NCG Marketing

Digital Marketing for Accountants and Attorneys

LinkedIn for Accountants Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions and answers have been compiled over the last several months of webinars, in-person presentations, and one-on-one LinkedIn training sessions that Phil Nugent has given to accountants across the U.S. and throughout the world.

Note that these questions are formatted in accordion style so that you can scan them and quickly find the topics that you’re interested in. Just click on the question in order to display its corresponding answer.

LinkedIn is always changing, and this is an ever-growing list, so check back often.

1. How do I not look like everyone else on LinkedIn? (Kansas City, MO)

Great question! Hopefully, you heard some good ideas on the webinar about how to do this, but ultimately, it mostly comes down to your strategic branding and positioning. That is, the answer to your question is not necessarily anything that’s LinkedIn-specific. Instead, the answer comes from how you differentiate yourself from others in your profession, whether it’s in a conversation with a potential client, on your website, or anywhere else.

Two CPAs with identical education and background can look radically different from each other on LinkedIn because of the way that they describe what they do, who their ideal clients are, what their niche is, etc. The more detail that you provide in these areas, the more your potential clients will recognize themselves in your profile and want to contact you.

Once you’ve got that down, things that will help differentiate yourself from competitors on LinkedIn can include publishing updates that may be links to articles you find interesting, writing “thought leadership” posts that visitors to your profile will see, adding short videos to your profile page, etc.

2. Are there any AICPA restrictions on using Linkedin? (Philadelphia, PA)

The AICPA certainly recognizes the value that social media can provide its members, and I would go so far as to say that it’s a strong proponent of its members using social media. In fact, you can find a lot more information in what the AICPA calls its Social Media Toolkit.

Regarding ethics, the AICPA Code of Ethics doesn’t (yet) offer guidelines specifically on accountants’ use of social media. That said, there are parts of the Code that are relevant, including Integrity, Objectivity and Independence, Due Care, and Confidentiality.

As an example, AICPA CPC Rule 301 addresses client confidentiality, and the rule is pretty simple: Don’t break client confidentiality. Therefore, you shouldn’t post any LinkedIn updates about your clients in which they could be identified (unless, of course, you have their permission to do so). Additionally, you want to avoid the inadvertent creation of accountant-client relationship. This can mean, for example, that you shouldn’t give specific advice in LinkedIn Groups, etc.

In a nutshell, the Number 1 Ethics Rule regarding LinkedIn is this: If you shouldn’t do it in real life, you shouldn’t do it on LinkedIn (or anywhere else on the web)

3. Can we measure the results? (Cape Girardeau, MO)

If you’re looking for the Return on Investment (ROI) from the time and resources you put into LinkedIn, the short answer is yes, you can obtain this figure. However, it will take some work, the exact method of measuring ROI is different for everyone (because you’ll be measuring different things), and frankly, the results are often a little squishy – although there are ways to make them somewhat less so.

First, you can start by keeping track of the time you put into LinkedIn, from the time it takes to create and update your “complete and compelling” profile, to the time you put into accepting and sending invitations, to the time you spend on other LinkedIn-specific tasks (e.g., communicating with your connections, “getting social,” and publishing thought leadership posts). That sum (converted into dollars) is the “I” or the “investment” in ROI.

Now, you will need the “R” or the “return” on that investment. How many new clients or new projects did you obtain through LinkedIn? That can be trickier, because it’s measuring something that’s not always so easily counted. Do you ask all new clients how they heard about you? That’s essential, of course, but you won’t always get specific (or accurate) answers. If they say they found you on Google, what does that mean? It can mean that they found your website, or your Twitter account, or your LinkedIn profile…or something else.

I recommend trying to get specifics, although often they don’t remember exactly, and of course, you don’t want to alienate a potential new client by asking them 20 questions right off the bat about how they found you.

To make things more difficult, what if they first found your LinkedIn profile, and that convinces them to visit your website, and that convinces them to call you? What should get the credit – LinkedIn because it pulled them into your universe (“first touch”), or your website because it was responsible for the conversion (“last touch”), i.e., giving you a call? Or did they already plan on calling you once they’d seen your LinkedIn profile, but they still wanted to check out your website first?

One way to try to get better data is to have a special (dedicated) email address and phone number listed on your LinkedIn profile. That won’t help with all the issues raised above, but it can help get you closer to your goal.

