What I like about Linkedin endorsements

It’s hard to find anyone with a good word to say about Linkedin endorsements. I have been very critical of them myself. In this post I will summarise what the fuss is all about, share some related tips and then end by explaining what I like about the facility.

What is all the fuss about?

When anyone with whom you are connected looks at your profile they will be encouraged to endorse your skills in certain areas. You will also be encouraged to do this when you visit someone else’s profile. This only happens with level-one connections, so random strangers cannot endorse you nor vice-versa, (unless you have connected with a lot of random strangers).

The problem with endorsements is that it’s too easy to click and post them. It’s become a game and there is no facility to add any context or meaning – so endorsements have very little credibility. They are very different to ‘recommendations’ although many users confuse the two facilities.

Skills you don’t have

There seem to be two types of skills for which you can be endorsed. The first are those that you have chosen to add to your profile. The second are related skills that Linkedin thinks you might have based on the skills you have identified.

Don’t judge others

It’s important to remember that loads of people on Linkedin do not understand the facility. They see a question asking whether you “…have these skills or expertise?” and  simply think that they are being helpful if they ‘agree’ that you do.  They are unaware that some of the skills on the list were generated by Linkedin.

In my case for example, I used to have hundreds of endorsements for ‘tax’ (as when i was in practice I was a tax adviser). This resulted in Linkedin prompting people to endorse me for related skills such as income tax, CGT, VAT, IHT etc. I have been downplaying my tax expertise for some time – not least because i stopped being a tax adviser in 2006. So I don’t have skills in those areas any more – if I ever did. I haven’t asked anyone to endorse me for them. I doubt anyone thinks to do so unprompted by Linkedin. But still it was happening.  This only stopped when i removed the suggestion I was skilled in ‘tax’ from my profile.

Tips

  1. Avoid accepting rogue endorsements for skills you do not possess.
  2. If your profile currently contains rogue endorsements, use the ‘edit profile’ facility to remove them. Leave only those real skills that you actually have so as to avoid confusing anyone who looks at your profile.
  3. I wouldn’t place any great store by a few endorsements on a Linkedin profile and I don’t think many other users would do so either. It’s a little different when you have many hundreds of them (as I do) but even I seem unable to ensure that my top endorsed skills are those I really want to highlight. Such as ‘public speaking’ for example.
  4. If you want to be endorsed for things you are good at do ensure you have listed them as skills on your profile. Linkedin will prompt you to expand on some of these so ‘tax’, for example, generates a sub-list of different taxes.
  5. Pick only those skills for which you have real expertise. The skills you show on your profile will help it to show up when users search for those qualities – although I tend to doubt how often anyone does that in isolation.
  6. When Linkedin prompts you to endorse someone, think carefully and choose only to do so by reference to those skills you genuinely believe they possess.
  7. If you want to help an old friend, colleague or service provider:
    • scroll down their profile and click to endorse the sills and expertise that they have listed themselves and that you recognise as relevant and useful. Better yet –
    • take a moment to add a genuine recommendation to their profile by following the link from the ‘send a message’ box on their profile.

So what DO I like about Linkedin endorsements?

Despite the widespread dislike and criticism they seem to be here to stay. So it’s a question of looking for the upsides. Here are mine:

  • They provide an opportunity and a reason to get back in touch with people who endorse you – whether for skills you do have or for those you don’t!
  • You may find that you are more skilled that you had realised. If lots of people endorse you for the same skill that is not on your profile, perhaps it should be. Perhaps. I have seen this suggested elsewhere by people who seem unaware that such skills may simply have been generated by Linkedin such that no one really thinks you have the skill in question. But it’s worth thinking about, just in case.
  • They provide a reason to review your profile to ensure that it highlights your real skills and expertise – thus making it more informative for those people who don’t yet know you well.

Last resort
If, despite everything I have said you would rather just remove all reference to endorsements from your profile, you can hide them from view. Use the ‘edit profile’ facility and scroll down to ‘Skills & Expertise’. Click on the pencil icon and then click on ‘Display your endorsements’ and select ‘No, don’t show my endorsements’.

Have I missed anything? What do YOU think about the endorsements facility on Linkedin?

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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Lessons for accountants from….dating sites

I was fascinated to hear a friend of a friend bemoaning the challenge of finding suitable guys to date online.

