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Are you LinkedIn?

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- If you think social media is just about connecting with friends or disseminating what you had for breakfast, you’re not using it to its full potential.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — If you think social media is just about connecting with friends or disseminating what you had for breakfast, you’re not using it to its full potential.

Melonie Dodaro of Top Dog Social Media spoke at TransCore Link Logistics’ annual conference about how professionals can leverage LinkedIn to build contacts, generate leads and drive sales. As a business-oriented social network, Dodaro said LinkedIn is different than Facebook and Twitter. It boasts 225 million professionals, with two more joining every second. LinkedIn is four times more effective than Facebook or Twitter for building business-to-business relationships, Dodaro said, and the platform is often used as a tool to find service providers and business professionals. While LinkedIn is still best known to many as a resume posting Web site, Dodaro said it has evolved well beyond that, and if used effectively, can be a tool for generating new leads and sales.

During her keynote presentation, Dodaro shared a three-step plan for becoming one of the top 1% of LinkedIn users, to stand apart from the crowd and to forge new relationships with potential customers.

Get discovered

The first step, Dodaro said, is to be found. This means filling out a profile using the appropriate keywords, so that your profile is among the first to appear when prospective customers perform a search.

“When somebody is doing a search and putting in a keyword, you want your profile to show up at the top,” she explained. “The only reason people are going to page two is if they can’t find what they’re looking for on page one.”

When setting up your profile, Dodaro suggested thinking of keywords your clients would be likely to use when doing a search. Unlike Google, where visitors are usually searching for things, on LinkedIn searches are often done for people. With this in mind, refer to your specific job title or area of expertise as a keyword and be as specific as possible (ie. ‘transportation consultant,’ not just ‘consultant’).

Keywords should be sprinkled strategically across four key areas within your LinkedIn profile, Dodaro advised: the headline; current work experience; past work experience; and in the summary section.

The headline is limited to 120 characters, but is the first thing a visitor to your page will see, so Dodaro suggested putting some thought into your headline, making it catchy and including one or two keywords. The profile sections dedicated to current and past work experience should also contain keywords that describe your areas of expertise and what you have accomplished – not just the name of the company and the position you held or hold.

The summary section allows 2,000 characters, offering the opportunity for the broader use of keywords, including secondary keywords there was no room for in the headline or work experience fields. Once your profile has been optimized using keywords, Dodaro said the impact is instantaneous and your profile will immediately begin coming up higher in searches.

Attract and engage your ideal client

Once you’ve started performing better in LinkedIn searches, the next step is to attract and engage your ideal client, Dodaro said. This means putting some thought into the summary section, including writing it in the first person.

“Most people on LinkedIn will write in a third-person, biography style,” she said. “It’s boring. It’s a social network, so you want to be social. Say who you are and what you do and don’t write it in a boring, biography format.”

Your profile should speak to the needs of your clients, detailing what you can do for them. Don’t write a self-indulgent profile that’s all about you, Dodaro warned.

“People don’t care about us,” she said. “They only care about themselves and how you can help them. Share with them how you can help them.”

Highlight your organization’s strengths (ie. on-time service), and how you can solve your clients’ problems.

“Look at the problems your customers are facing,” she said. “Identify those problems and identify your solutions and what you do differently that’s going to alleviate the problems they’re experiencing with their current providers.”

It’s also important to issue a “call to action,” Dodaro added. This could be a phone number to call, an e-mail address to contact or a Web site to visit for more information.

“Tell them exactly what you want them to do,” Dodaro suggested. Otherwise, visitors will leave your profile for another and will soon forget about you.

Stand out

The final step in Dodaro’s three-step plan is to stand out from the other 225 million LinkedIn users. This can be accomplished by completely filling in and optimizing your profile, or “adding enough content in there, so people can actually learn something about you and what you do.”

Completing your profile makes a big difference, Dodaro said, since few members take the time to do so.

For starters, Dodaro urged members to post a professional headshot. Prospective clients don’t want to see a picture of you at the cottage holding that lunker largemouth bass you caught, she stressed.

“That’s totally fine for Facebook, but it’s not acceptable for LinkedIn,” she said. “LinkedIn is your professional social network; all you want is a headshot – a nice, clean headshot, ideally with a plain background.”

LinkedIn will soon be allowing members to add videos to their profiles, which can be used to inform visitors about the services you provide. Take advantage of it, Dodaro urged.

Another way to stand out is to endorse others, with the hope they return the favour.

“One of the easiest ways to get endorsements is to give other people endorsements,” she explained. “It’s the law of reciprocity.”

Endorsements and recommendations will stack the odds in your favour when a prospective client is comparing your profile to that of a competitor with fewer such accolades, Dodaro noted. She said it’s okay to endorse anyone, but only to recommend people you know and trust.

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