Ultimately, marketing ROI is an issue that books have been written about, and this post from Marketo can be a good place to start in order to better understand the challenges facing those who want to obtain the most accurate ROI possible on their marketing programs.

One final thought: As you know, I look at LinkedIn as a critical piece of every CPA’s marketing and business development activities, but I also think it works best when it’s integrated with one’s website, blog and Twitter (and sometimes, additional or different marketing channels). All of these working together can create an integrated marketing program, in which you republish your blog posts on LinkedIn, you post links to them on Twitter, etc., all of which will create a much greater online presence for you and your company.

The upshot is that it’s worthwhile trying to get an ROI for LinkedIn, but it’s also worth doing so for the other elements of your marketing, and for your marketing and business development activities as a whole. In that way, you can get a high-level view of how all the pieces are working together, and which ones don’t seem to be working for you, and use that information to guide your next steps.

4. I don't like my privacy invaded. Seems like this is a way for people to judge me before they know me, based on something I say in my profile. (Grand Junction, CO)

Well, that’s true, of course: People will judge you based on what they see in your profile. On the other hand, I would suggest that anytime that anyone says or does anything, they put themselves out there to be judged. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that by remaining silent we don’t necessarily solve this problem because on many issues and in many forums we can (and will) be judged on our silence or inactivity.

LinkedIn is a great example of this. If someone looks for John Smith on LinkedIn and doesn’t find his profile, that would prompt many people today to judge him based on that. (“Hmmm…John’s obviously a little behind the times. He’s a CPA, but he doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile and it’s been around for over a decade. EVERYONE has a LinkedIn profile!” And of course, that can lead to the next – and even more damaging – concern: “I wonder how well he’s keeping up with all the tax changes that take place every year…?”)

And yet, LinkedIn is a pretty safe place to be online. It’s not a site where (most) people are spouting off on their political beliefs or openly hating on other people. It’s a place where you can add factual information about your job and career in the hope and expectation that others will find it and be interested in what you have to offer. And increasingly, if you’re not on LinkedIn – or if you’re not doing a good job of telling your story on LinkedIn – you will be judged. Not as a bad person, of course, but perhaps as someone who seems behind the times – and therefore, someone whom they may not want to hire.

5. I’m concerned about privacy and security of giving so much info and it spreading uncontrollably. (Chicago, IL)

Privacy is an important issue today, and concerns about it are certainly justified. I have a couple of thoughts on that: First, I ran through some privacy settings in the webinar that should be helpful. And while I went through them quickly, the step-by-step instructions are in the PDF of the slides.

Second, you shouldn’t be putting anything that’s truly private on your LinkedIn profile, of course. And yet, even without doing that, I fully understand your concern. You’re putting your professional life story out there for the world to see: where you went to school, what jobs you’ve had, when and where, etc. This is a brave new world, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with that.

In the end, it comes down to a balancing act. Everyone must balance for themselves the possible risks of total strangers being able to access this employment history about them, versus the possible rewards of being out there in the marketplace, where people are looking to hire someone just like you, and where they wouldn’t have a chance of finding out about you if it weren’t for LinkedIn.

Some people will be uncomfortable with the perceived risks, but as I indicated in Question #4, I believe the greater risk in our increasingly competitive marketplace is not being out there and not taking an active role in shaping one’s personal brand and making oneself available for new and exciting opportunities.

6. I don't like the fact that if I am trying to find someone from a particular organization they know that I have been looking at their profile, right? I feel like a stalker. (Flagstaff, AZ)

As I discussed in the webinar, LinkedIn has recently made this a trickier issue for all free users. On slide 71, I address this issue. Everyone – including free users – used to be able to choose “total anonymity” under the Privacy Controls header of “Select what others see when they’ve viewed your profile.” By selecting “You will be totally anonymous,” you could visit others’ profiles and not leave a trail.

Unfortunately, this feature has been taken away from free visitors, unless you’re willing to forgo seeing who has visited your profile. While that kind of makes sense, the feature is still available for those with paid accounts.

The takeaway is that if you’re willing to not see who has visited your profile, you can still search anonymously with the free plan. If you’re not willing to make that bargain (call that Option A), you’ll have to either learn to deal with the fact that they’ll see that you’ve visited their page (Option B), or you’ll have to subscribe to a paid plan (Option C).

