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Why Professionals Should Optimise Their LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn for professionals

Why LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a great tool for professionals. But to be useful you must understand the structure and parameters of the Profile. This will be the place prospective clients and business partners first check your professional status and expertise. The LinkedIn website makes it all straightforward – they even give you a score to tell you how well you are doing in the Profile stakes. The mechanical details are easy, but it nevertheless requires a degree of subtlety.

A Professional Profile

Obviously you want to highlight what you do – but to what extent, and where should you place the focus? Contrary to what may appear to be a common sense view, your history is somewhat irrelevant. Really, it’s not very important to any prospective client that you once captained the school under-18 seniors football team. That’s important to you. How about your first job in a multi-national accounting firm where you fell out of love with the corporatized culture and decided to open your own firm based on your own values. Sorry, no interest there either. Ah yes, there was the time you took a chance on an Indian immigrant just arrived in the country who turned out to be something of a genius in the money markets. Great story, yes? No.

Can you see a pattern here? No one is interested in any aspect of your career that has no quantifiable value to them today. It’s fine to write that you have been a personal injuries lawyer for thirty years and an accredited expert for the last  fifteen years, but that’s sufficient.

There is a place for greater detail, and that’s in your About Us page (or whatever you call it – “Our People” or “Our Team”) which resides happily on your website. The only criteria there is whether you have an arresting story to tell that is well written and informative. That’s the opportunity to create your firm’s narrative, not your LinkedIn Profile.

Use Your Client Persona

If you have created a client persona, this is where to put it into action. Who are the people who use your services, or those you would like to see come in for a free first interview? The answer to that question should determine the tone, content and tenor of your LinkedIn Profile.

Let’s say that you are a professional provider of financial services, and in particular self managed superannuation funds. Who is your ideal client persona:

  • New business owners who have moved from the employed sector and have had an industry fund, and will look to roll over to a self managed fund.
  • “Aspirationals” who are looking for a safety net for the future to buttress their present-day risk.
  • Those who want cutting-edge advice.
  • People within a decade of retirement. They need reassurance, a firm hand on the tiller and the beginning of a plan to see them into retirement. They are less interested in the here and now, they are starting to focus on the future.

Based on these “ideal clients”, these are the facts you should emphasise in your Profile:

  • Do not describe yourself as a “financial adviser”, even if that is the way you identify yourself. It’s too nebulous for your target audience. You could be a “Certified financial and strategic superannuation investment adviser”.
  • Concentrate on your expertise as an expert strategic investor for their futures – they want to concentrate on building their wealth.
  • Show you understand the needs of prospective clients whose retirements are drawing closer and worry about the lifestyle they will be able to afford, for themselves and their family.

Obviously the needs are different if you want to focus on your career opportunities, in that case recruiters will want to know more about your experience. But for mature professionals whose focus is prospective clients, it is their needs that are paramount.

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Why Is Twitter So Complicated?

Why Is Twitter Complicated?

Are mature professionals scared off Twitter?

Here’s the scenario. You’ve followed the rules, worked hard, established a family and burdened yourself with a mortgage that seems to be making the bank (not you) a bundle. Perhaps you’ve chosen to pay for private schooling, and unlike the image popularised by vested interests, you don’t drive a German supercar or follow the changing seasons from snow resort to beach house. In fact the closest you’ve come to a holiday home is that cubby house you built for the kids beside the sandpit in the backyard. But you’re not complaining. You’ve established a profession, and though you set your alarm early, you accept that this is the way to get ahead. Sure, material gain is one of your goals, and the closer you get to retirement the more important that becomes, but what you crave most is security and the steady progress that hard work is meant to bring.

And now the rules have changed. There’s social media, and content marketing, and websites that are no longer a luxury or easily derided as a plaything. In fact it doesn’t  matter what you think, because your competitors are into it and spending good money to outpace you.

Let’s try Twitter

You get advice from a technologically adept colleague – “Get your feet wet with Twitter. It’s easy and only 140 characters”. What can go wrong with 140 characters?

The New York Times ran an article that addressed this issue with its typical journalistic panache:

Using Twitter sounds so simple. Type out no more than 140 characters — the maximum allowed in a single tweet — and hit send. That’s all, right? Not quite. Twitter’s interface may look simple, but it is not, and its complexity has turned off many people who tried the service.

I once used a corporate Twitter account to which, frankly, I paid little attention because it was awaiting the launch of a product (that never happened). I had registered an account to reserve my own name, but otherwise that account was dormant because I had no use for it. In retrospect – and this is a lesson worth learning for mature professionals like me – it would have been far better to start tweeting and not only slowly build the credibility of the account, but also get a handle (pun alert) on how to use it.

