At the root of every ineffective LinkedIn profile and wasted status update is a lack of planning and forethought. Even with over 300+ million users, most people are on LinkedIn in a reactive capacity. They created a profile because others invited them to connect and when they post it’s because they heard somewhere that they were supposed to. They are missing the strategic component that will enable them to leverage their time. They haven’t thought through what they are trying to accomplish and therefore they accomplish very little.
Asking and answering a few simple strategic questions can go a long way to making your LinkedIn experience much easier, more effective, and more efficient. It’s important to know what you are trying to say before you look at the ways that you can say it. A clear focus is the biggest differentiator between a good and bad online presence.
Before you work through your profile and subsequent interactions on LinkedIn, there are three important questions to examine.
1. What are your most important business goals?
Though they may seem obvious to you, it’s important for you to be able to articulate the goals that you are working towards in your career. Can you clearly spell them out? If they remain vague ideas, then you will struggle to communicate them. It’s not enough to say, “I am trying to advance in my company” or “I want to get more clients”. Be exact. Try writing the answer down… you’ll find the exercise requires you to take the fuzzy ideas in your head and make them concrete.
It doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as saying, “I want to develop relationships with the leadership in my company so that I can get a promotion in the next 12 months.” If you are in sales you could say, “I want to increase my pipeline of high-level prospects so that I can close five additional deals this quarter.” Looking for a new position? How about, “I want to increase my visibility as an expert in my field.”
2. Who is the most important audience for you to communicate with?
There will be many different people viewing your profile. If you try to speak to all of them at the same time, your message will be very muddled. Identify the most useful group to hear your message. Your profile and content should focus on this group.
That doesn’t mean you should exclude everyone else outside your target audience, but they should be able to understand your message (and who it is for) if you are clear enough. For example, executives who focus on the decision-makers at their client companies will still be understandable to their peers and other industry professionals. Those “third-party observers” will realize the main intent of the message and still be able to get valuable context.
3. What message does that audience need to hear?
Once you know exactly who is in your target audience, consider what they need to hear from you. The best communicators focus on the information their audience needs to receive, not necessarily on what they want to say. This is the core of your personal brand. Understanding how you want to be perceived is a critical step towards sharing effectively on LinkedIn.
If you are struggling with this, pretend that your ideal profile visitor is physically with you. Maybe they’re sitting across the table or you are talking to them at an event. What would you want them to know about you? What would you say? Would you highlight your experience, your passion, or your unique ability to solve their problems? This will give you the foundation for building your brand message.
These three steps create the strategic underpinnings of an effective LinkedIn presence. When faced with questions about what to write on your Profile or share with your network, go back to these answers. They will point you in the right direction by creating a locus point for all of your activity and the tactical decisions you have to make on a daily basis become that much simpler.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can find it here!