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Make your LinkedIn profile an online reputation management tool

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by Staff Writer

linked in on a smartphone

This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.

With over 750 million users, Facebook may be the king of general social networking, but when it comes to professional networking, LinkedIn is definitely on top.

Since it was launched in 2003, LinkedIn has become one of the most popular professional social networking websites on the Internet, boasting 120 million members in over 200 countries around the world as of August 2011. Best of all, those 120 million users aren’t there to share inane details about their life but rather to meet other professionals in their field, to expand their skill sets, and to promote their positive reputations on the Web.

If you’re not already using LinkedIn to promote your good name online, you should be. Besides the fact that it will help you expand your professional network, a strong LinkedIn profile can help offset any negative content about you online (or protect you from slander or inaccurate content in the future). So, it makes an effective online reputation management tool.

Here are some tips to make your LinkedIn profile a great tool to help manage and promote your positive online reputation.

Make your summary shine

One of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile is your summary. It’s here that you can tell the world in your own words just why you’re the best accountant, veterinarian, contractor or whatever it is that you do (and why employers should want to work with you soon).

In many ways, your LinkedIn summary is like a cover letter you’re sending to the world. It’s an opportunity to explain who you are, what you’ve done during your career and why you’re good at doing it.

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In writing your summary,

  • don’t focus too much on specific accomplishments but rather on your core skills and experience.
  • You should try to distill your summary into one or two paragraphs so that you don’t bore the reader or sound self-aggrandizing.
  • Also, don’t forget to use strong keywords related to your profession, so that recruiters can find you. You can list relevant keywords in the “Specialties” section of your summary.

Recognize that the summary is the core best online reputation management tool on LinkedIn.

Use your vanity URL

All LinkedIn profiles come with the option of creating a customized vanity URL for your public profile. It’s important that you use your vanity URL so that individuals searching for you on Google can find your information more easily.

To create your URL:

  • Click on the Profile tab, and select Edit Profile.
  • From here, scroll down to Public Profile and click Edit.
  • Next, under Your Current Profile URL, select “Customize your public profile URL.”

To get the maximum effect out of your vanity profile, you should use whatever name someone would most likely search when looking for information about you. If you have a common name, such as John Smith, for example, you can add some other qualifier to your LinkedIn vanity URL such as your current city or your primary job function (for example, JohnSmithTuscon or JohnSmithCPA).

Be specific about your experience

Some people call LinkedIn your online resume, but that doesn’t go quite far enough in describing its usefulness. Typically, because of the length and design restraints of most resumes, you don’t have much space to talk about your previous positions. With LinkedIn, you have lots of space to talk about your former jobs, and you should use as much of it as you can.

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Under each previous position, make sure to add your specific job function along with specific accomplishments that set you apart from your peers.

While this should go without saying, don’t lie or exaggerate your work history to try to sound more experienced than you are. If a past position doesn’t seem like it’s anything worth writing about, consider how your role fits into the greater context of your company and work on crafting a strong sentence or two about that.

The reputation value of having a strong and honest recommendation from a former manager, coworker or client is immeasurable. There are some tricks to getting a good recommendation though.

First, before asking someone for a recommendation, make sure the person can speak to your work. It might sound good to have the CEO write you a recommendation, but if he or she only offers vague praise about your being a hard worker, it’s not as valuable as you think. Seek recommendations from the people who know your skills the best, so they can give you a specific shout-out that clearly demonstrates your value as an employee.

Similarly, if someone asks you to recommend their work, and you’re comfortable doing so, give them specific praise. Always remember, however, that you don’t have to give a recommendation if you don’t want to.

Your reputation depends not only on who says good things about you, but also on who you’re saying good things about. If you give someone a positive recommendation just because they asked, even though you don’t have much knowledge of their work, and they end up messing up somewhere down the road, it could reflect poorly on you.

Connect your LinkedIn profile to your greater online identity

Do you have your own blog or use other Web tools such as Facebook or Twitter? LinkedIn makes it very easy to share your other Web accounts via its Websites section.

Are online reputation issues hurting your job prospects? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Professional Websites: Here, LinkedIn provides three spaces for you to add links to your most relevant professional websites. While LinkedIn already offers suggestions such as My Website, My Blog, and My Company as link titles, for the best SEO benefit from your links, use the dropdown menu to select Other and write a custom title for whatever it is you’re linking to, such as John Smith’s Personal Homepage.

Twitter: In addition to listing links to your other Web properties, LinkedIn integrates Twitter accounts into its functionality, allowing users who also use Twitter to share their tweets on LinkedIn. When you integrate your Twitter account into LinkedIn, you’ll be asked if you want all your tweets shared. We recommend avoiding this option so that you don’t accidentally share something inappropriate or irrelevant with your professional connections. Instead, choose the option where you only share Tweets on your LinkedIn profile if you use the hashtag “#in” at the end of your Twitter update.  Combining these two social networking sites is a great online reputation management tool.

Join a group

Unlike Facebook, which is rife with irrelevant, silly or other groups not appropriate for work, groups on LinkedIn tend to be useful for expanding your professional network.

An additional benefit of joining a LinkedIn group is that it increases the number of people you can contact through a direct message. Typically, the only way to send a direct message to someone is if you’re a first-degree contact. For second- and third-degree contacts, you typically have to ask for someone to arrange an introduction. However, if you share a group with someone who has his or her account set to accept messages from other group members, you can connect with the person directly.

Often, LinkedIn groups revolve around geography, so if you’re a member of a regional network (Software Programmers in Silicon Valley, for example), you’ll frequently find yourself receiving invitations to networking events and meet-ups. Attending these can be useful in helping you take your online brand offline and actually meet some of the people whom you know only digitally.

Be proactive

Now that you have a world-class LinkedIn profile to help you protect your reputation online, don’t just sit back and relax. To really manage your online reputation, you have to be proactive with your online reputation management tool. Get out there and start connecting with others in your field today to build your professional brand and make yourself an indispensable asset for your company.