, it was designed to facilitate professional networking, especially between those who were searching for jobs and those who were hiring. According to Ira Bass, who joined LinkedIn in 2007, many users at the time shied away from the platform to avoid the connotation that they were looking for a new job.

Flash forward to present day, and we’re using LinkedIn to make connections and build relationships like never before. The online employment service really took off in 2016 when it was acquired by Microsoft, who built upon the value it provided to consumers.

According to our experts, it is a combination of these three value drivers that allow you to grow your LinkedIn community and find success in your industry:

  1. Digital portfolio
  2. Online rolodex
  3. Customized news feed

Let’s dive a little deeper into these key features, shall we?

Develop Your Digital Portfolio

If you ask Ira, you get one shot at a great impression. The same can be said online where many connections and first impressions are made nowadays. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are one of the first places recruiters will turn to learn more about a potential candidate. So how do you make sure to put your best foot forward?

According to Ira, the first step is to look at LinkedIn as your personal branding tool and website. You want to “design it as if you’re speaking to the reader,” says Ira. “Let them know what you’re passionate about; what motivates you; why should they hire or do business with you.”

Also, don’t be afraid to fill your digital portfolio with “the goods,” he added. Consider uploading the below content to make your portfolio one of a kind:

  • Websites
  • PDFs
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Photography
  • Writing samples
  • Presentations

Jonathan McFadden mirrored Ira’s sentiment by talking a little about his experience as a journalist and present-day content strategist for LendingTree. “People respond to stories,” Jonathan said. Let your reader get to know the personality behind your work experiences.

According to Jonathan, LinkedIn is where your professional and personal lives merge. “I think the two are intertwined and should be integrated together.” Especially as many people are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the line between work and home has become virtually non-existent. It’s important to be transparent, but be careful not to overshare says Jonathan. Remember: Everything you post will exist for potential employers to find!

“When you are introducing yourself to someone on LinkedIn it’s good to be authentically you,” Matt See added. "People want to learn more about you than what lives in your resume. Make your digital portfolio uniquely—you."

Build Your Online Rolodex

What started as a great way to connect with clients, colleagues and recruiters, LinkedIn quickly became a powerful tool for developing new connections. As the world turns towards digital, people like Matt are tossing out their paper business cards and replacing them with “Connect” requests.

As you start building your network, think introspectively about why you’re on LinkedIn. With over 700 million people to connect with, making a new connection can be a bit intimidating. Instead of blindly inviting all your recommended connections, do your research and consider what value you want to get out of each relationship.

When you’re ready to make the first move, avoid these two common (yet dreadful) mistakes according to Ira:

  • Mistake #1: Making an automated connection. How often do you open or respond to an automated connection yourself? Try not to sell yourself right off the bat. When you’re making a new connection on LinkedIn, do your research first. As Jonathan said, “People don’t like to be sold, but they like to buy.” Leave them wanting to learn more about you.

  • Mistake #2: Sending a connection request without a message. You wouldn’t walk into a conference and silently drop your business card in someone’s pocket… would you? To build meaningful relationships online, it’s important to show you did your research and are interested in building connections that are more than just on the surface.

Personalize Your Newsfeed

Most people use LinkedIn to grow their professional networks; however, not everyone leverages those connections to customize the content in their newsfeed. By filling your feed with information that’s relevant to you, you can curate a custom source of information that aligns with your passions and interests. If you are interested in great marketing campaigns, you can follow businesses like Nike or Arby’s. If you’d like to better understand the inner workings of a Facebook Ads campaign, you can follow Andrea Vahl or other thought leaders on the subject.

Matt reminded the Social Media Charlotte audience that all users should treat LinkedIn like the social media platform it is! People want to engage, connect and start a conversation online.

Four Tips for Creating a LinkedIn Thought Leadership Post

“We can all be thought leaders in our industry” Jonathan McFadden

When you’re ready to get started posting yourself, there are a couple of things our experts want you to consider. Ira encourages users to be a “portal of information” in their network. So how do you become a thought leader on LinkedIn?

1. Consider the Purpose

Before writing your next post, Jonathan encourages users to ask themselves: What is the goal or purpose of this post? By asking this simple question, you will have a strong foundation to build your content upon.

Here are some reasons you may want to create a LinkedIn post to get you started:

  • Increase reactions and shares
  • Reach new audiences
  • Start a conversation
  • Ask a question
  • Educate your audience

2. Who is your Audience?

Once you identify the purpose, consider your audience. How you want to communicate your message may differ depending on who you’d like to reach.

3. Develop Strong Content

Be a storyteller. Jonathan, who is a professional journalist and the current content strategist at LendingTree, said “it's all about crafting content that will engage and compel people, because at the end of the day, there are so many different ways that we can get information, people have so many ways to disseminate that information.”

Creating a LinkedIn post is similar to developing a blog or article. As an expert in the area, Jonathan recommends leading the post with a strong hook, and keeping the reader engaged through the majority of the content. Then, close with a question to encourage engagement, or leave it open- ended to keep the reader wanting more!

LinkedIn is the perfect place to engage with people who align with your purpose and audience. Plus, Ira reminds us that everything on LinkedIn is searchable. Optimize your posts for search and include around 10 hashtags, anything more may hurt your potential reach on the platform. Also, include video when you have the opportunity to.

4. Be Authentic

“What do you want to be known for, when someone sees you in their feed?” Matt See

Most importantly, be yourself. All our experts agree that it’s important to let your personality shine through so your readers will feel connected to you and the content.

If you’re more interested in sharing content, rather than curating it yourself,; here are five ways Matt recommends to repost thought-leadership content:

  1. Make sure you actually read the content you’re sharing
  2. Share your thoughts on the subject
  3. Let your passion show
  4. Get involved in the conversation
  5. Add snippets from the article in your repost

Need more help?

Enjoy these resources to help you optimize your digital portfolio on LinkedIn.

Infographic for your LinkedIn profile:

Examples of "professional written" LinkedIn profiles:

Free automated evaluation of your LinkedIn profile:

Tips on your headshot or want to know what other people think of it: