Being active on LinkedIn, an online professional network with more than 830 million members worldwide, can be a highly effective way for senior-level finance and accounting professionals to enhance their reputation as experts in the field and build business relationships. But maximizing the benefits of this tool, and using it to raise your executive profile, requires more than just logging in every now and then.
Here are seven high-level tips for getting the most from LinkedIn’s offerings and developing a solid presence on the network:
1. Brand your profile
The headline that appears under your name is prime LinkedIn real estate. It’s the first thing people and search engines will see. By default, LinkedIn inserts your current job title, but you can customize it to anything you like. Write something that sums up your personal branding statement — something that’s powerful and catchy, as well as appealing to hiring managers if you’re on the job hunt.
Make sure to create a solid summary in your profile’s “About” section to expand on what you do, where you work, what makes you stand out as a leader, and more. For inspiration on how to approach this portion of your LinkedIn profile, look to peers in your industry or other business leaders you admire for insight into how they use this section to brand themselves.
Another tip that can help with branding is to personalize your URL to reflect more about you than the generic URL you’re assigned when you set up your profile.
2. Use a quality headshot that projects confidence
This may seem like obvious advice, but many pros make missteps with the image they choose to feature on their LinkedIn profile. Or, worse, they don’t include one at all.
The bottom line: You can’t go wrong with a properly sized, high-resolution, professional-looking headshot that shows you smiling and looking confident. Ideally, you should also be wearing attire that looks suitable for a business environment (even if you work remotely).
3. Use relevant keywords strategically
Think about adding keywords to your profile that can make it easier for people to connect with you. For example, if you’re a business analyst, you might use “Oracle ERP deployment” or “data-driven conclusions.” Mine accounting and finance job listings that suit you to keep up to date with the keywords employers are using.
4. Focus on making quality connections
Rather than engaging in surface-level commenting, concentrate on regularly contributing thoughtful and engaging responses to articles and posts related to your field. Sharing relevant content also helps you build credibility as an industry expert. (See Tip #5.)
5. Contribute your expertise
Do you have a blog or a website? Is there a paper or article you’ve written or contributed to that’s posted online? Promote this content on your profile and include links so your contacts can learn even more about you and your thought leadership.
Also, consider creating new content to post on LinkedIn, which features a professional publishing platform. Your articles are distributed to your network and might even be featured on other LinkedIn channels. Not only can you boost your profile and build a good reputation as an expert, but you might also attract the attention of hiring managers recruiting for accounting and finance leadership roles.
6. Be proactive with your outreach
This tip is simple but important: Endorse your professional connections and give wholehearted recommendations to colleagues and previous employees. Most of the time, your contacts will reciprocate your generosity without you having to ask.
7. Follow to lead
Enhance your LinkedIn persona by carefully choosing a group of thought leaders to follow. These could include CFOs of companies you admire or financial powerhouses with a strong social media presence. Also, be sure to connect with professional groups featuring insights on industry trends, job ads and career advice.
Developing an effective LinkedIn presence takes time, but it can go a long way toward advancing your career and reputation. Start by making sure your profile is complete and up to date. Then at least once a week, try to add a new contact and find a company or leader to follow. If you decide to make a career change at some point, your efforts could very well help you find new opportunities that match your skills and interests.