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Secrets to Becoming a LinkedIn Leader

An executive for the social networking site shares her tips

A confident mature woman leading a meeting

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Garnering influencer status on LinkedIn can give you and your business more visibility on the networking platform.

Updating your LinkedIn profile is one of the first things you’re likely to do when you’re ready to start looking for a new job. But the social networking site isn’t just for job hunting. It also helps you stay current on developments in your field.

People who build a large audience of followers on social media are called thought leaders because they shape the dialogue on key topics. Becoming a leader on LinkedIn not only makes people aware of your job skills, but it also makes them aware of the success of your company and can help attract other talented employees.

Megan Golden, group manager for global content marketing for LinkedIn, recently shared with AARP her tips on how to produce a winning profile that will help you attract followers and build influence. “By taking these tips, you’re not going to have the vanilla profile. You’re going to have a profile that potentially is going to stand above the rest,” Golden says.

1. Rock your profile

One key to drawing attention to your profile is to make sure it includes your picture. But don’t feel that you need to set up a shoot with a photographer. “You don’t necessarily need a professional head shot,” Golden says. “Given how good cameras are on our mobile devices, you could easily have a colleague snap a picture of you at work with a simple background. Or if you have any experience speaking at events, often there are photographers there you could retrieve photos from of you onstage.”

Golden also points out that even though many people use their most recent job title as the headline for their profile, you should feel free to be creative with yours. “You’re not defined by your [job] title; you are defined by your expertise and your vision” she says. Use your profile headline as a way to showcase your personality and what you bring to your company.

And older adults shouldn’t feel obligated to offer a comprehensive list of their job experience. “Don’t feel like you need to list out every detail of a job you had 20 years ago, but focus on the last five to 10 years and have that [part] be more robust,” Golden says.

2. Build your audience

“People generally think highly of those who keep good company, so building your LinkedIn network simultaneously builds your personal brand,” Golden says. Make sure that when you add connections, you reach out to coworkers, former colleagues, classmates, other associates from companies you have worked with, as well as to your friends.

Another way to build your audience is to write short posts as frequently as possible, sharing your thoughts about trends in your industry. “The more you share, the more opportunities you have for your connections to engage with you,” Golden says. Using hashtags for trending topics and “mentioning” other key leaders (which is done by typing “@” before the leader's profile name) is another way to draw more attention to your posts and profile.

3. Keep an eye on the competition

In addition to helping you stay in touch with colleagues, LinkedIn can help you keep tabs on your competitors, other start-ups or companies that could disrupt your profession.  Connecting with other professionals who work or have worked for those companies could give you a heads-up on key developments, Golden says.

4. Get your followers engaged

Once you’ve built your audience, you should give it reasons to keep coming back. Make sure that your posts generate dialogue and discussion. “Ask your followers what they think of recent industry news,” Golden says. “That kind of naturally provokes people to have a response, when it’s put in a question form.” Also, don’t be afraid to show your personal side, outside of what you do in the office. “Share what you’re reading or your response to world news,” she says. “It gives your profile and your voice more color and context.” Another way to generate interest is to write about data or other research about your industry. “Anything data-related really gets a lot of engagement,” Golden says.

Once you get more comfortable with LinkedIn, you should feel free to write longer posts (600 to 1,000 words) at least once a month, she says. Longer posts will let you showcase your knowledge and leadership on key issues.

And, of course, always be sure to include a compelling photo about the topic.

5. Give video a try

“Video creates an opportunity to be more human and have a deeper connection with your audience,” Golden says. She notes the “Challenge of the Week” videos that Beth Comstock, the vice chair of General Electric, posts to her LinkedIn profile. These short, informal videos — which appear to be shot on a mobile phone — let her show her followers what’s happening on her job. “It really makes her come across as approachable and authentic, and it proves that you don’t need a big production team to pull off effective video content,” Golden says.

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