Setting up Twitter is the easy part

The setup could not be simpler – it’s deceptively easy. Choose a username (the “handle”), a password, fill in the bio and add an appropriate image (you, your firm logo but not you and the dogs at the beach in Santa hats). My bio @geoffreywinn is:

Lawyer. Content marketing for mature professionals. Bestselling author Bulletproof Your Life. Lifeguard worklife product. Middle-aged and learning.

After that it gets considerably more complicated. You need to learn how to tweet in 140 characters, the etiquette and the rules. And yes, grammar counts. What do hashtags mean? Where to put the @ symbol (it matters). How to retweet, how often, and where to place the retweet designation (I do it at the end – “via @username”). How and when to add comments when you tweet someone else’s article. How to balance the professional and personal tweets ( I have very little personal). How often to tweet? What tools to use (I use Buffer and love it). What proportion of your own work compared with references to others? Do you want to be a trusted content curator?

Have realistic expectations

I don’t want to be a wet blanket, it’s not neurosurgery and you will get the hang of it, but it will not be plain sailing, especially if you approach it with the intent to create a marketing tool for your firm.

I think this is the reason so many mature professionals discard Twitter before they have given it a chance. If you start with the expectation that it is a simple tool, you will quickly become frustrated, perhaps fatally so. Start slowly, don’t expect it to be straightforward, read a good guide (I like The Tao Of Twitter).

And take deep breaths.

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Social Media For Reluctant Professionals

Socila media for professionals

How did we get here?

Professionals are the worst predictors of technology. It’s understandable. We go to university, we study what is put in front of us, there is little original research that takes place as an undergraduate, and for the most part we don’t care to venture beyond the boundaries of our specialised expertise. Business people are far more likely to look beyond the horizon, it’s where their fortunes lie.

Business is inherently entrepreneurial – professions are more the reiteration of a hard-earned expertise. Business people will often be interested in technology that offers the opportunity to expand their customer base, professionals love technology for its straightforward contribution to the office bottom line.Word processing? Great. Automated billing? Wonderful.

That doesn’t mean that there are no entrepreneurial professionals – there are, and some are stunningly original thinkers – but on the whole we prefer to follow in the well worn tracks of others, especially those who are our “seniors”. Perhaps that’s why entrepreneurial activity rewards all ages, while successful professionals climb sturdy and durable ladders.

Professionals don’t like branding

Yes, professionals like to have a strong brand, but disavow the shenanigans that are often associated with “branding”. But as Technorati founder David Sifry explains:

The people formerly known as your audience, or the people formerly known as consumers, are now participants in the process of building your brand.

That goes equally for professionals as any other business. In fact it’s already happened. But this is complicated, because plenty of professionals, especially those from smaller firms (and that’s the vast majority), don’t see themselves in “business” with an “audience” or a “brand”. It’s not just a generational problem, although that is part of it, but is more an aspect of a skewed elitism in which professionals prefer to see themselves as apart from the business herd. Well, if that’s the truth, then sometime in the near future many professionals are going to wander so far from the herd that they will disappear altogether.

What is social media anyway?

Social media is an umbrella term that includes blogs, social networking programs such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and professional networks like LinkedIn. Some might argue with this classification, but abstract debates are unhelpful in the real world of professionals. Just look for an online activity that’s interactive (though it doesn’t have to be), allows for collaboration between users and content providers, and promotes the ongoing delivery of information to others. This description happily encompasses hundreds of internet applications, but you only need to learn the basics of a few to begin your online adventure.

That’s the “what” – the “what it does” is summed up by Scott Monty, the head of social marketing at the Ford Motor Company:

Social media humanizes…creating a bond within and between employees and customers and helps to improve our reputation by putting our message in the hands of the people who are most likely to be trusted.

Are you one of those professionals who thinks this is hooey? I’ll make a deal with you. Read a solid explanation of the business case – yes, business – then see what you think. You may discover that in part you have a problem with the high-tech gurus of social media, not the medium itself, and so you ignore what is relevant in the message. I agree with this, by the way. As I write in my online bio:

As a result of a joint venture with a multinational service provider, a product to be delivered on the internet, I found myself sitting at conference tables opposite (mostly) twenty-something IT consultants who knew plenty about social media but little about the real world needs of our ultimate customer.

They don’t know much about your clients, either.

So I understand every part of your anxieties. Really. My best advice is to undertake some reading and then do what professionals do best, assess the situation in the light of objective research. You may be surprised where it takes you.