7. Are all of the recommendations for optimizing your profile applicable to the free subscription, or do you need to be a premium member? (Los Angeles, CA)

Yes, all my recommendations for optimizing your profile are available with the free subscription. On slide 75, I highlight what I see as the top 7 advantages of a paid plan over the free plan, and none of them relate to optimizing your profile.

8. How do you get rid of a connection? Will that person find out? (Philadelphia, PA)

Getting rid of a connection is easy: 1) Pull up their profile page; 2) Look for the blue “Send a message” button to the right of their photo; 3) Hover over the small, downward pointing arrow so that a pop-up box appears; 4) Click on the option at the bottom labeled “Remove connection;” 5) Click “Remove” in the pop-up window.

Your former connection will not be notified that you’ve removed them. However, just as with Facebook, they may come upon your profile at some point and be surprised to see that you’re no longer connected.

9. How do you retrieve messages? (Somerdale, NJ)

In order to view your messages, hover over the small “Messages” icon at the very top of the LinkedIn page that’s to the right of the word “Advanced” and to the left of the “Notifications” flag icon. The Messages pop-up window will appear. Click on the little arrow that’s at the very top of the window and to the right of the word “Messages.” You’ll see your messages on the left, organized in reverse chronological order. Note that if you click on the small downward-facing arrow to the right of “All Messages,” you’ll open up a box that will let you decide to organize them by “My connections,” “Unread,” “InMail” and “Blocked.”

LinkedIn recently changed the messaging tool, and most people do not like the changes. My hope is that in the near future we’ll see additional changes to the tool, and that some of them will change things back to how they worked previously. That’s a long of way of introducing the fact that overall, it doesn’t work perfectly, and specifically, retrieving messages can be problematic.

For example, once you’ve accepted someone’s LinkedIn invitation, it now appears to be impossible to see the message someone wrote in that invitation. This can be problematic, because I recommend replying to invitations that you accept with a short note thanking them for the invite and possibly furthering the discussion. If they had written a custom invite (which, again, I recommend), that note will no longer be accessible once you’ve accepted the invitation. With that in mind, it’s smart to copy and paste any custom note before you accept so that you can respond appropriately.

10. I am a CPA and I also have a (demanding hobby) on the side that I'm proud of, and that I'd like to promote, if possible. Should I have two profiles or just eliminate my hobby? (Cincinnati, OH)

One thing to keep in mind is that you’re not supposed to have more than one profile on LinkedIn – and LI can close down your account if they notice it – so I never recommend that course of action.

As to whether you should eliminate the hobby, that depends on several things: What are your long-term goals, who do you work for, who are your clients, what is your professional brand, and could you see any possible synergies between your work as a CPA and your work in what you’re calling your hobby? It’s also relevant that you indicate that you want to promote your hobby. Are you looking to make it more than just a hobby? A second career, perhaps?

A look at your LI profile tells me that you have your own firm and that you work primarily with families. That’s very different from working with corporate clients. In fact, I could see that promoting your hobby could become a big part of your brand (as it’s related to something that’s a part of many families, etc.). It would help people remember you, some might even want to give you their CPA business just because of what you do as a hobby, and possibly you could even write some blog posts on some of the similarities between your hobby and being a CPA.

Of course, by doing so, you would take the risk that not all potential clients would be amused or interested in your hobby. And simply the fact that you positioned it prominently would make some potential clients of your CPA work run the other way. But that’s part of finding a niche; you have to be willing to say that you’re not going after everyone. The upside would be that if you didn’t overplay it (you’d want to be very careful not to give the impression that your hobby was more important to you than being a CPA), it could attract many more CPA clients to you, just because of the humanizing effect of your hobby.

I know a very limited amount about you, your practice and your goals, but I’m still willing to suggest that this could work well for you. But it would demand that you think long and hard about your clients and your strategic branding to figure out if it made sense. And you’d want to build out your Summary considerably and take other steps with your profile to tell your unique story in the most compelling way possible.

11. Where would I add the fact that I served as president of a business organization? I was president of a local society of CPA’s. I’m not sure in which section this should be listed. (Memphis, TN)

Being the president of a business organization (and especially an organization as relevant as a group of CPAs) is a big deal that makes sense to highlight and not hide, but in my opinion, LinkedIn doesn’t allow us sufficient flexibility with things like that. You can add it to your Experience for very high visibility, but then, depending on the starting and ending dates, it can take higher (or lower) priority than you want, as LI puts all Experience in a non-negotiable, date-related format.

