Canadian Business contributor Melissa Edwards is part of a large and growing club: professionals who have slapped together a LinkedIn account but aren't sure exactly what to do with it. We asked three social media experts-Nichole Wesson of recruitment-marketing firm MidlynDay, Vancouver IT executive Jenn Smyth and Danielle Restivo of LinkedIn Canada-to cast a critical eye on Melissa's LinkedIn profile to help her improve her online image and make the most of the world's largest social network for careerists.


1. SHOW YOUR FACE
Profiles with a photo are seven times more likely to be viewed, according to Restivo. "This one isn't bad," she says, "but it's diluted by having someone else in the background, and it's very dark." Restivo recommends a headshot with a plain background, and not including unrelated hobby props like ski goggles-or best friends.

2. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
T his title space needs dynamic words, says Wesson. Wesson also thinks Melissa should capitalize on the "social" in social media by using her summary to be more personal and tell a story about herself. Using searchable keywords in both the summary and title-in this case, "writer" rather than "writing"-will get the attention of people searching for specific skills. But avoid generic buzzwords, says LinkedIn's Restivo: "Last year's overused word was 'creative.' We've also had 'strategic' and 'results-driven.' Speak to what's unique about you."

3. STICK TO BUSINESS
Wesson thinks Melissa should make use of the status-update feature- but not Facebook-style. Keep to work-related matters, like asking research questions, sharing high-level information or linking to articles.

4. U R YOUR URL
Users should customize their LinkedIn URLs to get the best search ranking, says Restivo. Melissa's name is common, so she'll likely need to add a suffix-ideally, something punchier than MelissaEdwards1234 and more professional than Melissa- EdwardsBeerParty2Nite.

5. DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
Smyth says it's important to expand on listings in the Experience section, rather than just name jobs, as Melissa has done. "When I'm looking to hire people, I appreciate seeing what mark they made in each role. List what you accomplished, not just what you were responsible for."

6. FLAUNT WHAT YOU'VE GOT
"If you don't promote yourself, who will?" says Wesson. Having awards, volunteer experience and links is great, but Melissa should also add any blogs, projects or online portfolios. Melissa should also think about her expertise and add the Skills feature to list it. "I've been contacted because I included diversity marketing skills there," Wesson says.

7. THE HIVE MIND IS WATCHING
"When someone gets a lot more active on the newsfeed, it's common to hear, 'Oh, so-and-so must be thinking about a move,'" says Smyth. Keeping a profile up to date is accepted practice, and a freelancer needn't worry, but Smyth advises wage slaves to be cautious about doing too much polishing at once and suddenly flooding their activity feed with recommendations, accomplishments and new contacts. "Or," she says, "you could do it to indirectly tell your boss you aren't happy."

8. LEVERAGE THE LINK IN LINKEDIN
"As you add more contacts, you start to see more activity and opportunities," says Smyth, who landed her current job by asking a LinkedIn contact at the company for an introduction and endorsement. Still, you're wise to be choosy when soliciting and accepting invitations. "If you connect to anyone and everyone, you may find you're asked to recommend someone in your list and you have no idea who it is," says Restivo. "If you can't answer 'How do you know them' on the invite form, you shouldn't be connecting."

9. RECOMMEND SELECTIVELY
Wesson likes that Melissa has written a recommendation, and suggests she offer more to other colleagues she respects. "If you feel confident about someone's work, put it in writing. It shows you have a far reach and you're really working with people." In return, Melissa can expect to receive several reciprocal recommendations-but Wesson suggests accepting only a handful, or soliciting them from strategically chosen connections instead. "If someone has too many, I wonder what they're trying to make me believe," she says.


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