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Smart Professionals Know To Make A Start

Professionls make a start in social media

There’s this old Jewish joke…

I remember an incident from my youth, funny that I haven’t thought about it for years (I’m now in my fifties). I was in our family car, my father behind the wheel, a friend of his in the passenger seat, me in the back. I was about nine at the time, and in the way of all children (at least in those days pre smart phones and iPods) I paid particular attention to the conversation taking place. It was how we eavesdropped on the adult world we craved to enter.

We passed a small office building with a large “For Sale” sign out the front. The friend said to my father, “you see that building, Sam?” My father nodded. “I could have bought it for a song ten years ago, now it’s worth a fortune.” My father considered this for a moment. “So why don’t you buy it now? It’s obviously a good investment.” The friend replied in a shocked voice, “Now? No. now it’s too late.”

“It’s just too late for me…”

You hear this from mature professionals all the time. “I’m too old to get involved in all this social media stuff. Maybe ten years ago, when I was younger, but it’s too late to change the way I run things.”

This reflects the sad truth that there is precious little information out there for mature professionals that is intelligible, written in plain English, and succinct enough to justify the vast investment in time to track it all down. Like dating someone who is alluring but speaks a different language, the prospect is enticing but the missteps along the way can send you sprinting in the opposite direction. This is magnified when professionals are mature practitioners. It’s not that they are “set in their ways”. After all, they attend professional training, and if shown a better way of conducting their business, they will readily change their practice. Like it or not, lawyers have to change with the law, accountants have to alter their advice according to the tax codes, superannuation professionals must move with the superannuation laws. But social media? No thanks, no way.

It’s a conundrum.

For mature professionals, social media has burst onto the scene with the speed of a bullet train, and really that’s all you see, a flash of unfocused images as it streaks by, leaving you stranded on a remote platform. And you’re only 52, for heaven’s sake, you expect to work in your profession for at least another ten years! Look around, that platform is crowded with fellow professionals, and surprisingly, some of them work in firms a lot larger than yours.

As for me…

I was in my fifties when I got involved in a joint venture that meant I had to learn a lot about websites, social media and other aspects of online life that were largely foreign to my experience. As I wrote:

As a result of a joint venture with a multinational service provider, a product to be delivered on the internet, I found myself sitting at conference tables opposite (mostly) twenty-something IT consultants who knew plenty about the internet but little about the real world needs of our professional clients. In the end the venture became unworkable, but along the way I learnt a lot about blogging, WordPress, social media and search engine optimisation (SEO).

Everything I’ve learned and put into practice is a result of that learning. Yes, I had been involved in some online writing, but the rest, including Twitter and LinkedIn and most of all website content design, all was learned because I had to.

Mature professionals have to as well, because that’s where your profession is going in your last ten or twenty years on the job. You don’t need to learn nearly as much as I did, and there are many helpful guides out there, but bottom line, we’re all in danger of being left behind.

What’s really needed is to first look at your website content. That will do it for now. You don’t have to be extraordinary, you just need to make ordinary use of the extraordinary opportunity afforded by the internet. But most of all you need to make a start. Making that start is the most immediate task, for the moment no greater ambition is needed, and after that the learning curve will quickly flatten to a manageable incline. At that point you can decide whether to invest more resources. For now the best way to learn is to digest the basics, as we present in our MatureMedia Guides, and then get on with it.

Make a start.

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Australian Professionals Must Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn for Australian professionals Why should professionals join LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is all business. In a suit and tie (that’s a metaphor – you can use it in the comfort of your home in pajamas). We call it “social media” but really it’s not. It’s networking pure and simple. Not interested in networking? Really? Then don’t bother to read on, but you are missing out. LinkedIn costs you nothing, will not be resource intensive, and can be productively built over a long period. It pays you back in spades, but most importantly, it’s almost a first stop for fellow professionals and business clients when they’re checking you out. Think of it as your online business card.

What is LinkedIn?

Linkedin is there to help you find people who are valuable to your profession and business, and then find others who have connections to those people and so on. Let’s say you meet Ms. Accountant at a get together. You check out Ms. Accountant’s LinkedIn profile, like what you see, and send her an invitation to “join your network”. She accepts (this is almost a pro forma if you have had any association with the invitee, they’re almost certainly going to accept). This is where the networking effect of the social network takes over. It’s a cascading mechanism that is best explained by signing up and using it. The system creates a network for you, it is well tended by the LinkedIn administrators, and it is information rich. Most of all it is highly pragmatic. You will