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A new user's quick start guide to LinkedIn

At first glance, LinkedIn seems a little more complicated than some other social media networks. But, in reality it's a lot simpler than you think. LinkedIn provides a straight forward way for individuals and business owners to hire, market and sell in an innovative and new way. It's a step up from Facebook in that it's a site for professionals who are on the platform to network, build their brand and sell their products or services.. You won't see mom's sharing their child's first drawings

As a newbie, you want to get started using LinkedIn fast, so here is the lowdown on using the platform to build your personal brand and help you do better professionally.

Use a Free Account

At least at first, there is no need to upgrade your account to a paid or Premium LinkedIn account. The free version provides more than you'll need until you become accustomed to and use all the features the free version has. With a free account you can:

* Create a Professional Profile

* Build a Network of Connections or Contacts

* Join Other People's Networks

* Participate in & Create Groups

* Search for Companies, Jobs & People

* Send Messages & Get Answers

* Make Comments On Posts

* Use Various Applications

* Set Up Personalized Searches

The paid or premium version has all the above features plus, you can send emails to people who you don't know, and become a member of the OpenLinked group which means people can contact you without knowing you directly. In addition, you get priority customer service, more search results, and you can store and save data in an online folder. Plus, you get access to other users full name in their profile. You also get more statistics on who’s viewed your profile and how it is performing on LinkedIn.

You can upgrade at any time, so until you are accustomed to the vast features of the free account there is no reason to get a premium account at this time. Joining is quick and easy. If you've never joined, when you go to the home page there is a sign up window to register. Fill this out using your full real name and the email address you use most. Be cautious about using your work email unless you own the business. Also, using your personal email address is a good idea if you switch jobs.

Set Up Your Profile

When you fill out the form as the system prompts you you'll have completed a lot of your profile. Keep in mind that in most cases you can go back and edit later, but why not fill it out as accurately as possible now? This will eliminate the need to edit later, and when you know going in that you should fill everything out as completely and as honestly as possible in a professional manner you can't go wrong.

Currently there are several parts to your profile:

* Your Name -- This should, of course, be your real name that you use in business. Don't try to be clever and use a fake name. This is your online professional identity and you must be yourself.

* Your Headline -- This will appear under your name, and should describe what you do, not where you work. Think in terms of using keywords and keyword phrases separated by the pipe symbol instead of a sentence or phrase.

* Your Photograph -- This should be a photo of your face with a plain no distracting background. People want to see the real you that includes your eyes, nose and mouth. This is not the time to put the photo of you downing giant margaritas, this is the time to demonstrate your most professional image.

* Your Work History / Experience -- Include every aspect of your work history that relates to your goals with your LinkedIn account. For instance, if you used to be an accountant 20 years ago, but you have no intention of being one now, focus on what you want to do now as you fill out your work history.

* Extras -- You'll notice on LinkedIn that within the profile are some extra little spots that you can add information to such as videos, images and documents. You can add these later if you're not ready. But note that adding them creates additional content that can be found on search engines meaning more ways to lead people to find your profile.

* Education -- This section is exactly what it says, add in your education, and any certificates that you have that demonstrate your knowledge in your profession.

* Additional Info -- This area asks that you include interests, personal details, and how to contact you. Please put something in here that isn't too off track of your goals for your future. Be cautious about putting something in interests that is too controversial and not related to your business.

After You've Gotten Started It's Important to Participate

Now that you have your profile up, it's time to make some connections. Start with people with whom you've worked at any of the jobs you've listed in work history, and any fellow students at the schools you've attended. Connect to them, and ask for recommendations right away.

Always send personalized invitations requests though because it shows that you care about developing quality relationships. One thing that is recommended is check out the person’s profile and see if you have common ground. Maybe you both went to the same school or are from the same industry or even follow the same influencers. You can briefly mention this in your message and there will be a better chance the person will accept the request because they see the similarities.

Next, join a few targeted groups consisting of your target audience. Your target audience is dependent upon your goals for using LinkedIn. If you're using it to expand your business you will need to join groups that consist of potential buyers. If you are using it to network to help you move up in your career you want to join groups that have potential colleagues. Once you join the groups, participate in the groups to get the full benefit.

As you get accustomed to using LinkedIn, you'll find more ways in which it can expand your reach, increase your connections and grow your personal brand.

But remember, consistency is key so keep going, and it will pay off.

Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

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