Visibility on LinkedIn directly correlates to lead generation. Those who create a deeper and wider LinkedIn footprint will be in better position to reach more decision makers, form stronger connections, and acquire more clients. Yet many users self-handicap by keeping their identities concealed, not drawing attention to their LinkedIn profiles, or refraining from any participation whatsoever. In so doing, they literally and figuratively take themselves out of the game. Opportunities are fleeting on LinkedIn. Much like a raffle prize, you must be present to win.
On a visual, interactive medium where the goal is to stay top of mind with clients, prospects, and peers, it is amazing to me that so many LinkedIn users do things that militate against them. They will configure their profiles and account settings in a manner that renders them invisible or indiscernible on the site. And they will complain about the lack of results.
As LinkedIn continues to humanize its platform, more emphasis is placed on activities that will drive profile views and foster one-on-one interactions. Should you wish to become known in your niche or for your skills, it is crucial that you maintain an appearance within the online community you are building. If they can’t find or see you, how on earth are they going to hire, connect with, refer, or do business with you?
Granted, there are scenarios in which keeping a low profile on LinkedIn is wise. But if the endgame is to build your brand or generate leads—for your business or for a job search—then you have to be seen by the right people, period. One cannot maneuver on the site in anonymity or ambiguity and expect to reap benefit.
The LinkedIn Visibility Decision
Balancing risk and reward is an ongoing challenge, both on and off of LinkedIn. The basic question of to be or not to be seen raises pressing concerns for many professionals. Each of us has our own comfort level with regard to packaging ourselves online and connecting for business purposes. It all comes down to what we are willing to reveal in our profiles and through our interactions on the site in order to achieve a desired outcome.
The key piece of decision making is profile privacy—that is, how you wish your LinkedIn profile to be viewed by others who access the page on the site, as well as from an off-LinkedIn (e.g., Google) search. Each LinkedIn user has complete control over what content is displayed on the public profile view, and the extent to which they are detected in viewing the profiles of others.
Within your settings console, there are three modes of profile visibility from which to choose. Fully visible displays the information as provided by you—that is, your name, professional headline, headshot, geographical location and industry. The second, which I call ambiguous, removes all your identifiers, adds prefab descriptions, and portrays you as “Someone from the ‘whatever’ industry in the ‘Greater Wherever’ area.” The third mode is anonymous, or completely private.
For many years, LinkedIn recommended that their members be fully visible on the site. As prospecting for sales has become more competitive, and with more corporate folk now conducting job searches in stealth, many members do have valid reasons for safeguarding their identities. Moreover, given the pervasiveness of identity theft in society today, many users are genuinely unsettled regarding LinkedIn use.
However, for those interested in generating a return on their LinkedIn investment, trust in the system must exist. You have to give to get. If you are going to diminish your visibility—or go off the radar altogether—you will not be entitled to the information on those who have viewed your profile. Think about the ramifications; you may miss out on being discovered by a prospect or someone who could swing a career move in your favor.
The other piece of the visibility decision is who can see your connections. Your choices are limited to “Only you” or “Your connections.” If you are protective of your LinkedIn network to the extent where you feel you must shield clients from the eyes of competitors, then you may be removed from consideration as a connection by others. This may also affect your potential as a vendor, service provider, or job candidate.
By keeping your connections visible, you encourage more high-caliber professionals to join your LinkedIn network. Those vetting you as a first-degree connection will gain a sense of affiliation from scanning your network, and be more inclined to connect should they see multiple connections in common—especially to known and widely-respected professionals. As many state, we are judged by the company we keep.
(It should be noted that LinkedIn will provide any second-degree connection of yours visiting your profile to see mutual or shared connections. This cannot be changed in the settings console.)
How you design your LinkedIn profile, the rate at which you grow your professional network grows, and the quality of your interactions will collectively drive your level of performance on the site. LinkedIn visibility strategies for lead generation encompass the following key areas:
1). LinkedIn Profile Updates
Businesspeople are continuously reinventing themselves. The beauty of the LinkedIn profile is its elasticity; the document can pace with our every reinvention and accommodate content changes in real time. Often, profile updates are just routine maintenance, as innocuous as correcting a typo; sometimes, they are more telling, such as the closing out of a position and the addition of a new role, or the inclusion of a video, project, or certification.
