It's surprising to me that there are so many professionals with incomplete or no LinkedIn profile. Originally thought of as a tool for job seekers, LinkedIn has become a prominent and important resource for business growth. A complete profile enables people - potential clients and potential new business connections - to check you out! It is common to meet people and then "Google" (when did this become a verb? ) them to learn more and become familiar with the business. LinkedIn provides business owners and professionals with an immeasurable opportunity to enhance their networking success. It is simple and it's free! Let me repeat...it is simple to navigate and it's FREE!!
We can no longer be passive about how our clients, customers and potential relationship are using LinkedIn. Further, being a LinkedIn member will provide you and your firm with Google recognition and ranking, a tool to enhance online search for potential new business.
Your professional profile should include your previous experiences but most importantly, it should reflect your current situation and employment status. Although LinkedIn allows you to post your educational and work background, resist the urge to make it look like your online resume. Instead, focus on your strengths and in areas where you can help clients and potential clients solve their problems. Why are you the best accountant qualified to help them? What is your specific area of expertise? Position yourself as an expert in your field and optimize your presence by including articles you have written, awards and recognitions earned, special skills, and post status updates that relate to your area of expertise.
We are working with several firms and businesses who are using social media for a range of purposes including client communications, thought leadership, recruiting, creating alumni networks, public relations, brand development, business development and employee communications. Firms should encourage its partners, associates, managers and other key employees who may be responsible for developing new business to set up a complete and robust LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn has been identified as a valuable way to connect with prospects, clients and previous employees. Google searches are not limited to individuals, and more and more people are using LinkedIn to research companies. For example, a Google search of Barney Rubble, CPA of the firm Flintstone & Associates, will most likely show the Flintstone & Associates website and Barney Rubble's LinkedIn profile as the top two results. While your firm's website may expertly market your services and include staff bios, Barney Rubble's LinkedIn profile should represent him as a member of the firm and specifically show what value he, as individual, brings to the firm.
Your firm's legal staff, compliance and marketing departments should carefully craft a guidelines document for all social media involvement (not limited to LinkedIn). Your firm must have control over how the firm is represented in individual profiles, and assurance that disclosure of proprietary and client information is avoided. Encourage the use of LinkedIn by providing training to help employees establish their profile and get started making connections. Care should be taken in creating a LinkedIn profile that is complete and professional and has the interests of the firm in mind. I have worked with hundreds of staff at dozens of accounting firms and found that not much attention is given (by individuals and firms) to setting up professional LinkedIn profiles. I have created a list of the Top Ten Pitfalls of LinkedIn Profiles:
1) Blank profile. I see this alot. Someone sets up a LinkedIn profile, but never takes the time to complete it. These profiles do not represent the individual or the company and even diminishes credibility.
2) No photo. Your professional photo allows the people you've met and previously worked with to quickly identify you. The photo should be a clear and professional headshot with only you in the picture. Many people find it far easier to remember a face than a name.
3) Bad photo. A picture of you sitting on a rock in front of a waterfall may be beautiful but doesn't suit the purpose, nor does a family photo or a picture of you and your buddies at a Giants' game. Also avoid cartoon images of yourself or a generic picture icon.
4) Lacks a clear professional summary. Your "Summary" is the first section of your profile and should clearly, accurately and briefly tell about your strengths, areas of expertise and the problems you can help clients and potential clients solve. This is your chance to provide an engaging description that highlights who you are and what you do— think of it as your 30-second elevator pitch.
5) Lacks detailed professional expertise or specialty. The "Specialties" field of your Summary allows you to list your areas of expertise that will help other users find you when they are looking for a specific skill-set or knowledge-base. What do you do that sets you apart? What is your value to the firm? Be specific, but avoid disclosing client information.
6) Out of date. When your profile does not reflect your current situation, no one benefits. Your professional experience is sorted in chronological order. Your position descriptions should use clear, succinct phrases to briefly explain what the company does and your main responsibilities and accomplishments.
7) No recommendations. Meaningful recommendations from partners and colleagues who work closest with you help illustrate your achievements, project credibility, and show why people enjoy working with you.
8) Does not list skills. The "Skills & Expertise" section of your profile is where you list keywords, or tags. This is helpful so that when people do a topical search, your profile can more easily be found.
9) Does not link to company website. A professional profile should include a link to the company website. It may also include a link to other social media outlets used.
10) Not building a valuable network. The first step in building a LinkedIn network is to upload a list of contacts from your Gmail, Hotmail, etc. accounts and from your Outlook and other contact files. Be choosy in building a network of contacts who relate to your industry, are also interested in business development, and who might add value to you or your other contacts. Avoid connecting with just anyone for the sake of increasing your number of contacts.
"LinkedIn is a social networking website for people in professional occupations. Founded in December 2002 and launched on May 5, 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking. As of June 2012, LinkedIn reports more than 175 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories," (Wikipedia). LinkedIn offers some great resources to help set up profiles and learn to use LinkedIn as an effective business tool. Some of those resources can be found here:
- Learning Center: http://learn.linkedin.com/
- User Guide: http://learn.linkedin.com/new-users/
- Free LinkedIn Webinars: http://learn.linkedin.com/training/
- Business Development User Guide: http://learn.linkedin.com/business-development/
Regardless of the accounting firm's size or focus, LinkedIn has emerged as a credible way to communicate brand and messaging. So don't hesitate to engage the use of LinkedIn for your accounting firm. Create a profile and build your connections!