That said, I think I like that idea for you, because it sounds as if it would fit between your current position and the one with your former company, which wouldn’t be a bad place to have it. It would also show up at the top of the page as your most recent, previous experience. (I’d also think about mentioning it in your Summary.)

On the other hand, the best idea for some people is to add it to the ‘Organizations’ or ‘Volunteer Experience’ content module (be sure to add that you were president and a description), and then you can move that up so it’s higher in your profile. The problem there is that by doing this, you would move up ALL your organizations and volunteer experience, which may not be what you’re looking for.

12. I didn’t think that Endorsements carried much weight because any LinkedIn connection can give them without actually seeing someone use their skills on the job. (Cincinnati, OH)

That’s exactly what I initially thought when the Endorsements made their appearance several years ago, but they’ve really taken off since then, for one big reason: Even though Recommendations tend to be much more personal and meaningful, giving Endorsements is as easy as eating popcorn.

To your point, sometimes people give Endorsements to connections that they hardly know. Often, unfortunately, this is because they’re hoping that the recipient will turn around and endorse them for one or more Skills. I don’t do this, and I don’t recommend it, because I think this strips Endorsements of their credibility. Endorsements should be meaningful, but as you point out, in some cases they have questionable value because any connection can give them without any real knowledge of someone’s skills.

But, as I mentioned, having the right Skills listed is important, and not only because recruiters can search on them. You always want to be sure that they are appropriate and relevant to your focus as a CPA, because potential clients will read a lot into them, and you don’t want them taking away the wrong conclusions about what you specialize in. And incidentally, potential clients also will notice how many Endorsements you have.

So, that puts all of us LinkedIn users in a bit of a “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” situation. You should still consider asking for a Recommendation from clients and others who know your work well, but also pay close attention to the Skills you have listed – and don’t ignore the Endorsements. Move some of the Skills around as I discussed in the webinar so that the ones that you care most about are at the top and will get more attention. And don’t hesitate to ask for Endorsements, since they’re much easier for your connections to give you than Recommendations.

13. How do I rearrange the Skills? (Baltimore, MD)

With your profile in edit mode (which currently tends to be its default position), hover over one of your top ten skills. You’ll see a little icon of a pencil appear. Click on any one of those pencil icons, and you’ll see all the Skills become enabled. At that point, you can drag and drop any or all of them and just move them around at will. Just remember to scroll down and find (and click) the Save button at the bottom of the Skills section. It’s easy to miss, and then you’ll wonder why your changes didn’t take.

14. How do I delete a Skill, and not just move it? (Cranston, RI)

Follow the directions above, in the answer to #2, for how to rearrange the Skills. After they’ve become enabled, you’ll see an ‘X’ to the right of each of them. By clicking that ‘X’ you can delete that particular Skill. (And in case you delete the wrong ones, just click ‘Cancel’ instead of ‘Save’ at the bottom and you can bring them back.)

15. My personal LI page has more than 500 connections. Do I really want or need to start a Company page? (Philadelphia, PA)

The short answer is: It depends. I think too many people start focusing on a Company page when their personal profile isn’t yet complete and they haven’t yet figured out how to leverage LinkedIn from their personal page. As I mentioned, I think that’s where 80-90% of the action on LinkedIn is taking place. But since you have a complete profile and over 500 connections, this could be a good time for you to put some time into your Company page.

One of the benefits of doing so is that you’ll have another channel on which to post content that’s relevant and interesting to your clients and prospective clients. I think there’s some real potential in the Company pages, but only if the company in question has already made – or is willing to make – a commitment to publishing its own content. That can be a big commitment for a small firm, and especially for a solo. However, that is something my firm helps other companies with, so let me know if you’d like to discuss.

16. Is your experience in the USA only? How does all of this pertain to Canada? Can this relate to bookkeeping and tax prep? (Calgary, Canada)

I’ve helped people all over the world with their LinkedIn profiles and strategies, and yes, all of this LinkedIn training is just as relevant for Canadian business people and businesses as it is for Americans and U.S. businesses. In fact, LinkedIn is now in over 200 countries, and its fastest growth is happening outside the U.S.

