1. Give your profile as much thought as you would give your CV
A LinkedIn profile is effectively an online shop window for your professional experience. This is what your connections will use to decide whether you're worth a look, in terms of job offers, professional conversations and more. So don't throw it together haphazardly.
First thing's first - write a summary. This appears at the top of your LinkedIn profile, and is visible to people who are not yet connected to you - so it is your opportunity to tell them in three sentences why they should want to connect with you. Don't provide a potted history of your experience, write something meaningful. Think about the three things you would like to be described as, professionally, and include them in your LinkedIn summary.
Next comes the most important bit. Your professional experience. Here's where you need to remember that first impressions count. You wouldn't turn up to a job interview looking scruffy - so make sure your LinkedIn profile is smart too! LinkedIn doesn't give you much flexibility in terms of layout - so link to the relevant company page, to add a logo - that will instantly improve the readability of your profile. Paste in bullet points from Word - but make sure they don't flow onto more than one line, or everything will be out of sync. Add some detail about each job, but keep it short. You need to leave room for your contacts to ask questions, so don't tell them everything.
And finally - add a photo. A profile with a blank white face is as uninspiring as they come - and it also makes it difficult for people to find you, or confirm you're who they think you are. A photo makes you approachable.
2. Use LinkedIn's extra profile features
LinkedIn has a host of extra features aimed at helping you to enhance your profile - particularly on the desktop platform. Use their skills function to quickly showcase your talents - but don't go overboard or you risk presenting yourself as jack of all trades, master of none. Pick your top ten skills and stick to them, to demonstrate your expertise in your particular area of work.
Add rich media if you have any. Photos, videos and examples of your work make your profile stand out from the other 400 million registered members! Simple things like a photo of you speaking at an event, a link to a presentation, or an example of a published article can differentiate you from the competition.
3. Don't be shy
If you want LinkedIn to work for you, you need to work for it. It's supposed to be a place to network - so network! Don't be afraid to connect with people you've worked with in the past but lost touch with - or people you come across that are in a similar field to you, or people who've written something you're interested in. Remember, it's all about who you know - so growing your professional network is vital.
Another way to do this is to use groups. There's a group on LinkedIn about anything you can think of - and these are great places to interact with professionals that have similar interests to yours. If you work in a particularly niche industry, and there isn't a group focused on your line of work, join a more general one - groups like TED provide reams of interesting and useful information on all sorts of subjects. The last thing to note on groups - if you're in the same LinkedIn group as another user, you don't need to be connected to them in order to message them. Again, a great way to grow your LinkedIn network.
4. Position yourself as an expert in your field
Many people have LinkedIn profiles but don't proactively use the platform as a source of information, or share information with their network. LinkedIn is a minefield of interesting stuff if you know where to look. Your network updates page is essentially LinkedIn's version of a Facebook newsfeed - it tells you what your connections are up to, what they've liked, what they've shared. So make sure you're appearing in other peoples' feeds by sharing your own updates. Did you read a useful article this morning? Share it on LinkedIn.
Another great feature is LinkedIn Pulse. It's basically a blog, with contributed content from LinkedIn users everywhere. The posts are classified by topic, and you can choose to follow particular topics, to see content about leadership, technology or the economy to name but a few. You can also follow influencers - big names like Richard Branson or Ariana Huffington - and publishers, like The Economist or the BBC. Obviously, this helps to keep you up-to-date with whatever topic you choose - but also, you can post your own updates. So if you write a blog, why not consider posting one on LinkedIn Pulse? It will help to position you as a thought leader, or an expert in your field, by showing people that you really do know what you're talking about.
5. Use endorsements to your advantage
In my experience, the LinkedIn endorsements feature is a little like Marmite - you love it or you hate it. But there are ways to ensure it's working to your advantage. Endorsements allow people to back up what you're saying about the skills you have - so they can 'endorse' you for that skill. Sometimes, people endorse you for a skill you don't consider a priority - and then that will appear on your profile page alongside your other skills. The good news is: you can remove or edit your endorsements. You can remove individual skills (and the endorsements that go with them) by editing the Skills & Expertise section of your profile. You can remove endorsements from specific individuals by selecting 'Manage endorsements' whilst you're editing the Skills & Expertise section - or, here you can also choose not to be endorsed at all.
The other way of capitalising on endorsements from the people you know is by getting them to write a recommendation for you. In your profile settings, you can request recommendations, or recommend people you've worked with, for each job you've listed on your profile. There is no better sales pitch than a testimonial from a satisfied customer, so it's well worth asking trusted colleagues to recommend you - the worst that can happen is they say no!
For more tips on how to make LinkedIn work for you, have a look at these articles: