By Jim Wong, CPA | April 13, 2016

“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” – Amy Jo Martin

Social media can be a divisive subject among corporate professionals—especially of varying generations. At times, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be viewed by some as holding no professional value, even though we know this is not necessarily the case. However, when it comes to LinkedIn, specifically, these professionals tend to be a little less apprehensive and a little more understanding of the business benefits the social platform provides.

What value does LinkedIn provide, exactly?

Well, for starters, LinkedIn is the No. 1 professional social network in the world with more than 400 million users worldwide and 124 million users in the U.S. This means you have access to other professionals in almost every industry, market and profession—including accounting, finance and IT—for networking.

How does it work?

Just like you meet people each day at various conferences, meetings or industry events, you can meet like professionals, search for jobs, ask and answer questions related to your field, and share news.

I’ve written about this subject before, but it’s an important topic to revisit. As algorithms change and updates are made, it’s important to stay in the know with how you can use LinkedIn, especially for networking.

However, just because you create a LinkedIn profile, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically attract 1,000 connections right away. You have to do some work. Learn 6 Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Accounting, Finance and ITNetworking below.

1. Add a profile picture. 
Studies show that profiles with a photo receive 14 times more views than those with no photo at all. Be sure to use a professional-looking photo of yourself without other people in the photo. You want people to know who you are. Do not simply crop out the other person. Be sure to take a headshot picture i.e. shoulders and up—of yourself alone. Use a picture with a simple background to minimize distractions. Then, make sure to smile! You want to come off as approachable as possible—just like you would want to in person. Lastly, before uploading the picture, name the file with your first and last name. Once it’s uploaded onto your profile, it’ll help you become more searchable. (More on that in number 3 below.)

2. Create a customized URL. 
This easy step is often overlooked. Create a customized URL with your first and last name that can be used on your business card, in your email signature and on your resume or CV. It allows hiring managers, recruiters and peers in your industry to quickly and easily click on your profile to view your professional history without having to search for you. If you don’t customize your URL, your public profile will appear cumbersome with symbols, letters and numbers. You want to give yourself a clean look. For more information on how to change your URL, click here.

3. Become searchable. 
Whenever someone is looking for your skills and qualifications—whether it be for networking, looking to hire you, looking to sell to you, or for other information, you want to pop up high in their searches on LinkedIn. There are various steps you can take to accomplish this. First, you want to include strong keywords to your title, summary and job experience. Not sure what kind of keywords to use? Try browsing through your connections to see what keywords they have used. Or, use Google’s Keyword Planner. Next, add Skills. There is an entire section dedicated to listing your skillsets. You can add, or you can be recommended, for up to 50. Lastly, link your job history to your business’ company page. This will give you even more visibility when you appear within a company’s employee list.

4. Join groups…and be active in them! 
There are LinkedIn groups for professionals in every industry. Be sure to find the groups that most closely align with your professional goals and join them. These are great places to find like-minded professionals and connect with them. One way of making your presence known in a group is through sharing articles, commenting on posts and starting discussions. Not sure how many groups to join? LinkedIn limits you to joining a maximum of 50 groups. Also, you can change your settings to receive notifications on whatever type of basis you prefer.

5. Ask for connections. 
This is the crux of LinkedIn. Connecting with others to increase your network is at the heart of why LinkedIn was created. It’s essential to connect with former and current colleagues, friends, family members, teachers, acquaintances, clients and more. Additionally, after you meet someone in person, it’s common for you to invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Be sure to customize the invitation and indicate where you met to job their memory. Consider connecting with professionals you don’t know personally, as well—perhaps another member in a LinkedIn group. Reference that you are both members of the group. Adding connections will increase the likelihood that your profile will be seen by individuals who are looking to connect with you or even hire you.

6. Be active. 
Now that you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile and joined groups, it’s important to be active on LinkedIn. This doesn’t mean you have to be on LinkedIn constantly as you might with other social media sites like Twitter or Instagram though. Remain active through publishing relevant articles, making new connections, sharing new job opportunities with your network, and joining discussions. You’ll begin to be seen as an authority figure, and you’ll begin to appear higher in LinkedIn searches—both valuable things for any professional.

These are just a few of the ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile for networking. Have any other suggestions? Comment below to let us know!

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