And yes, bookkeeping and tax prep are very popular professions on LinkedIn, and you’ll find many, many of your peers active on LinkedIn. Do an Advanced Search on bookkeeping or tax preparation, and you’ll see what I mean.

17. I’m just getting started with skills, endorsements & recommendations, and it’s kind of hard to do because in the beginning someone will have just a few endorsements. Can that possibly make you look bad? (Philadelphia, PA)

You know, that reminds me of the old Chinese saying that the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago, but the second best time is today. It might be somewhat painful for a bit, but it will be well worth it in the long run.

One other thing to consider: If you start an active campaign to get endorsements right away, you could end up with a good number in a short period. As part of an endorsements campaign, you could message your connections with whom you have worked in the past and indicate that you’d just started displaying Skills and Endorsements, and that you hoped they might provide you with one or more Endorsements.

If that sounds a little pushy for your comfort level, you could do this instead: Reach out to some of your closest connections (whom you haven’t seen in a while) and suggest getting together to catch up, or at least reconnect by phone. Those conversations could not only bring you more Endorsements, but they could be part of a more full-fledged business development campaign of reconnecting with former colleagues, clients, and referral partners.

18. Will the Level I course be offered again for credit? If so, I would love to register. (Des Moines, IA)

Yes, the Level 1 course will be offered again in May, this time as a 90-minute webinar so that I have enough time to talk about everything in the detail it deserves. I believe we’re set for Tuesday, May 10 at 4:00 pm ET. It’s not posted on the CPA Academy site yet, but look for it in the next couple weeks.

However, since that’s nearly three months away, I’d recommend checking out the recorded Part 1 course from January. Even though you won’t get CPE credit for it, you’ll be able to start implementing its recommendations ASAP instead of delaying your progress on LinkedIn for three months. (And because the course is always getting updated – and in this case, expanded to 90 minutes – I’d still recommend that you check out the Part 2 course in May for credit.)

Finally, note that I’m talking with Scott Zarret at CPA Academy about converting my webinars into self-study CPE courses, so look for that in the future. We may do that with the class on May 10th. As you know, LinkedIn is something that changes many times throughout the year, so the content is always changing and needs to be kept updated.

19. You may want to warn people that they shouldn’t just take images from anywhere on the web. I find that Pixabay.com has the best free photo collection that I've come across. Also, making your own graphics is great for those who have that ability. (Allentown, PA)

Good idea. That’s an important point, and I’ll be sure to mention that going forward, because you can get in a lot of trouble with some companies by using their images in your blog posts or elsewhere online. In fact, there are some law firms who specialize in shaking down people who have done that, and these lawyers can use intimidating and bullying tactics, often for very questionable claims. I wouldn’t have believed it, but I witnessed it fairly recently with a client of mine who had been grabbing random photos off the web for use in their blog. Never again!

Pixabay looks good because even though they’re a Creative Commons company, they don’t insist that people give attribution. I say that only because jumping through the required hoops in what a particular individual or organization defines as proper attribution sometimes can be a painful experience. Plus, you have to be careful that the particular photo you’re selecting from a Creative Commons organization is actually allowed for commercial use, and that’s easy to miss.

I’ve found that it’s often easier just to pay a few bucks for a photo. I like istockphoto.com, but I’ll typically pay $30 or more for an image there. For less expensive options, dollarphotoclub.com is worth a look, but I’ve found that their photos are much more generic.

It’s great to hear about people’s favorite photo sites, because new ones are always being launched, and as I mentioned, images are incredibly important to helping get your LinkedIn published post some attention. The right image won’t guarantee that they’ll like your post, but you’ll typically get a lot more readers because it catches their eye more than just a headline and text.

20. Does it cost anything to do this? (Charlottesville, VA)

If you’re talking about using LinkedIn generally, no, it doesn’t cost anything. That said, there are many different levels of paid versions of the platform, all of which offer you more functionality than you get with the free version. I went into that in some detail on the Level 1 webinar, which you can still see as a recording on my page on the CPA Academy website.

If you had a specific functionality that you were wondering about whether it was different in the paid version, go ahead and leave a comment or reach out to me by email.

