21 LinkedIn Best Practices for Business Professionals to Follow for Success

21 LinkedIn Best Practices for Business Professionals to Follow for Success

These days, LinkedIn has lost its position as one of the newest tools for business professionals. However, just because there’s no “cool factor” doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. In fact, LinkedIn is one of the best places to see and be seen in the business world. Employers and employees look for each other, and sales professionals search for decision makers.

However, even professionals who work in other capacities need to follow LinkedIn best practices to build their personal brand and their business. Here are some examples to follow.

Your LinkedIn Profile Best Practices

While many people forget about this fact, LinkedIn profiles contain much more than the information on your resume. In fact, your LinkedIn profile shows people the person behind that work and educational history. To that end, by following these LinkedIn best practices you can leverage the power of your profile to edge out the competition.

1) Have a Complete LinkedIn Profile That Includes Why Your Target Persona Would Want to Work with You and is Up-to-Date

First and foremost, you should think of your LinkedIn profile as a sort of personal marketing. To that end, you need your LinkedIn profile to reflect who you are. Likewise, it’s important to appeal to your target audience on LinkedIn. For instance, if you’re looking for a new job then showcase your unique abilities. Likewise, sales professionals will want to instill confidence in the right kind of decision maker within the relevant industries. Keep this updated regularly as your goals and accomplishments change.

2) SEO Optimize Your Profile for Important Keywords

The importance of keywords in any type of internet marketing cannot be overstated. And LinkedIn is the ultimate in professional marketing. Remember, your profile is visible to search engines, even if your privacy settings are high. Furthermore, other professionals will use keywords to find relevant people on LinkedIn. Therefore, having your profile SEO optimized will help you get found, both on LinkedIn and off.

3) Customize Your LinkedIn Profile URL

You wouldn’t use a generic URL for your personal website, would you? For most of us, LinkedIn best practices include a customized profile URL. This feature allows professionals to remember where they can be found on the network. In addition, posting that custom URL on resumes or business cards invites hiring managers or other target audiences to see what you have to offer.

4) Include Visuals in Your Profile

Who remembers the text-heavy websites of the Nineties? Well, they were great places to get information and not hang around. These days, most websites have significant visual content, even if it’s just a catchy cover and an article picture. LinkedIn best practices mirror this modern reality. To that end, you should include a cover background that is both eye catching and professional. In addition, featured content that’s relevant to your personal brand can also be included.

5) Use a Professional Headshot – and Smile!

For most of us, showing up to a job interview in band T-shirts and sporting a scowl won’t lead to success. Like many other parts of the network, LinkedIn best practices for profiles mimic those of job interviews. To that end, you should have a professional headshot. Ideally you’ll hire a professional, but something taken by a friend while you’re wearing interview attire also works. In addition, you should smile because it shows your personality. Nobody wants to work with someone who comes across as grumpy.

One of the best ways to drive traffic to your blog from LinkedIn is by posting the link in your LinkedIn profile contact settings. Especially if you’re using the blog to differentiate yourself as an industry leader, having your target audience reading it is invaluable. Likewise, sales professionals and corporate leaders can also benefit their business with website links.

7) Craft a Uniquely Branded Professional Headline

Remember, your LinkedIn profile is a major opportunity to push your professional brand. To that end, your professional headline should reflect who you are and what makes you unique. And, the wording should be consistent with your branding. If it’s memorable, so much the better.

8) Have a Well-Developed Summary That Clearly Shows Your Strengths and Encourages Your Target Audience to Want to Seek You Out

This is the LinkedIn best practices version of the age-old interview question: “Why should I hire you for the job.” Especially in a tough job market, recruiters should be able to see your value right away. For sales professionals, you need that summary to inspire confidence and trust for maximum leads as well as differentiate yourself from the competition.

9) Get Social Proof through LinkedIn Recommendations

The last of my profile-related LinkedIn best practices is to get social proof. Unlike typical job references, LinkedIn recommendations can be given by just about anyone who knows you professionally. Lots of bosses, for example, have former employees who talk about what great leaders they are. For employees, this can be a coworker or professor. In this case, be sure that your corporate policies allow recommendations of this type.

LinkedIn Content Best Practices

Like other social networks, LinkedIn best practices help you decide what content to post and when to do so. Your content choices will reflect on you as a professional and should maximize your opportunities.

10) Post Valuable Content That Showcases You or Your Company’s Expertise

Whether you post about your company or your own expertise should depend on your position and the situation. For instance, a job seeker is going to showcase their own professional knowledge. Likewise, a thought leader or corporate executive can talk about the latest industry trends. Sales professionals will likely go for a mixture of these options.

11) Post the Type of Content That Works Best on LinkedIn

Next on our list of LinkedIn best practices is the kind of content you should post. In short, this is the content that keeps people on LinkedIn. My experience is that these content types are similar to other social networks, in that you can post photo, video, thought-provoking questions and even polls.

Statistics bear this out: You will get 11x more views for articles that include photos. Likewise, video content made business executives 65% more likely to visit a website. In other words, if you make your LinkedIn profile engaging through quality content, you’re bound to attract the right attention.

12) Use Analytics (for LinkedIn Company Pages) to Further Analyze Best-Performing Content and Optimize Accordingly

This one’s for company page managers. On LinkedIn, there is an analytics tool that lets you see what’s working well on your page, and what isn’t. By regularly studying which content performs best, you can pivot to the most effective approach.

Of course, the most successful content might not be all in one format. Some pictures might speak a thousand words, while others can fall flat. Likewise, you might find that people have had enough pictures of employees typing with face masks. Enough already. Instead, they’d like to see videos of how your product is making a big difference in the world.