The lady in question (we’ll call her ‘Brenda’) is looking for guys 45-65, but is routinely put off by their photos and their profiles.

It seems that few have thought about how to create the best first impression. And this is the lesson I want to share today.

It’s been a while since I blogged about how ‘You never get a second chance to create a first impression’.

Now it is perfectly possible that the guys who approach ‘Brenda’ are just as choosy as she is. Perhaps they want someone who will accept them, warts and all. For them maybe it’s best that they haven’t tailored their dating profiles. Perhaps there are women who look to date guys who think it makes sense to use a photo that shows them half drunk, with a pint of beer in their hand wearing a football t-shirt that is too small for them.

But I bet it would be easier for such guys to find their ideal woman if they posted more attractive photos and less self-centred profiles.

What impression do prospective clients get from the photos they see of you on your website and elsewhere in your online profiles? If you have a unique name try a google image search. Is the person you find looking back at you approachable and mature or stupid, sad or boring?

Does your profile describe you as the perfect date or as the ideal accountant? By all means include some evidence of your personality and outside interests. But remember your profile’s job is to evidence you as an experienced, able and approachable accountant.

My tip of the week then is to set out the adjectives and description of you that you would like to stress in your online profiles, website and photos. Now ask someone else to review your preferred photo and profiles. What adjectives and description come to mind? If there is a disconnect you had better make some changes.

You might try the same exercise if you are looking for love on dating sites too 😉

Related posts: How to build your personal brand and Online profiles – make sure yours isn’t boring

Related ebook: How to be more than ‘just another accountant’.

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I have thousands of Linkedin connections – so what?

How did I get to have so many connections and does it mean anything?

The first thing to stress is that I don’t seek out or accept random connections. If anyone within my target audience sectors asks to connect with me, I agree and send a personal note back. I also send personal notes to anyone I spot whom I know or who I would like to know and add as a new connection.

When I receive connection requests from strangers who are not from the accountancy or tax world, I send a note back asking them to confirm why they want to connect with me. If they respond with a good answer I agree to connect. Otherwise I go back and ‘ignore’ the connection request.

Using this approach means I probably agree to around one-third of the connection requests I receive. And I initiate just a few requests each week.

Despite being so choosy, I now have over 5,500 1st level connections [Edited: Sept 2016] on Linkedin. And they are all therefore 2nd level connections with each other.

Because I have resisted connection requests from complete strangers, I rarely end up receiving spam messages through Linkedin. I think these are much more likely if you agree to connect with random people who may think that Linkedin is a new way to spam people.

I can count on the fingers of one hand how often I have had to go to the connections tab on Linkedin, search my connections for someone who has sent me spam and then disconnect from them. I think it has happened twice in the last 7 years.

Compared with LIONS* my 3,000 figure is nothing. But compared to most people in our profession is a very healthy number. And I’m happy that it looks set to continue rising exponentially. If you’re reading this and we’re not yet connected on Linkedin you know what to do.

*LIONS are LinkedIn Open NetworkerS – They promote the fact that they connect with anyone and everyone. This approach has never appealed to me as past experience (on another platform) revealed the dangers and risks of connecting with so many strangers who then waste my time.

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If you want to understand how accountants especially can gain maximum value from Linkedin, see my ebook on Linkedin for accountants.  You will gain loads of key profile tips to make you more attractive online; you will learn how to get more valuable vs random connections and how to enhance your lead generation efforts. Check out the ebook NOW!

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Social Media Policies for accountants – update

I have heard a number of stories about firms of accountants trying to limit their staff (and partners’) access to social media sites. This is generally based on fear of the unknown. The motives may also be driven by misconceptions drawn from misleading, inaccurate or simply ill-informed media reports and references to twitter, facebook and even Linkedin.

Here are some key questions to consider before you implement any such changes:

1 – Are we all agreed as to what counts as a social media site? Many people would include Linkedin which is more of as an online business networking site. And that’s certainly how I use it. Limiting partners’ access to Linkedin is to limit the firm’s potential to secure profitable new clients. Far better to invest in some training so that everyone knows HOW to use Linkedin effectively and uses similar wording to describe the  firm in their profiles.