21. Re: my question re: a Showcase page for a niche, we tried a group for our big niche, but it's mostly inactive. That's why I'm interested in possibly starting a showcase page. (Allentown, PA)

As I mentioned, it can be difficult to get engagement in Groups, so that’s not too surprising. If you’re the owner of a group, it’s really up to you to try and get conversations going, and if you become a member of an inactive group, it can be next to impossible get people engaged. Different groups dealing with the same topics can have very different personalities, so keep looking.

A showcase page can be a good idea. Of course, some of the same challenges apply: It’s easy to put together, but you want to be sure that you have sufficient content to keep followers engaged. It looks as if I didn’t see your original question about showcase pages, so feel free to reach out to me with the full question.

22. Will there be a LinkedIn for CPAs, Level 3 course? (Hong Kong, China)

I’m considering it, but it may not be anytime real soon. It depends on demand. The next time I do the Level 1 and Level 2 webinars for CPA Academy (in May and June, 2016) I’m going to do them as 90-minute sessions instead of 60 minutes, and this will allow me to discuss a few more topics (or go into more detail) on each one.

A request to everyone: Let me know if you’d be interested in a Level 3 course, and specifically what you’d like to see covered, or covered in more detail, than what I’ve discussed in the Level 1 and Level 2 webinars.

23. How do you protect your information from competitive intelligence? Is it always a two-way street? (Philadelphia, PA)

LinkedIn is definitely a great tool for competitive intelligence, but yes, it’s definitely a two-way street. Information flows both ways, and we live in an increasingly transparent world.

That said, consider the fact that most people on LinkedIn are not overly proactive in this area, so A), most won’t be actively engaged in checking to see what their competitors are up to, and B) most of those who are that proactive still won’t use whatever information they’ve gained to change their behavior in any way. Stealing a line from Bonnie Raitt, I’d suggest that the most successful users of LinkedIn are giving them something to talk about.

24. Beyond having an “All-Star” profile and keeping your LinkedIn page current, what are your suggestions for “actively” using LI for business development vs. just having your profile out there? (Atlanta, GA)

I offered various ideas in the second half of the webinar. I look at success on LinkedIn as kind of like a three-part symphony. Part 1 is building a complete and compelling LinkedIn profile (which, as you know, is an ongoing process).

Part 2 is reaching out to others to build your network in a strategic manner so that it includes people who are – or can be – relevant to you and your business.

Part 3 is putting the results of Parts 1 and 2 to work by “getting social” to keep up with what your peers are doing and talking about (and incidentally, this will also help you stay “top of mind” with them); developing thought leadership through your own published posts; and using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to proactively find and target potential clients and referral partners in various business development campaigns.

25. If I’m going into working with breweries as my niche, would it be appropriate to have a picture of me with a beer? (Bellevue, WA)

I have to give you my classic answer: It depends. That sounds like a fun niche to me (and I’m guessing, to you, also), so a photo of you with a beer would appear to fit the personal brand that you’re going for. And I would guess that breweries tend to be laid-back businesses where the owners would think that your photo was a good sign that you were the right accountant for them.

On the other hand, I’ve heard stories about hotel-room-destroying rock bands that were adamant that their accountants, agents and business managers didn’t even think about adopting any of the rock & roll lifestyle. Not that having a beer in your hand is equivalent to smashing hotel rooms, etc., but I’m sure you get my point.

And I have to ask, would breweries be your only niche? Because if not, then holding a brew in your LinkedIn photo may not be the personal brand you really want to convey to your other clients.

You can always try it and see what feedback you get. Or, you could keep your LinkedIn page alcohol-free, and put the beer shot as one of several photos on your website, which might make it more palatable for some potential clients.

26. I’d like to learn more about sales/lead generation, how to search for potential clients, and the difference between the types of paid accounts. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

We covered how to use Advanced Search for lead generation in the webinar, as well as the differences between the free account and the paid accounts. I’m a huge fan of Advanced Search. Check out the replay, in case you missed it, as it should give you lots of ideas. And check out the final Q&A on this page, which discusses the free vs. paid issue.

27. How do I convert connections into money? (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Ah, the 64-million-dollar-question! As I mentioned on the webinar, that’s ultimately what this is all about, but in a  professional and strategic manner. So, if you’re looking for a quick money scheme, you won’t find it here, as I advocate a long-term process of brand-building and relationship-building.

