Friday, January 23, 2015

LinkedIn for accountants: 2015 update

Mark Lee for AccountingWeb UK writes: It’s the world’s largest online business networking tool and deserves to be considered quite separately from the more ‘social’ networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

On Linkedin today there are more than 330m profiles, 3m companies and ‘only’ 2m jobs. It’s grown to become a huge beast that can be tamed and used to benefit accountants who are clear as to their objectives when using the site.
These might be to build your practice, your client base, your influence, your reputation or simply to further your career.
Passive or Active
Like all users of the site, accountants can choose whether to be passive or active users of Linkedin.
Passive users simply create a profile and wait to be contacted by other users. It may happen. It may not. I’ve seen plenty of accountants say they are on Linkedin but get no new clients from the site. This is unsurprising if they have been inactive there and/or have an incomplete profile.
You can make it easy for others to want to connect with you or you can make it hard for them to do so – in which case there may be little point in registering your profile there in the first place.
Active users actively search out prospective clients, introducers, collaborators and/or influencers. They make their presence known on the site and in groups where their target audiences are also active users.
Linkedin claims to have re-engineered their search facility recently. This should make it faster and easier for users to find what they seek on the site.
First things first
There is little point in registering to use Linkedin unless you create a decent professional profile there. I shared loads of related tips on AccountingWEB in the first of a series of six articles about Linkedin in 2013: See: Linkedin part one: Profile tipsThat advice remains equally valid two years on.
LinkedIn has recently upgraded the generic guidance they provide to help users complete or edit their profiles.
The value of some of the guidance depends on where you are in your career and how active you plan to be on the LinkedIn website.  or example I am regularly being prompted to add sections on ‘language’ and ‘volunteering opportunities’ to my profile. There would be no point, so I ignore the prompts.
You can also now easily check out how your profile looks to other people. This may prompt you to make changes so as to give the right impression to people who do not yet know you. Just click the blue button in the middle beneath your profile photo.
If you are like most accountants, your LinkedIn profile will pop up first whenever someone searches for you online (eg: using Google or Bing). This is generally true regardless of how search engine friendly is your website. And it is even more likely if you don’t have a website or much of a profile page or photo on your own website.
Your profile will also show up in searches for ‘someone like you’ on LinkedIn. Or at least your profile will show up in such cases if it has been well prepared.
Your skills
This was a new section added to profiles by LinkedIn in 2012. I used to think it was all a little silly but it’s value is becoming clearer.
Imagine you were looking for a divorce lawyer on LinkedIn and you were checking out their profiles. If one has many more endorsements of relevant skills than another, this could impact your choice.
Of course your choice is unlikely to be swayed by any number of endorsements for their networking skills, commercial law work and after-dinner speaking. Such skills are just not relevant to someone looking for a divorce lawyer.
Equally I would encourage you to think carefully about which skills you show on your profile. LinkedIn attempts to be helpful by suggesting that you may also have related skills. So, for example, if you claim to know about ‘tax’, LinkedIn may suggest you also know about, CGT, VAT and IHT.
LinkedIn also encourages visitors to your profile to endorse you for related skills that you have not (yet) added to your profile. 
People may think they are being helpful so agree with LinkedIn. Or they may genuinely agree that they know and can endorse the suggestion you are skilled in a particular topic.
My advice is to remove any irrelevant or confusing skills from the list on your profile.
Equally do not add new ones to your profile just because Linkedin has encouraged someone to endorse you for them. I removed all reference to tax from my profile, despite amassing over 100 endorsements, as I stopped giving tax advice to anyone nine years ago! I don’t want my profile popping up when people search for a tax adviser on LinkedIn.
It’s also likely that the more endorsements you have for key skills the higher ranked will be your profile when someone searches the site for experts. It helps to think about who do you want to influence and what do you want to be ‘found’ for when someone searches on the site.
I would suggest that having only a handful of endorsements for what should be your key skills, could undermine your credibility. 
You do have the option to hide your skills and endorsements so that they do not show on your profile. That may be preferable in some cases, especially if you are planning to just be a passive user and have amassed only a few endorsements.
Blogging on LinkedIn
Until quite recently most users were not able to blog on Linkedin’s own platform.
This changed last year so now hundreds of people I know are now, as LinkedIn puts it, ‘sharing their perspective’ by blogging on the site.
The theory goes that this can help you to get discovered for your posts and strengthen your reputation. Yawn. Just like blogging on your own website – only less so.
Yes, it is possible that the people you hope to influence with your profile or activity on LinkedIn ‘might’ notice that you have blogged something relevant to their interests or problem.
But, if my own experience is typical, the impact will be marginal at best. And I say that as someone directly connected to over 4,000 people on LinkedIn and with an extended network of over 16m.
I have posted a number of pieces on the site with very little discernable impact over the last few months. I have tried pieces distinct from those on my own blog, pieces that cover similar points and pieces intended to direct readers to go to my blog to read more.
I have concluded that it’s not going to have much impact for me and that it is likely to be just another distraction for accountants in general.
Other changes
The latest update news from LinkedIn highlights a number of other changes mostly intended to encourage you to spend more time on the site.
These changes will be of limited interest if your main reason for using LinkedIn is to be found and/or for lead generation. Despite visiting the LinkedIn site almost every day I pay little attention to most new features when they first arrive. I have learned, over the years, that they rarely change the way I use the site though they may make it easier and faster for me to find what I want.
In summary you can expect to see:
  • A new look is being rolled out over the coming months
  • New activity feeds and a new dashboard so you can monitor how much interest there has been in your profile
  • A ‘keep in touch’ slider facility to see what the people you know are doing on the site – so that you can easily interact with them and comment on what they’ve done or their news
LinkedIn is such a mature site that few changes are really much more than cosmetic. This means they only excite the naïve, novice and news focused commentators. Accountants are better advised to focus on new features only when it is clear how they can help you to achieve your business focused objectives and get more value from your profile, presence and activity on the site.


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