2 – It’s probably not just social media sites you want to stop your staff accessing during working hours. There are plenty of other non-work related websites that staff may access. Some with video feeds. What about news junkies? TV soap junkies? Staff planning their nights out? Those with health issues? Sports fans? The list goes on and on. Why focus on social media sites?

3 – What about access to these sites that is achieved via staff’s personal smart-phones? over 3G, 4G or via your wifi connection? So many options. What about personal phone calls? Long ones vs short ones?

Surely what REALLY matters is whether staff are focused on working or on personal matters during working hours. What do you do about those who start early and finish late but spend 20 mins on non-work websites during the day?

If you can’t trust the staff working for you in a professional office you need to review your recruitment, appraisal and promotion policies. And do check with an employment lawyer before you start making changes to employment terms and conditions. The second part of this update will summarise the issues to consider in this regard.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

 

 

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Online profiles – make sure yours isn’t boring

Online profiles are everywhere now. They appear on many firms’ websites, on social networking sites and on Linkedin. Actually pretty much all of the points below apply equally to any printed profile or CV you might produce too.

When you’re writing yours please don’t focus on the boring stuff – where you were born, what you did at school or college or your first few jobs (unless you’re very young and they are all still relevant).

Focus instead on the recent stuff, the relevant stuff and how what you do can make a difference. What have you achieved that benefits your clients, your current employer or your current firm? What expertise can you talk about that a prospective client might be looking for? What about a new employer or firm who is looking for a new recruit?

How much the same as every other accountant do you seem to be? Can you highlight real differences, a special focus, a niche?

Even your online profile photo can impact whether or not you look boring to people. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The key thing to stress is that you need to be authentic, consistent (not in a boring way!), enjoy yourself (without alienating anyone else) and evidence your enthusiasm – without going O.T.T.  Keep in mind the sort of people you hope will read your online profile and what they will find of interest. The boring stuff is rarely going to be key.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Ten clues your Linkedin profile is boring

Here’s a quick checklist to review in case your Linkedin profile is giving the impression that you are boring. That will certainly the case if your profile matches all ten!

  1. Photo: None or one of you sitting at a desk.  Note the additional prominence given to photos in the ‘new look’ profile layouts.
  2. Headline: Accountant. Nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Skills and expertise: None or simply compliance focused recurring services.
  4. Recommendations: None given and none received.
  5. Groups: Either ‘None’ or you only belong to those with the word ‘accountants’ in the title
  6. Summary (of current role): Description of your accountancy practice.
  7. Previous roles: Absence of any detail of interest
  8. Websites: Not personalised
  9. Interests: ‘None’ or only those related to your role as an accountant
  10. Status updates: Either ‘None’ or self promotional

Remember, Boring Is Optional. But if you don’t make the effort you make it all too easy for people to assume you fit the archetypal stereotype. To be successful you need to stand out from the crowd.

 PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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Why consistency is important on social media

Most accountants who become active on social media do so in the hope of attracting more clients.

If this is your intention or you want to evidence your credibility, I suggest that you adopt a consistent business focus across your websites, blogs, online networking and contributions to business forums. It also helps to show that you’re a real person with more to your life than accountancy and tax – although you should try to avoid a situation where there are conflicting views of who you are and what you do – as this causes confusion.  I know. I confuse people!

Careless status updates and tweets can damage your reputation if they suggest a very different level of activity and focus as distinct from your website.

  • One accountant claiming to have quickly established a busy practice routinely posts status updates that suggest he has very little work and perhaps is not the start-up success he claims to be.
  • Another accountant tries to use Twitter to highlight his expertise as a tax adviser. This might have been a good idea, except that his website highlights his expertise is only in the area of corporate finance. In practice he is simply using an automated tool (badly) to promote his services. He doesn’t engage online and is only tweeting ‘adverts’. This is generally regarded as a pointless tactic – whether on twitter, Linkedin, on business forums or on blogs.

These are just two examples from many I have noted online. Please share any others that you have seen or that you would like to warn readers about.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Linkedin is quite distinct from other ‘social media’

I have made this point explicitly three times in the last 24hrs in response to different stimuli. It’s something I have also stressed in my talks, articles and blogs in recent years.