However, if you commit to following the steps that I spelled out in the webinar, you’ll have a complete and compelling profile, the right connections, and you’ll find that your connections will be open to you reaching out to them about their needs and your services.

28. I constantly get messages from recruiters, but I’m not actively looking for a job. What’s the best way to handle this? Are there any cases when I should accept their invites? (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

I’m a big believer in Harvey Mackay’s mantra that you should dig your well before you’re thirsty. So, just because you’re not actively looking for a job today doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t make sense for you to connect with some recruiters.

However, saying that there are a ton of recruiters on LinkedIn is greatly underestimating just how many there are. And recruiters happen to be some of the most active users of the platform, so they’re always reaching out to build their network, and while it may not seem as if it’s always in a strategic manner, it’s clear that they well understand the value of having a large network.

I tend to take invites from recruiters on a case-by-case basis – as I recommend doing for all invites from everyone on LinkedIn. I’m connected to recruiters all over the world and that specialize in all different types of industries, but I’ve become more selective recently. Do they focus on my target market? My geography? If not, I may not accept their invite. On the other hand, if they’re connected to a lot of people I know, or if they seem active in publishing interesting posts on LinkedIn, I’ll be much more likely to accept.

29. I’m curious as to why you have Marketing repeated 3 times in your headline. Why not at least combine “Accounting & Legal Marketing”? (Atlanta, GA)

That’s a great question, as it may look a little strange, but it’s designed to leverage LinkedIn’s search algorithm. My professional headline is something that I’m always tweaking and testing, in order to see what best describes my services, what seems to resonate with my target market, and what will appear most often and most highly in the relevant search results.

My current (as of today) headline reads: “Marketing Consultant for Professionals | Legal Marketing & Accounting Marketing | Online Marketing | LinkedIn Training,” and as you know I’m a big fan of using all or most of the 120 characters available in the headline, and of thinking about the headline as a place to list one’s specializations, and not just one’s “job title.”

Because the LinkedIn search engine places such importance in your professional headline, you want to think about not only your human audience, but also your “machine audience.” That’s why including the most relevant keywords here can be so critical. And that’s why actually having the keywords listed exactly as they’re searched on can make a big difference.

With that in mind, people will typically search on either “legal marketing” or “accounting marketing,” but not on “legal & accounting marketing.” So, if someone searches on “legal marketing,” I want to appear as relevant as possible to LinkedIn so that my profile places as high as possible in an exact word search. One way to do this is to spell out the exact phrase that you know people will search on.

Does that make sense? It’s a balance, of course. You never want to be attracting the machines, but alienating the people. At least not until the machines start making the hiring decisions. (Which is coming soon, of course.) You’ll want to test this yourself and see what works best for you.

30. While you typically can’t connect with someone that you don’t know unless you know their email address, what I’ve done is pick a company and start out with something like, “While we haven’t met, I loved the interesting article you wrote in XYZ and I’d like to connect” or “While we haven’t met, I’m very well connected with finance executives in the financial services industry and would like to connect with you, as well,” etc. (Atlanta, GA)

This is a great way to invite people. Your first suggestion is similar to how I recommend reaching out to reporters, and I think it’s good for everyone who publishes. Show them that you’re familiar with – and value – their written work, and they’ll be much more receptive to you introducing yourself or inviting them to join your LinkedIn network.

I think your second suggestion is a good one, too, depending on the “social openness” of whom you’re targeting, as an individual, and overall, as an industry. I think this would be more useful for some industries and professions than others.

Mentioning one or more specific shared connections perhaps can be even more useful, because that makes things much more personal, as in, “Hmmm…this individual isn’t just targeting random finance executives, as they’re connected with Bob and Elizabeth…”

31. I get recommendations from people who have never used me for what they recommend. Should I try to stop them? (Tulsa, OK)

Are you talking about Recommendations, or do you really mean Endorsements? Recommendations on LinkedIn are the written testimonials of what a great employee or colleague you are, etc., whereas Endorsements are the one-click indications of support for the various Skills you have listed on your profile.

Both Recommendations and Endorsements can come only from people who are your first-level connections. But while Endorsements often can come from people who haven’t actually worked with you, my sense is that a personal Recommendation from someone who hasn’t worked with you would be a lot more unusual. Remember that you can always reject a Recommendation for any reason, and if the person hasn’t worked with you on what they’re specifically discussing, that’s a really good reason to reject it, since it would seem to be fraudulent.

