In the '80s, it was practically a requirement for successful businesspeople to carry an alligator-skin briefcase and a cell phone the size of a shoebox. Today’s successful businesspeople have foregone the gaudy briefcase and the ginormous phone, but they're armed with a smartwatch, tablet, iPhone or some combination of the three.
Today we use Facebook to keep up with our friends, text messages to check on our family, LinkedIn to stay in the loop of our industries, and our wearables and connected devices to access it all.
LinkedIn’s 300,000,000 members in over 200 countries act as proof of the business social network’s dominance. Not quite Facebook-sized, but definitely the forerunner in its vertical, LinkedIn serves to connect us with colleagues, industry insiders and influencers and recruiters.
One of the network’s greatest features is the ability to collect and automatically catalog recommendations from employers, coworkers, and clients.
How do we make the most of our LinkedIn recommendations? These 3 tips will make sure you maximize the potential of yours:
1. Acquire Valuable Recommendations
Before you can think about how to benefit from your recommendations, you must make sure you have enough high-quality testimonials about your work, your character and your results.
Put yourself in a prospective client or employer’s shoes; what kind of recommendations would help you decide if you want to work with someone? Chances are that general recommendations like “John is a great employee” are not as helpful as specific assertions like “John’s contribution to our global expansion project helped the company double its sales.”
The best recommendations include positive traits specific to you. Traits like dedication, listening skills, attention to detail, professionalism, knowledge and cooperative skills describe to prospects what they can expect when working with you.
Reviews that mention a specific project, a quantifiable result or a problem you solved are also very helpful.
While you never want to write the recommendation on behalf of your associates (others will easily see through it as fake), it's acceptable to direct them.
The LinkedIn default message when requesting testimonials is “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile.” Don’t leave it at that.
Add to the message your specific request. Something along these lines should do the trick:
“I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work for inclusion in my LinkedIn profile. It would be great if you can write a little about the Smith project we worked on together, its results in terms of increased sales and customer satisfaction metrics and any character traits you think that prospective clients should know about me.”
A nice gesture is to also write recommendations, as specific and tangible as the ones you hope to receive, for those you have worked with (even if they do not request it). Often, they will follow your proactive lead and leave great recommendations for you too (possibly mentioning your proactive nature and leadership qualities).
2. Use the LinkedIn Network
The LinkedIn network offers great ways to get in touch with professionals in every industry. With high-quality testimonials about your work, use the network to network. When people view your profile, they will be shown the recommendations (that contain the information you want to highlight about yourself and your work).
Contact Past Colleagues and Classmates
Use LinkedIn to find lost business connections and former colleagues. Connect with coworkers from previous jobs, classmates from college and friends and acquaintances. Grow your network because you never know who they might know.
There are over 2 million groups on LinkedIn (and 8,000 more created each week), which serve every industry, association and interest. Join the groups that apply to you, participate in conversations on their message board and connect with group members with common goals and interests.
Follow Industry Influencers
In virtually every industry, there are influencers that lead the pack. For the music and airline industries, it might be Virgin’s Richard Branson; in the software and philanthropy spaces, Bill Gates is certainly one to emulate. Follow these leaders within your industry on LinkedIn.
Contribute to Your Company Page
If your company has a LinkedIn company page (and/or showcase pages), contribute to them. Make your insights known to anyone who is interested in your company. And if your employer doesn’t have pages yet, consider volunteering to create them (and then asking for a recommendation based on the great work you did).
Share updates regularly on LinkedIn. If there is news going on in your industry that you have strong opinions about, consider publishing a post as well.
The best time to post on LinkedIn for maximum engagement is on Tuesday, between 10:00 - 11:00 AM ET.
Keep in mind that to reach just 60% of your audience, it takes 20 posts per month, so don’t worry about posting every work day (just make sure you are posting content that is relevant and interesting).
3. Display Recommendations Proudly
As professionals, we no longer need to carry letters of recommendation from previous employers to our job interviews; instead, we can point prospective employers and clients to our LinkedIn profile. While the LinkedIn network is immense and there are many ways to benefit from it, do not limit the exposure of your LinkedIn recommendations only to those who seek you out on LinkedIn.
If you have a personal website, you can easily add your LinkedIn recommendations to it manually or automatically with tools like the faceboard widget from Spectoos.
You can add quotes from testimonials people have submitted on LinkedIn to your job application emails or proposals you send to clients.
The fact is that 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates, so if you are looking for a job, making the most of your LinkedIn testimonials is quickly becoming to our times what the alligator-skin briefcase was to our parents’ generation.
Tomer Harel is founder and CEO of KeyScouts and co-founder of Spectoos. He has been practicing Internet marketing for over a decade, helping hundreds of businesses to thrive online. Despite his extensive knowledge and years of hands-on experience, Tomer is always looking to learn more and be a little bit better every day at what he does.