In my view you should be wary of anyone who simply references ‘social media’ in the context of accountants (or indeed other senior professionals). If they do not distinguish LinkedIn as distinct from other social media then they are probably insufficiently familiar with LinkedIn and/or accountants to be offering you advice. And the basis for their opinions may be suspect too. There are, sadly, a number of marketing and so-called social media ‘experts’ attempting to persuade naive accountants that they need a ‘social media strategy’. In fact the only people who will see any material reward for this ‘social media strategy’ will be the external consultants.

I accept that some generic definitions of Social Media would include LinkedIn. But it’s very different to twitter and Facebook as I showed in an earlier blog post: Comparing LinkedIn, facebook, twitter and ecademy. Yet facebook and twitter are the platforms most accountants and business people associate with the phrase ‘social media’. There are also other popular (and unpopular) social media platforms. But Linkedin is the only really business focused form of social media.

Do accountants use LinkedIn? Can they benefit from being actively engaged on LinkedIn? Or simply from being registered therein? Yes. Yes. Yes. Should accountants have a strategy to gain maximum benefit from Linkedin? Yes.

Does this mean there is a need for accountants to  adopt a wider ‘social media strategy’? No. Is the common disdain for Facebook or the concerns about twitter relevant to accountants’ use of LinkedIn? No. Could accountants benefit from other forms of social media? Yes. But each medium requires a very different approach and attitude. And none are as business focused as LinkedIn. So there is no need to rush this.

Tell me. Do you agree that it’s better to consider Linkedin distinct from other ‘social media’ or do you think accountants can benefit from a single social media strategy? Please share your views below.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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How accountants can use Linkedin groups

There are thousands of Groups on Linkedin and some are of more value to accountants than others.

If you scroll down someone’s profile on Linkedin you can see the Groups to which they belong. ‘Belong’ – the list doesn’t reveal whether they are active in those groups, or indeed whether anyone is active there.

It can be worth joining some Groups on Linkedin even if you are not planning on being very active therein. By so doing you can emphasise your interest in areas related to your expertise and your practice focus – for example businesses in your area.  And of course if you do either start or join in discussions you may well find that prospective clients get in touch. Or other opportunities may come your way; probably more than would become apparent if you remain completely passive on Linkedin.

If you are unsure which groups to join:

  • Consider those that your prospects belong to. You can find these by looking at the profiles of prospective clients on Linkedin and scrolling down to see the groups to which they belong.
  • You can also use the Groups Directory by clicking on the ‘Groups’ link on the top menu bar on any Linkedin page. After you click on ‘Groups Directory’ you can search for relevant groups by using key words (eg: Burnley business, Watford business networks and so on), and exploring different categories (eg: Networking, Professional, Other).
  • Linkedin also has a “Groups you may like” function that suggests Groups based on your current profile and connections.

To assess which Groups are worth joining, consider how many members they have, who established them, whether they are location specific and how active are the discussion forums.

Currently Linkedin allows you to join up to 50 Groups. This should be sufficient for most accountants. If you need to you can search for topic and location specific groups that contain concentrations of people that you would like to network with. It is also worth checking out the level of participation and conversations in the Discussions area of a Group. If you find these are largely self publicists or recruiters you may well decide that the Group will be of little benefit.

Ironically, you will often find that the best groups for lead generation are those that don’t tolerate blatant self-promotion.

You may also choose to join Linkedin Groups related to personal, social or other non-business interests. Whilst not crucial, you can choose to ‘hide’ your membership of these non-business focused Groups if you wish to do so. This means that they will not appear at the foot of your profile when someone (other than you) is viewing it.

One key tip is to drop out of Groups that are of little value to you. For me these tend to be Groups where the ‘discussions’ are mostly posted by recruiters or of a self-promotional nature.

You can leave a group at any time if you find that the members or discussions are of no interest to you.  (Go to the Home page of the group you wish to leave and click on ‘More…’ on the horizontal menu bar beneath the group name. On the dropdown list that appears, click on ‘Your settings’. At the bottom right of this page is a button that allows you to ‘Leave Group’).

Do ensure that you also join the ‘Ambitious Accountants – UK‘ group on Linkedin. I run it exclusively for accountants and it has no suppliers or recruiters to spoil the flow of valuable discussions.

How else might accountants benefit from using Linkedin Groups?