On the other hand, Endorsements tend to be more casually given (sometimes based just on what other people have said about you, or even just on your listed Skills), so I think there’s more of an understanding that they’re not quite as meaningful as Recommendations. However, LinkedIn started strongly promoting Endorsements in the last couple years, and they’ve really taken off, people seem to pay a lot of attention to them, and LinkedIn appears to use them as part of their search algorithm, so in some ways, they currently appear more meaningful than Recommendations.

32. While I agree with you that Facebook is best for friends and family, and LinkedIn is better for business, I’ve noticed more and more CPAs and bookkeepers moving to Facebook for “continuing” conversations. (Ladera Ranch, CA)

That’s interesting. My first question would be, “Are they moving over to the CPA’s personal Facebook profile – or to the Facebook business page?”

If it’s their personal profile, then they’re definitely combining the personal and the business in way that I think most of us would not want to.

On the other hand, if it’s their Facebook business page, and they’re successfully moving online conversations there from LinkedIn, my hat’s off to them, because they would appear to be doing something right. But obviously, these conversations wouldn’t involve confidential matters, so I’m trying to figure out just what they’re talking about with such enthusiasm. Industry-related articles? Current trends? Or much more social, lightweight topics? I’d love to see some examples of this.

33. Where does one put keywords, and how does one use them, in LinkedIn? (Ladera Ranch, CA)

Keywords can be either individual words or multi-word phrases, and they are the words and phrases that potential clients use most frequently to find “someone like you.”

Just like Google uses the keywords on your website to determine how relevant your website is to somebody’s query in Google search, LinkedIn’s search engine uses the content of your LinkedIn profile to determine if you’re a good match for someone’s LinkedIn search.

So, keywords are just words and phrases that are incorporated into your LinkedIn profile (professional headline, Summary, job descriptions, etc.), but don’t think of them as being in there randomly. Instead, they’re put there in a very strategic manner. What words would someone use to find someone like you, with your experience, expertise and skills?

Always remember the attorney, who – before he and I talked – had neither the word “attorney” nor “lawyer” anywhere in his profile. He wasn’t coming up in a whole lot of LinkedIn searches because he didn’t understand the importance of keywords. And, of course, nobody searches on just “attorney” or “lawyer,” so the next step was to focus on what type of attorney he was, what types of law he focused on, how his target market might describe themselves in a search, etc.

34. Can you post to Pulse as a company, or only as an individual? (St. Petersburg, FL)

Currently, you can do so only as an individual. Which, of course, can be a great way to help brand individuals within the company as thought leaders.

35. Why did my monthly charge increase? I was paying $10/month, made one renewal, and am now paying twice that much ($250/year). I don’t understand the price increase...? (Phoenix, AZ)

I don’t have a simple answer for you, but I will say that I wasn’t aware there was a paid plan for as little as $10/month. Perhaps it was just a short-term (one-year?) promotion. I’d contact LinkedIn customer service to see what you can find out.

In the bigger picture, as we discussed on the webinar, LinkedIn’s pricing, plan names, and plan details not only change frequently, but can be different for different users, depending on what LinkedIn thinks you’ll be most interested in. In this way, LinkedIn has basically adopted its own flavor of dynamic pricing, which can make it difficult to compare plans. And unfortunately, they’re not offering a “price-for-life” deal. That would be worth investigating.

36. Is the paid membership worthwhile? (Henderson, NV)

As I mentioned on the webinar, this question demands the classic answer of “It depends.” It depends on how many in-depth searches you want to run (and how many hundreds of results you want to see); how actively you want to use inMails to contact people on LinkedIn that you’re not connected to; and more recently, how badly do you want to stay anonymous while viewing the profiles of others, while also seeing the details of who has viewed your profile.

I addressed this on several slides, but my overall recommendation is that most people can be very productive and successful using the free version. Another way of saying that is that it’s not the free version that holds people back from leveraging LinkedIn. That said, for some people (including myself) one or more of the issues mentioned above eventually becomes reason enough to sign up for a paid version.

And you can always sign up for a paid membership on a month-to-month basis, so you can try it out for a limited time to see if it appears to make a difference for you.

Leave a comment