An Insider’s Guide to LinkedIn in 2015

In an interview with LinkedIn communications guru Crystal Braswell, we discuss what you should be doing to use the site to its fullest potential, and how LinkedIn is evolving to better meet the needs of today’s professionals.

LinkedIn has become an integral part of our professional lives. I hear a lot about the site from career advisers, but when I really want to learn what’s going on, I turn to the folks making things happen at LinkedIn’s Bay Area headquarters. This week, I chatted with Crystal Braswell, a manager of corporate communications and also a member of DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board. Here’s what she had to tell us.

What are the biggest mistakes you see people making on LinkedIn?

The biggest mistake would be not completing your profile. Simple changes like adding a profile photo or summary section can make a huge difference. We know that profiles with a photo are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without one, and a complete summary and experience section that includes relevant keywords will make it easier for other professionals to find you.

Sometimes the best opportunities – from a dream job to speaking, mentorship and skilled volunteer positions — appear when you aren’t even looking. In fact, only 20 percent of jobs come from submitting an application for a job posting. The rest come through networking. [Read later: 5 Networking Tips You Haven’t Heard]

Now, if you’ve taken the time to complete your profile, make sure you’re also giving people a sense of what you do AND who you are. What have you accomplished? Are there any hobbies that are relevant to your profession? Have you volunteered with any nonprofits in your community? Make sure it’s all on your profile. This stuff matters, and it’s what elevates your profile, transforming it into a rich portfolio that paints a complete picture of you as a professional. You never know what little tidbit might push you out in front.

Hmm, now I think I need to revise my headline. What’s yours?

I say I’m a “tech geek and PR pro leading LinkedIn’s higher education and content initiatives.” It’s more interesting than just using my job title and lets my personality show through at the start.

What’s the most interesting use of LinkedIn you’ve heard about recently?

One of my favorite recent stories came from someone who found her dream job at a media outlet. After finding and applying for the job, she took to LinkedIn to find the recruiter hiring for the role, and then used “Whose Viewed Your Profile?” to get that recruiter’s attention and land an interview. She then turned the online networking opportunity into an in-person one, connecting with a senior producer at the outlet and locking in 30 minutes to talk to her. She used LinkedIn in all the right ways, and it paid off for her!

What do you think she did particularly well to make that happen?

She used LinkedIn thoughtfully. She nailed her profile first and then used a little elbow grease to find the right connections and reach out to them appropriately. The initial communication is often an overlooked nuance of networking. It should be personalized, specific, to the point. Are there commonalities you see in their experience or educational background? Use those tidbits to establish a good rapport with the individual. And always make it reciprocal. If you’re asking something of them, don’t be afraid to offer your help in return.

What’s a good maintenance plan for LinkedIn? Meaning, you aren’t looking for a job but still want to be out there.

Think of your network like a garden. If you only go out and tend to it once a year, it’s not going to flourish. Spend some time each week watering it, engaging with your connections, sharing interesting content with your network, etc. When you come out of a meeting with someone interesting, send a connection request while the meeting is fresh in both of your minds. Pay attention to people’s birthdays, work anniversaries, and promotions and give them a nice shout out on LinkedIn. And finally, if you want to position yourself as an expert in a particular field, take advantage of the publishing platform to showcase your knowledge and opinions.

What are the most important things to keep in mind for a company or team presence on LinkedIn?

Look at LinkedIn as an opportunity to put your best food forward. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. I think at one time there was the assumption that if you were on LinkedIn it had to mean you were looking for a job. But that’s not the case anymore. Companies should want their employees on LinkedIn. They are more likely to share exciting news about the company, give potential candidates a peek into company culture and bring the company front and center to an expanded, professionally-oriented audience. As an extension of that, company pages should share timely, relevant information, and be complete and well-maintained.

Okay, Crystal, give us the insider scoop. What’s next for LinkedIn?

You’ll continue to see us look for new ways to simplify the LinkedIn experience. We want to make it easier for our members to use our job hunting tools, find content that might help them be better at their current jobs and more prepared for meetings, and leverage opportunities to build brands as thought-leaders and subject matter experts.

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