Remember when LinkedIn was considered little more than a businessperson’s version of Facebook, used by a core group of techies who saw the potential impact that social networking could have on their careers? In fact, when LinkedIn launched 11 years ago this May, it only had 4,500 members after the first month; at last count, there were more than 277 million active LinkedIn users from 200-plus countries, and professionals are signing up to join the site at a rate of more than two per second.
No wonder Fortune magazine, in a cover story last year, called LinkedIn “one of the most powerful business tools on the planet.” And some advocates consider it the only social site they need.
Your prime objective on LinkedIn should be to burnish your credibility. What can you do with more credibility? Find new jobs and hire new employees, interact with other professionals in your industry and reach potential new customers. And that’s just for starters.
You also can build your career portfolio by joining groups (where individuals from the same industry or with similar interests share content, ask questions, find answers and establish themselves as experts), posting updates (about your dealership, for example, or links to insightful MPN articles that are seen by your network of connections and beyond), and giving and requesting personal recommendations (digital testimonials that arguably are among LinkedIn’s most valuable features).
That leaves plenty of options for establishing a LinkedIn presence and developing your own intellectual property as a leader in the motorcycle retail world. When you do all this the right way, dealership colleagues, fellow powersports professionals and customers will come to rely on you for timely information, helpful advice and relevant insight.
Simply uploading any old photo instead of one in which you’re smiling and looking professional against a light backdrop, quickly typing out a list of places you’ve worked without added context, and then calling that your “profile” won’t cut it anymore — especially on this network. And because LinkedIn provides a “Profile Strength” meter on the right-hand side of your profile page that rates you as “Just Beginning,” “Intermediate,” “Advanced,” “Expert” and “All-Star,” there’s no excuse for not aiming high.
In a lot of ways, building credibility on LinkedIn is like building credibility in the offline world: It takes work. Here are seven can’t-miss ways your LinkedIn profile can boost your credibility.
1. Work experience: When it comes to sharing your work experience, you can’t get much lazier than “Sales Manager, ABC Motorcycles.” But once you start posting updates and participating in groups, you’ll notice an increase in the number of people who view your profile.
You’ll want them to find out what you’re all about, so fill in that “experience” section with details of at least one or two significant responsibilities you held for each job position. How many employees do you oversee at ABC Motorcycles? Are you in charge of promoting the store’s charity rides? Have you worked at the same dealership for 25 years and have an intimate understanding of your products and your market’s trends and demographics?
2. Ask for (and give) recommendations: Much better than endorsements, which allow fellow LinkedIn members to qualify you for a skill you may not even possess, recommendations are comments written by current or former managers and colleagues, business partners and customers. Viewers of your profile often take a look at recommendations you’ve received to see what others have to say about your work and industry knowledge.
But these credibility boosts don’t often land on your profile page without a little assistance from you, so don’t be shy about asking for them, which you can do directly from the “edit” function on your profile page. LinkedIn even offers sample copy to make the request, although I suggest writing something a little more personal and concluding with an offer to provide a recommendation for your recommender.
According to recent research, the types of recommendations that work well include a specific story or two about how the person you’re recommending handled a given situation (an irate customer, perhaps?), accomplished a major task (sold the most motorcycles in a month) or helped someone (a new salesperson who was intimidated around experienced buyers).
3. Awards and volunteer work: If your dealership office provides the best home-court advantage (and it does, because it offers you an opportunity to display certificates, awards and other documentation that assures your customers they’ve made the wise decision to buy from you), consider your LinkedIn profile your virtual office.
Fill in the “Honors & Awards,” “Organizations” and “Volunteer Experience & Causes” sections as completely as you can. President of a local Harley Owners Group? Add it. You work at a store that was named “Best New Dealer” by Victory Motorcycles? Mention that.
You were “Salesperson of the Month” last October? Why wouldn’t you include that? “Education” matters, too — just skip the high school diploma and go straight to the MBA certificate. Profile viewers also love to see volunteer work. So don’t forget to add your behind-the-scenes involvement in the past five MDA Rides for Life.
4. Provide consistent activity updates: If you’re already posting updates on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, you’re familiar with how this function works. Only instead of reporting to your “friends” that you’re sitting front and center at a KISS concert while posting a picture of Gene Simmons spitting blood, you can share news with your LinkedIn connections about your store’s 1,000th motorcycle sale with a high-resolution photo of the lucky customer with his new ride.
Or links to the latest models or other product-line additions. Maybe advice about how to fix scratched windshields or fairings, or details about upcoming sales and customer appreciation events. Posting options abound, because LinkedIn allows you to attach photos, videos and documents. But don’t get too carried away; as with Facebook and Twitter, if you post too much in a short span of time, you’ll establish a negative reputation faster than Justin Bieber.
5. Join groups: An estimated 2.1 million groups are active on LinkedIn, including approximately 250 with the word “motorcycle” in its name, including “Motorcycle Industry Professionals,” “Motorcycle Dealers Network,” “Motorcycle Enthusiasts of Texas” and “Vintage Japanese Motorcycles.” Here is a sampling of recent discussion topics found in popular motorcycle groups:
• “Engine Oil: Which to Use?”
• “Is this helmet legal in California?”
• “So hard to find good mechanics. Any ideas on where to look?”
• “Who feels that eBay has ruined the small custom motorcycle shop’s sales?”
If you can’t find somewhere to jump in and share your expertise, start looking for a new line of work, pal! Passionate people populate groups, and you can find those groups by using the “search” function under “Interests” or by viewing suggestions of “Groups You May Be Interested In.”
Regardless of how you find them, your groups will be displayed in your profile and give you an opportunity to share your expertise and communicate with new people. Pick and choose your groups based on the quality of existing posts and members, keeping in mind that just because a group contains thousands of members doesn’t mean it boasts more (or better) activity than a more localized group with only 175 members.
6. Create a company page: A company page, accessible from your personal profile page, helps other LinkedIn members learn more about your business. Tell your dealership’s story, highlight products and services, engage with followers and share career opportunities.
Company pages can easily be added, and page insights show company page administrators the number of views, unique visitors and clicks. These pages also will drive more traffic to your dealership’s website while simultaneously boosting its Google search rankings. As with your personal LinkedIn profile and other social networking pages, it’s vital to keep your company page fresh and exciting.
7.Add a personal message in your requests to connect: Failure to do so can be one of the easiest mistakes to make on LinkedIn. When you send someone a request to connect, the auto-generated message reads, “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”
Gee, that’s really inviting. Take a few extra minutes to personalize your request by referring to common connections (which can be found by visiting that person’s profile page), mentioning how you know each other or explaining why you’d like to connect. But get to the point quickly, because there is a word limit. These invites often begin a dialogue that can pay huge benefits in the form of added business, professional recommendations or even new friends.
Regardless of how you build your credibility on the site, remember that LinkedIn is the same as all other social networks in one significant way: You get out of it what you put into it.
An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation. You can reach Mark at [email protected] to improve your performance.