As we come to the end of 2011, whilst some of our thoughts will understandably be on the festive period, many of us will also have an eye on how we can take our business to the next level over the next 12 months. One way, which costs little financially, is that of social media marketing and in particular, social media networking.

Getting this right may appear a difficult task, especially for those who are new to social media, but as long as you put the time in to creating a social media strategy, exploring each platform and creating profiles which hold all the relevant information (and relevant keywords for your business) social media marketing can be a fantastic way to improve your business profile.

It’s for this reason that below, you’ll find a sprinkle of suggestions to help you improve your LinkedIn profile for the better this New Year.

The Profile:

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – this is both true in life and on LinkedIn; and as we all know, within business it is important to ensure that you’re giving the right first impression.

With this in mind, when creating your LinkedIn profile, you need to remember a few basics which will ensure that you give the right impression of yourself, ensuring that those who stumble upon your profile want to connect with you.

1) Use a professional picture of just you – a family portrait or a picture of you out with your friends are fine for Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn is a professional network and as such, your picture needs to be of a professional look, head and shoulders is usually a safe bet.

2) Tell people what you do in your headline, not what your job title is – easier you can be found, more likely you are to gain connections.

3) Your summary shouldn’t be just about you enjoying playing / watching sport or spending time with the family, etc (although there is no harm in having the final paragraph holding this information). Instead, it should be about what you do within your current role. Make sure this section is also written within first person; after all it is about you.

Getting Connected:

There’s an old saying that “It’s not what you know but who you know” and when it comes to LinkedIn, this saying certainly holds some truth; which is why it’s important to build up a wide network of connections.

With over 6.5million LinkedIn users in the UK alone, there is no reason why you cannot build up a healthy network of connections; and there are two ways in which you can go about this, depending on the strategy that you’ve planned before joining the network.

Option 1: Connect only with those who you already know, from clients and co-workers to former colleagues.

Benefit of this option: You know everyone you’re connected with, you can remain both online and offline relationships.

Option 2: Connect with those you already know, but also look and connect with “2nd” and “3rd” connections; people who you share an interest with or who could be beneficial in the future.

Benefit of this option: You never know when you’ll need a favour or advice from another expert; by building a wide network of connections and not just those that you know, you’re broadening your horizons and also your knowledge base. There’s also a chance new connections could become new business too.

Valuable Content:

As you would when putting content onto your website, onto promotional material or within business documents; when it comes to content on LinkedIn, it’s important to make sure that the content is useful to the majority who come across it.

Top Tip: Remember the 80% 20% rule of LinkedIn – 80% is about sharing, helping and providing information; 20% is about selling.

With this tip in mind, it’s important to make sure that the content your adding to your LinkedIn profile via updates isn’t always about you or your business. If you see a piece of news which is of interest to your target audience, why not share it?

Along with adding your own content, join groups and comment, like or share other people’s updates (if you find them of interest of course) – whilst you may be wondering what good this will do you in building up your exposure on the network; remember that it is getting your name and face out there and who knows when someone may contact you asking for your advice or help due to what you’ve done on LinkedIn.

As with all social media marketing, when using LinkedIn it’s best to have a strategy of what you want to achieve, to be consistent on how often and when you share information / update your profile – 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon each day is a lot better than a 2hour block on a Friday afternoon. But most importantly have a play around and explore the network, who knows what you may find.

Do you have any other tips on how you can improve your social media marketing via LinkedIn? Why not share them by commenting on this post.

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