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November 16, 2018

Marketing Medicine: Use LinkedIn to build your personal brand

When you write a regular column, and people are kind enough to read it, you sometimes create problems. Some are beyond your control.

Dodgy sub-editing by the publisher’s team can make you look poorly educated. Worse still, it can land you in hot water by changing the meaning of what you wrote.

 I hasten to say that this is not a problem in my current column. But it has been. A couple of years ago I discovered how big and vocal a national PR industry was, by being misquoted thus: “PR Agencies never come up with original ideas”. I don't recall now what I intended to say, but it certainly wasn't that!

 Over time, you can get overtaken by market developments in a way that makes past pronouncements seem ill-judged. That said, I have been bang on about the stunted development of telecoms brands in Africa over the past 10 years.

 Occasionally, you experience something that modifies a previously held view. But this I think is acceptable. We all learn from experience and we have to be flexible enough to adjust our stance accordingly. In the spirit of this insight, I would now like to offer a revised view of LinkedIn.

 It’s not exactly an epiphany, but it does represent a slight melting of my ice sheet on the matter. You see, some years ago I opined that LinkedIn only linked you to losers. Harsh, you may think.

 However, my overriding impression was that LinkedIn opened me up to persistent pestering by people who were not material to my business.

A bit like being showered with hopeful but poorly-written CVs, bulked up with photocopies of spurious academic certificates from the University of Deolali and grade scores from Madam Mimi’s Academy of Secretarial Success. We’ve all had them, and frankly we don’t need any more of them.

 Anyway, I have recently had another date with LinkedIn, and I have to say it shows more promise this time around. The big learning is that it’s all about how you use it. Garbage In, Garbage Out still seems to be an excellent observation on most matters to do with ICT. And LinkedIn is no exception.

 So, for those of you as yet unfamiliar with the biggest business networking opportunity on the planet, allow me to share a few thoughts about setting up a page that will work for your business.

 First off, an incomplete profile doesn't look good on LinkedIn. So make sure you fill out all the sections that apply to your business.

Put the most critical details about yourself or your business on top, so people don't miss them. Explain exactly what your company is, who your clients are and how you help them. Also showcase your products by filling out the 'Products and Services' section of your company page.

 Secondly, and within the bounds of credibility, position yourself as an expert in your industry. Then others may come to you seeking professional advice and insight, which puts you in an advantageous place.

You can post articles you've written about your industry, share your recent work or publish thought pieces. All these go into the 'Pages' section.

 You can also note any honours or awards you have received. But be selective. Not everyone will be as unquestioning or as impressed as your mum. With luck, people who know you will also be kind enough to offer on-page endorsements and recommendations.

Then there is a summary section, where you should write a concise ‘call to action’ that explains to page visitors exactly what you'd like them to do. To call or email you; visit your blog or site; sign up to your mailing list.

 Apparently, adding a photo to your profile makes it 11 times more likely to be viewed and updates with a photograph get five times more shares.

Not surprising, when you consider how we primate-descendants still need the comfort of visual recognition. Indeed, I find people who just use the graphic head shape on Facebook and LinkedIn rather suspicious. Are they a troll or something worse?

 Next, you need to think about optimising your page to attract search engines. Do this by thinking about what words a person searching for your expertise might type in. ‘Corruption’, ‘Procurement’, ‘Defence’ and ‘Government Tenders’ could be a productive cluster. Hoho, I jest. Anyway, whatever they are, make sure those keywords appear in your page text.

 Then comes the straw that breaks many a camel’s back. If you are on any kind of social media, you must add content frequently. Post relevant, professional updates.

Pictures of you, at business events; professional achievements; endorsements. But exercise rigorous editorial control. Anything irrelevant to the purpose of your page must be cut.

 I could say a lot more, but let me end here by recommending you use the site’s trending tools to assess how well you are doing. Do I do all these myself? Well no, but I am trying to. Remember – a cobbler’s children often go barefoot.

 

To comment on this article, send a Tweet to harrisoncj on www.twitter.com or chat to him on Linked In.

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