What makes certain LinkedIn profile updates strategic is that they are brought to your network’s attention as they are executed. They are also archived in your activity log, where they can be referenced by those viewing your LinkedIn profile for a period of thirty days. Whether you are making wholesale changes to your profile content, or the need for a specific tweak arises, choosing to make that update public (released to your direct network) or private is a matter of personal preference.
In the case of a position change, the LinkedIn notification system will be activated, and your new status will be included in prompts to your network—on the home page and in your Connections section. You are likely to receive messages of congratulations—the majority of them with default text—from some connections. These may or may not have relevance to you, but can be in and of themselves excellent engagement strategies.
Interestingly, there are those users that will go to extremes to avoid being noticed by their network under any conditions. They insist on not making their LinkedIn profile updates known, yet in the same breath tell me that they want to increase their exposure on the site. Such contradiction will only add to their frustration. I make all my profile updates public. Views of my page consistently translate into results. If I am making a change to my LinkedIn profile, I wish to inform my network.
2). LinkedIn Network Engagement
To be visible on LinkedIn is to engage. Without engagement, you cannot expect to fully realize what LinkedIn has to offer. Increased visibility within (and external to) your network will prove instrumental in helping you develop a strong brand presence and open new inroads of conversation. You cannot do it by profile alone.
More and more people are coming of age on LinkedIn, stepping up their involvement, and turning to their networks for solutions, support, and introductions. They are also emboldening themselves by posting status updates, contributing to the posts of others, and publishing long-form posts. Focused, targeted engagement enables us to gain familiarity within our tribes and enhance our standing in the online community.
Engagement on LinkedIn is multifaceted and takes its form in likes, comments, and shares. Albeit a simple mouse click, a “like” can say a lot and expand your coverage across your LinkedIn network as well as the networks of others. The same holds true for a share and an insightful comment. All three are powerful drivers of visibility that can shape perceptions of you and put you one step closer to a sales moment.
From a visibility standpoint, LinkedIn gives you the freedom to choose who can follow you and see your public updates. You can allow “Everyone,” which includes people outside your direct network, or “Your connections”, those within your network only, access to your updates. The former represents an all-inclusive visibility strategy that will expand your reach on LinkedIn to multiple networks.
Visibility strategies are also vital to developing thought leadership on LinkedIn. Via the site’s integrated publishing platform, Pulse, users can elevate their profiles through original written content, accrue a following, and engage with those LinkedIn users who migrate to their long-form posts. The more pieces you publish, the greater the likelihood that your work will find its way to a target recipient.
3). LinkedIn Profile Blocking
Given the vagaries of professional relationships, there are instances where you may need to cut ties with certain people and deny them access to your LinkedIn profile. Things happen. Priorities shift. Comrades can become adversaries. You may not wish to be in view of others who pose a threat to your ability to compete for business. LinkedIn gives you the ability to block these individual’s profiles. I call this selective visibility.
When you block a user’s LinkedIn profile, you sever any connection that may have existed previously. Henceforth, both parties will be restricted from viewing each other’s pages; in fact, the two respective profiles will not come up in LinkedIn searches conducted by each party for the other. All prior messaging between you both will be deleted from the system, and all future correspondence is suspended. No notification will be sent to either account. You can breathe a deep sigh of relief and move forward.
In an age where spam is rampant, and we are seeing so many fake LinkedIn profiles come down the pike, the idea of blocking profiles can be a good defense on the site. As intuitive as we like to think we are, we can never fully understand some people’s motivations or intentions in connecting with us. And life is too short to deal with toxic personalities, or those who just want to connect with us for the sole purpose of harvesting our email address and selling us something we do not need.
Establishing your own personal ground rules on LinkedIn will keep you focused on your desired outcome and enable you to operate with a sense of purity and confidence.
♦ Your ability to generate leads on LinkedIn is directly proportional to the visibility of your LinkedIn profile. Low-lying profiles do their brands a disservice. The more gusto you put behind your online presentation (recognizable headshot, intriguing text, etc.), the better positioned you will be to capitalize on the individual marketing potential that LinkedIn offers.
♦ Don’t disable your LinkedIn broadcasts. Your activities on LinkedIn cumulatively heighten awareness of your brand. When you realize that your mission on LinkedIn is to generate more quality connections that will help you produce income or develop a new or better career, you will deem your updates to be a boon not a hindrance.
♦ Invent new and interesting ways to get noticed on the home pages of your LinkedIn network and on content posted by other LinkedIn users. Those who engage regularly on LinkedIn will find themselves in more meaningful conversations. And meaningful conversations lead to business wins.
Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Forbes.
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