When LinkedIn launched in 2003, it was the social networking site people sought out to find a job. If your boss saw you on LinkedIn, it wasn’t a good sign.
Today, LinkedIn is regarded as the premiere site for global professionals interested in learning from, connecting with, and sharing resources with like-minded individuals around the world. With more than 610 million users in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn promises to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”
As a veteran who chose entrepreneurship after your military career, LinkedIn can be a treasure trove of leads, information, contacts, insights and opportunities to build your brand to a focused audience.
Here are some best practices for using LinkedIn to position your entrepreneurial self and ventures.
1. Create a strategy. With a solid strategy and game plan, you’ll be able to measure and evaluate your marketing, connections and the return on investment you’ll garner from LinkedIn. Your strategy should include:
- What are your goals for being on LinkedIn? Are they primarily information gathering, networking with potential investors or customers, positioning your unique value proposition, or sourcing business partners?
- Who are you targeting? Be clear about the target audience you primarily will speak to and position to on LinkedIn. While you can have secondary audiences that you’ll relate to as well, the primary target audience is your main focus.
- What do you want them to know about you? As you build your entrepreneur brand, what skills, capabilities, experiences, talents or competencies do you want the target audience to know about you?
- What do you want them to feel? Feelings matter a great deal in positioning yourself. Think about the emotional needs of your target audience: What do they care about? What makes them happy, intrigued, sad or fearful? What feelings do you want them to attach to you?
- What do you want them to do? Your posts, updates, profile, etc. on LinkedIn should have a call to action. What do you want people to do when they find you and are interested in having a conversation? For example, you might want them to call you, visit your website, GoFundMe or Indiegogo page, or call your references. These calls to action should be consistent across your LinkedIn posts and profile.
2. Create a plan. Decide what level of effort and resources you’ll be willing to invest to build up and build out your profile. Consider:
- How many hours a day or week can you devote to posting, commenting, responding and connecting on LinkedIn?
- Do you need to engage an intern or colleague to help you build your presence on LinkedIn?
- What groups will you most actively participate in on LinkedIn? How will they serve you?
- What keywords best connect your vision and business to the needs of your target audience? Remember to focus on keywords that your audience cares about and uses often.
What metrics will you use to determine success on LinkedIn? Will you count the number of connections, “likes”, comments or quality of referrals?
3. Build your profile. As an entrepreneur who also served his or her country, be sure to highlight successes, training and accomplishments that relate to your goals going forward. Your profile should clearly tell the story (narrative) of how your military and educational background, combined with your passion and vision, qualify you to be a successful entrepreneur. Investors and business partners will want to see track record, vision and commitment. Be sure to tell your story so that they view you as a viable and worthy investment to support.
Then, get started! Share articles, ideas, information, updates and celebrations that highlight your goals and show you as an expert in your field. Help investors, customers, business partners and future employees see how your entrepreneurial acumen -- combined with your military experience and passion -- make you a great resource and asset to their network.
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