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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A dozen key tips for your Linkedin profile

I’ve been advocating Linkedin as a key online networking opportunity for accountants and other busy professionals for a few years now.

I’ve realised something important was missing though: A post containing my tips and advice for someone who would benefit from enhancing their profile to make it work for them. This is all simple stuff and doesn’t involve adding any apps or doing anything new.

You can edit your profile at any stage. Go the ‘Profile’ tab – top left of the Linkedin screen. The first drop down option allows you to edit each and every section of your profile as often as you feel the need.

Simply click the links marked ‘Add’ or ‘edit’ and make whatever changes you choose. To ensure your profile has maximum professional impact I would suggest that you ensure that your profile:

• Includes a headline title, after your name, that describes your role and approach rather than simply repeats the title on your business card; and makes clear you operate in the ‘accounting’ industry. The only reason to choose a different industry would be if you were, for example, exclusively a specialist accountant or tax adviser for, say,the computer games industry.

• Displays your full name

• Includes a professional type photo in which you are recognisable so that someone meeting you in real life will already ‘know’ you from your photo and online interactions

• References your current role at your firm and indicates that it is an accountancy business

• Contains descriptive Website links that point to your firm’s website and to any specific landing page or blog you want to highlight. In each case, choose the ‘Other’ option (rather than the generic ‘Company website’) and then describe the link. This makes the nature of the links more obvious. For example, rather than ‘Business Website’ my three links are set up as:

o Other – Mark’s personal website and bloghttp://www.BookMarkLee.co.uk
o Other – Tax Advice Networkhttp://www.TaxAdviceNetwork.co.uk
o Other – Referrals from Accountants http://www.ReferralsFromAccountants.co.uk

• Has a personalised ‘public profile’ URL link rather than one that ends with a load of superfluous numbers (as is automatically generated by Linkedin). A personalised, tidy link makes you look more professional and enables you to reference the link more easily on your business card, website and in articles etc. When you edit your public profile link you are given a list of options on the right hand side of the screen. Unless you have a good reason for wanting to keep part of your profile hidden from the search engines and from people looking for you, I recommend you make every element of your profile visible to everyone. But you can choose to keep parts of it hidden if you want to do so.

• Makes clear you are an approachable, experienced and fully rounded person in the ‘Summary‘ area. This should be written in the first person and also reference your current role and responsibilities. However, this is NOT the place to promote your firm. That’s best done on the firm’s own separate and distinct Linkedin Business page.

• Includes all of your skills and expertise. If you want to be found easily when someone searches Linkedin for an accountant with your specialist experience, ensure that the words and phrases you use here are those that people might search for.

• Includes in the ‘Experience’ section the same name of your firm as your colleagues are using so that you are all linked to the same firm!  (It is up to you how much of your personal job history you include on your profile. Do keep it honest).

• Includes your business email address in preference to a personal, gmail or hotmail address. The latter are more common for job hunters than for serious professional advisers. LinkedIn does not display your e-mail addresses to the public, only to your direct connections. You can also set tings up so that Linkedin emails you at a personal address even if your business address shows on your profile.

KEY TIP for your Linkedin profile

This is a key tip if you want to benefit from SEO withhin Linkedin when users are looking for someone like you: Ensure you include your key words (eg: accountant and tax) in the five key elements of your profile:

  1. Headline
  2. Current work experience
  3. Past work experience
  4. Summary
  5. Specialities.

Think about what terms and words people might be using to search for an accountant like you. The more often you include these in those five elements of your profile, the easier it will be for you to be found – which is the main idea (especially if you’re not planning on using Linkedin actively).

There are other things you can do to enhance your profile on Linkedin but the above list is a pretty basic minimum and quite easy to do.

Your public profile

Your Linkedin profile will also appear in the search results when someone is looking for you on Google or Bing etc. And often your profile will appear higher up the search results page than your website – especially if the latter is focused on your buinsss rather than on the person who the user was searching for.

Compare and be inspired

Check out the Linkedin profiles of other accountants like you who have plenty of direct connections. Avoid copying the approach of naive newer users of Linkedin and especially of those with few connections (eg: less than 500). Instead check out what the more  successful and active accountants on Linkedin are doing. One place to find loads of switched on accountants is the ‘Ambitious Accountants – UK‘ group on Linkedin.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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