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Making time for LinkedIn

First impressions.  Much has been written about how important they are (not least by me) because people buy people and if you’re not making the right impression you could be killing your chances of getting the job/client/contract/[insert your goal here].  But when you’re already up to your eyeballs finding and doing work, spending time creating a positive first impression is time you just don’t have.  Am I right?
But let me ask you a question: Have you ever checked out someone on LinkedIn before you went to meet them?  Maybe Googled their name and found yourself reading their profile?
And when you did, what did you think? Did their profile create a good first impression with you or a bad one?
Whatever your answer, the point is you’d formed your impression – and it was long before you met them in person, shook their hand and exchanged business cards.  But what a lot of people forget is that, just as they are checking out others online, the same thing is happening to them.  And considering the impact of the first impression, finding the time to create a great profile is actually time well spent.
And when I say a ‘great’ profile, that’s what I mean – not a half-arsed one with a few bits of job experience, no photo and no summary; a profile that will make as much impact as you would in person.  I’ve written a number of blogs about what to write and how to look in an online profile, but the #1 thing to remember is you need to get across your personal brand – the thing that makes you different from anyone else doing the same job or offering the same product/service as you.
And once you’re sure you are making the right impression online, that’s when you should start using LinkedIn as one of the many tools on your tool-belt to get that job/client/contract/[insert your goal here] – because building and maintaining relationships can be done in many ways.  For instance, I was at an event and briefly met the HR Director of a company I’d like to work with.  We exchanged cards and first thing back in the office I a) sent her an email saying good to meet, did she have time for a coffee and would she be interested in getting my blog updates, b) sent her a personalised invitation to connect on LinkedIn so we could keep tabs on each other’s business updates and c) followed her on Twitter so I could catch up with her on a slightly more ‘social’ level.
But you don’t have to wait to meet people and then connect on LinkedIn – you can use it as a tool to target the people you want to work with.  I used this to great effect when I saw the profile of a guy I wanted to work with, noticed we were connected by a client of mine, called the client to ask if she’d introduce us, and ended the week with all three of us having coffee (following which he became my newest client).  But here’s the thing: the guy I wanted to get to know told me he’d only agreed to meet after checking out my LinkedIn profile.
Which takes us full circle to those first impressions!
Jennifer Holloway is the founder or Spark Branding.