13) Experiment and Use Your Data to Determine the Best Time to Post on LinkedIn

LinkedIn best practices don’t only include what you post. It includes when you post. Using either page analytics on LinkedIn or other data, figure out when people are most likely to consume your content. My experience over time is that people are most active on weekday mornings, especially since so much of LinkedIn is professional activity like sales prospecting. However, your mileage may vary.

Of course, the “right time” can also be different depending on the time zone. For example, most of you know that I have clients in Japan, and I’m located in California. There are a lot of time zones between us, meaning that I’ll often have to work outside of banker’s hours. To reach these clients on LinkedIn, I should post when it’s optimal for them. This can be done either manually or using a social media scheduling client.

14) You Should Use 1 to 3 Hashtags on Your LinkedIn Posts

Most people don’t consider hashtags as part of their LinkedIn best practices. After all, they were only introduced on LinkedIn in 2018. Before that, most of us thought of hashtags as a way to categorize our thoughts on Twitter or Instagram. However, on LinkedIn as other places, hashtags have become a way to get your content discovered.

Of course, they’re also different from other networks. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use something like #IQuit on LinkedIn, lest you have it interpreted as a resignation. Likewise, don’t talk about anything that can be considered unprofessional or damage your personal brand.

With that said, hashtags on LinkedIn are your best friend if used properly. Now that hashtags have caught on here, a lot of professionals will use them to look for relevant content. Unlike the SEO functions, though, the hashtags are more specific to searches within the network than SERPs. For that reason, experts recommend using between 1 and 3 relevant hashtags.

LinkedIn Engagement Best Practices

Of course, our list of LinkedIn best practices wouldn’t be complete unless we talk about engagement. As with other social media platforms, one of the best measures of success is the extent to which people engage with your content. Engagement can include everything from visiting a profile to buying a product.

15) Reach Out to Those Who Have Viewed Your Profile

On LinkedIn, it’s perfectly normal to reach out when someone looks at your profile. This is one reason why the ability to see everyone that’s taken a peek is a premium feature. You never know when someone is looking to use your professional services or seek out your expertise. And, if you’re a job seeker then recruiters are always looking for the next great talent. By being proactive, you boost the chances of snagging an opportunity.

16) Be Active on Your Feed and Regularly Engage with Your Sphere of Influence There

Glancing through your LinkedIn feed once a week rarely gets you very far. After all, according to some experts, checking LinkedIn is an everyday activity for 40% of users. Some of the remaining professionals aren’t active at all, while others are casual members. If people who can benefit from your expertise don’t see you interacting with them (or others), you’ll likely be ignored. Nobody likes being on hold when they call for service.

17) Connect Only with People That are Relevant to Your Objective

While most of us have some school mates or mentors in our network, LinkedIn best practices generally discourage connecting with irrelevant people. One reason for this is that there are limits on how many people you can be connected to. Another concern is that having a smaller percentage of relevant connections hurts your ability to get your message to the right people. Relevance is different for everyone: recruiters are looking for candidates, and sales professionals for decisionmakers. Whatever your goal is, stay focused.

18) View Other People’s Profiles to Increase Your Page Views

If you want to be noticed, do some looking around. Find a company you want to do business with and find their key employees. Viewing their profiles increases the chance that your page will be viewed in turn. With a bit of luck, this page view will turn into an opportunity, or at least a lead.

LinkedIn Messaging Best Practices

Do you send messages on LinkedIn? If so, there are some LinkedIn best practices you should be aware of. These rules will help you avoid annoying people, or worse, getting blocked. They can also help you get a foot in the door.

19) Don’t Automate Messages and Spam People

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but spamming people with automated messages is a no-go. It’s one of the easiest ways to annoy people and make them run away fast. Just as importantly, there’s little to no benefit. LinkedIn Automation tools often result in people sending messages to their entire network, when the contents are irrelevant to at least 90% of them.

Not only does this practice irritate people, but it damages your personal brand. Nobody wants to associate with a professional that doesn’t…act professional. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or get hired, spam is sure to backfire.

20) Do Personalize Your Messages

Fortunately, LinkedIn best practices do involve messaging. You just need to personalize your messages using someone’s name, like you would in a letter or email. Furthermore, only relevant messages should be sent to your contacts. This way, you’re more likely to be effective while avoiding the “annoying” label.

Personalizing your messages has one more benefit: you’re much more likely to get a response. People tend to ignore irrelevant information but will jump at the right opportunity. They also tend to respond favorably to genuinely friendly, yet businesslike, messages from people who they consider valuable contacts.

Final LinkedIn Best Practice

This tip doesn’t really fall into the other categories and is often overlooked. But it needs to be mentioned. Not all LinkedIn best practices involve the generation and management of content or pages. In fact, measuring success is important as well.

21) Learn from and Try to Increase Your LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) Score

Just by the name “social selling,” you’d think that the Social Selling Index is only for sales professionals. While the tool was technically developed for them, your SSI can still teach you a lot. For example, influencers on LinkedIn tend to have a high SSI even if they are thought leaders who don’t try to sell things directly.

Why is this? Your LinkedIn SSI does more than measure engagement. Rather, it helps you understand how well you’re building relationships on LinkedIn. By studying your SSI score components, you can find ways to improve your overall presence on this network.

Because LinkedIn is a professional social network, it has a more businesslike community than most others. Here more than anywhere else, people and companies build their professional brands. Following these LinkedIn best practices will help you, and your company, perform better.

Any other LinkedIn best practices that should be listed here? Please chime in in the comments below!

Hero photo by Christina on Unsplash

Trying to make progress on your LinkedIn sales and marketing? Learn these 21 LinkedIn best practices and leave your competitors behind!
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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