I’ve talked with a number of people lately about LinkedIn.

Many of these people have said, “I have a profile but I don’t use it.” Or “I’ve never gotten anything from it.”

Well, just like all things in life, you results are directly related to what you put into it.

If you’re a LinkedIn Beginner, these steps should help you optimize your profile and increase your exposure. Even if you’re not a “beginner” (per se), perhaps you haven’t touched LinkedIn in months or years iIt’s ok, you’re not alone!). These steps will help you revive your dormant profile so it’s lively and productive once again!

1. Update your LinkedIn profile photo

Make sure it’s a professional photo. It doesn’t have to be taken in a studio, but it should professionally represent you and the type of business that you’re in.

If you happen to be a creative type, it may be a little more off center, with a specific color treatment applied. Or if you’re in real estate, it may be a well positioned shot with a house blurred in the background. Be creative, but keep it professional and polished.

EXAMPLE: My LinkedIn Profile, and the profile photo that shouldn’t be!

linkedin-profile-example-yes-no

2. Update your headline

By default, your headline is the title and company information you listed as your current (or most recent) position. You can change this to be something more descriptive, as this is one of the most important places that LinkedIn search pulls information about who you are and what you do. Instead of “Project Manager at XYZ Company” you may go for something like “Project Manager | Salesforce Administrator | Certified in Microsoft Dynamics”.

Think about keywords and descriptive phrases to use in this bio so someone gets an accurate glimpse of your unique skills and responsibilities. My friend, John Fulwider, is a great example!

Headline-example-Linkedin

3. Add a powerful summary

I’m amazed at the number of LinkedIn bios I review, and how many of them are lacking a summary. Or their summary is their current position.

While it doesn’t have to be long (and probably shouldn’t be too long!) it should tell someone what unique skills, experiences, and goals you have. Tell a story about how you got started in your industry and what keeps you there – why are you the best at what you do and why does it matter?

EXAMPLE: Kindra Foster, a senior writer and president of Foster Writing, does this well:

Linkedin-summary-example

4. Publish a post

While this doesn’t have to be done right away, it is a great way to educate and engage your network of connections. Think of a topic that you can share specific insight on – not in a salesly say (Puh-lease! Don’t do that) but in a way that will bring value to your network.

If you are a chiropractor, share the common things you see people doing as they work at their desk that are leading to back pain. If you’re a sales representative for a printing company, share the common types of paper and the applications for each.

EXAMPLE: Joseph Knecht with Venture Tech, published a great article about start-up life. An introspective look at this topic provides valuable visibility for his company (that helps startups vet their idea, identify customers, and launch a product).

Example-of-LinkedIn-Pulse-Post

5. Share an update (and continue to, regularly!)

This is similar to a Facebook status update, but is designed for the professional world. If you find an article that was very helpful for you, share it here along with a short call to action such as: “Really enjoyed this article about time management and why it’s no longer a to-do list type of world [link here]”.

Think about the type of brand you want to portray on LinkedIn and keep the resources, articles and information you share relevant to your brand and influence.

EXAMPLE: Startup and marketing extraordinaire Brian Ardinger (founder of NMotion) always shares relevant information with his audience that reinforces the strength of his brand. Tip – he also uses an application called Buffer so that whenever he sees or reads a valuable piece of content, he can just click on a button in his browser to add it to his queue of posts!

Status-Update-example-LinkedIn

6. Endorse at least 10 other professionals.

While endorsements are not a golden ticket to mastery, they do designate a high level of skill within a specific area or focus. When you endorse someone else, you’re validating their skill based on your experience. The endorsement also shows your network that you’re willing to share your experience, and the endorsement shows up in the news feed for both people.

Note: Be selective of this as you should not endorse randomly as just a method for increasing visibility on your profile.

EXAMPLE: A number of people in my network have endorsed my skills in marketing.

LinkedIn Endorsements for Ali Schwanke

7. Join at least two LinkedIn groups and introduce yourself

Groups are a great place to meet like-minded individuals, whether in your industry or in an industry closely connected to your work.

Back to the chiropractor example: perhaps you join a chiropractor-focused group and you can share tips for building a chiropractic business. But then you also joins a health and wellness group which includes professionals in a number of ancillary industries. There are local networking groups as well as national groups for progressive discussions and thought leadership opportunities.

The motto here is the same as a status update – provide value. Give. Don’t ask for business in groups. Aim to be a person of value. Be a resource.

LinkedIn-Group-Example-Chiropractor

8. Add Volunteer Work

Whether you serve on a nonprofit board or simply volunteer periodically, you can add a volunteer position to the “volunteer” area of your profile. This is a great way to add an update to your profile when you haven’t made a change for a while. Even consider adding past volunteer work.

Volunteer-LinkedIn-Profile

9. Get a custom LinkedIn URL

Market yourself and your presence on LinkedIn using a custom URL, which you can change on your profile. This helps in organic search as well as sharing the link with others.

LinkedIn-Unique-URL-example Search-results-linkedin-unique-url

10. Promote your LinkedIn profile

Add the link to your signature and encourage people to connect with you. Now that’s just good networking sense!

Bonus: A post on the Social Talent blog will show you step by step on how to add the LinkedIn badge to your signature.

Others ideas?

Please share in the comments below!