So, you already use Facebook and maybe even Twitter, why should you consider jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon?

When used effectively, LinkedIn can offer valuable information that helps professionals stay on top of their game and make new connections—161 million people around the world use the site for business-to-business networking. Those numbers make it the largest social media site for professionals.

Since 2003, LinkedIn has developed into an important marketing tool for entrepreneurs and companies of all size. It differs from other social media sites because the content shared is business related.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, you won’t find status updates about funny things your friend’s kids said, weekend adventures or photos of the family dog. Instead, you will find industry trend information, networking and education opportunities, news updates from local businesses and more.

Earlier this year, the social media experts at Hubspot performed a study of more than 5,000 companies. They found that LinkedIn generated a “higher visitor-to-lead conversion rate” than Facebook and Twitter—277 percent higher to be exact.

Why is that?

Some say more leads are generated via LinkedIn because users are professionals who are genuinely interested in business and networking. That insight makes it an attractive social media platform for a variety of service providers like accountants, bankers, business consultants, event planners and catering companies, etc.

Do you think LinkedIn may be a good match for you? Are you ready to create a profile or polish up an existing one?

Here are seven tips, along with some navigation pointers, that will help you get started:

-Have a plan. Before jumping into any social media platform, make sure you have a plan for consistently working the site. Abandoned social media sites can actually reflect poorly on your business. Don’t invest time and energy in setting them up and then let weeks or months go by without logging on or adding new content. If you value LinkedIn as a marketing tool but don’t have the time or desire to create meaningful status updates, consider partnering with a marketing and social media professional to help.

-Check out LinkedIn’s help center. Watch a few helpful tutorials by clicking the “Help Center” link under the main site’s “More” menu (top, center).

-Turn off activity broadcasts. If you leave feeds on, your contacts will be notified each and every time you tweak and save your profile as its being developed (trying out profile photos, editing your bio, adding experiences). This can be considered annoying so turn off the feeds for now and then turn feeds back on after you have finished editing your bio. Go to “Settings” (top right, hover mouse over your name), then click “Privacy Controls,” then click “Turn On/Off Your Activity Broadcasts.” Uncheck the box to turn off the activity feed.

-Fill out your profile/bio completely. Provide enough detail in each section of your bio so contacts will understand your skill set. Make sure to use industry keywords when writing descriptions. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure to use complete sentences and double-check spelling. Once you think your profile is complete consider asking a LinkedIn peer to review it and make suggestions. Click “Profile,” then “Edit Profile.”

-Add a professional bio photo. Profile photos are fairly small, so crop yours closely for the best result. Refrain from using your company logo. Upload a good-quality, casual photo or a professional head shot so people can put a face with your name. Click “Profile,” then “Edit Profile,” then “Edit Photo.”

-Adjust email notification settings. Choose whether you want to receive daily or weekly updates via email from your LinkedIn network. You can also turn them off entirely from this page. Signup to receive updates weekly to start so you can stay connected to those you follow and look for engagement opportunities. If you find you are receiving too many emails from LinkedIn, simply return to settings and ratchet back or turn off notifications. Click “Settings,” then “Email Preferences,” then “Set the Frequency of Emails.”

-Make your profile public, not private. Allow potential clients to easily access your information, even if they are not members of LinkedIn. Click “Settings,” then “Profile,” then “Edit Your Public Profile,” then “Make My Public Profile Visible to Everyone.”

These quick tips should give you a better understanding of the inner workings of LinkedIn.

Your feedback is welcome and appreciated; comment below if you have questions or want to share additional tips for using LinkedIn as a small business marketing tool.

Patti Rowlson of PR Consulting Services is a publicist and marketing consultant located in Whatcom County. Her columns appear on BBJToday.com on the last Thursday of each month. Connect with PR Consulting Services on Facebook and Twitter (@pattirowlson) for additional marketing tips.

This article was originally published in the Bellingham Business Journal.

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