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Featured Article from The ATA Chronicle (September 2010)

 

How to Promote Your Services Using LinkedIn
By Michael T. Pellet

Everybody is on it, but most people do not really know how to take advantage of it. LinkedIn is the premier business-oriented social networking site used today by people in business, government, and nonprofits. LinkedIn boasts over 70 million members and“ still growing.” So how do you make this tool work for you? This article discusses three phases for LinkedIn that can help you market yourself and your services with greater efficiency and at almost no cost. This article does not discuss how to use LinkedIn as a tool to find full-time employment, but rather how to use it to market your services to find new clients and build business relationships that will lead to referrals for project work.

Phase 1: Getting Started
If you do not already have a LinkedIn account, sign up today. The first step will be to establish a LinkedIn profile that others can see. How you set up your profile will also help people understand what type of services you can provide.

Current Position: The key to a good profile is being very specific when completing the “Current Position” description field in the profile outline. For example, if you are an independent contractor, make sure you use a title that can be understood clearly (e.g., “Independent Spanish Translator”). If you specialize in a particular area, you should state that as well (e.g., “Spanish Translator Specializing in Legal Translation”). Your description should provide more detail about the type of work you do and for whom you do it.

Knowing your target audience is important here (this will be a consistent theme as you complete your profile). If you work exclusively for agencies and are looking to contract with agencies, then you should state that. If you work directly for the end client and the client type is usually the same—for example, you do legal translation and are almost always contracted by a law firm or attorney as opposed to the end client—state that in your description. The description should be broad enough to give people a sense of where you might be a good fit. Less is probably more in this case. Your goal is to get someone to contact you. If you give them a reason not to contact you by being too specific, you lose the ability to decide if the project was worth taking.

Past Employment: As you move on to the “Past Employment” field, highlight those experiences that are relevant to the type of work for which you are looking. If you worked part-time as a waiter to make ends meet, leave that off your LinkedIn profile. But if you were asked to sit on the board of the Royal Academy of Language as a legal expert, then make sure you include this information. If you are just starting out, keep your profile short and do not add irrelevant work experience. Your goal in the profile is to sound like the expert you are and not give people a reason to doubt your ability or skill as a language specialist.

Summary: The “Summary” field is an excellent opportunity for you to highlight briefly your experience, certifications, education, native experience, and other credentials in your language area. This is really your self-promotional text that needs to make you sound like the best in your field. Do not go over the top, but do not be afraid to showcase experiences and skills that will make a potential customer want to use your services. This is also an excellent opportunity to showcase details concerning your specializations. For example, if you specialize in medical translation and have done extensive work in the area of translating medical device user manuals, this may be something about which you want to talk. Just remember to focus on the things that will help you get the type of work you want.

Once your profile is complete, make sure it is shared publicly. You can do this by clicking on the “Edit Public Profile Settings” link on the top right of the page in your “Edit My Profile” tab.

Phase 2: Building Connections


Remember that LinkedIn is a network of people who choose to add (or delete) you based on their relationship with you. Protecting your LinkedIn profile and credibility is very important for long-term success, so be careful about how you conduct yourself. Avoid placing anything on your LinkedIn page that would give people a reason to have an unfavorable impression of you or your work.

Once you start adding your connections, go to a few trusted connections with whom you have worked in the past and request that they write you a recommendation. Recommendations are critically important for your credibility, so make sure they are well written, talk about the work you do, and support your case for getting hired. As you complete projects, if your client was particularly happy with your performance, ask them to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn. In the translation world, it is often hard to find clients who can speak to the overall quality of the translation. They usually do not speak the language and therefore cannot say how great your translation really is, but they can speak to your professionalism, ability to meet deadlines, responsiveness, and other attributes. The more recommendations you get on specific projects, the better it will look. Also remember that every time you get hired by a new client, make sure you connect with that person using your LinkedIn account.

Phase 3: Advanced LinkedIn—Joining a Group
With a growing list of connections and a few recommendations, you are now ready to use your LinkedIn profile to get work. This is where knowing your target audience becomes important. Let’s go back to the example of providing legal translation services. If the majority of your work comes from paralegals within firms who contact you, you want to “hang-out” online where they “hang-out.”

This is where you start joining groups. In the top right hand corner of your LinkedIn page is a search box. Select “Groups” from the drop-down menu and begin searching for job titles that describe the type of people that make the decision to use your services. If you are hired by legal assistants or legal support staff, search for groups that include them, and if you are hired by medical administrators, search for them.

Review the groups and look for a few key identifiers:

• How many people are in the group? Large groups are better.

• Is the group a closed group (meaning you have to request to join) or an open group? Start with open groups (they do not have a vetting process for you to join).

• Does the group description cover your membership? Meaning if you were to post something to the group, would it seem completely gratuitous or inconsistent with the group’s objectives? Remember that you want to protect your reputation, so be careful about what you do and do not do.

As a member of a group you can usually post things on the discussion board of the group. This is an excellent opportunity to share some of your knowledge and experience. Take some time and assemble a thoughtful and useful article, blurb, etc. The article should contain information that would be useful to the target audience of the group as it relates to your translation or interpreting expertise. For example, you might want to provide funny examples of bad translations, or explain why dialect is so important when doing certain types of translation.

In doing this, you are building the case that you have expertise and are a credible reference for information about your specific language area. Be careful not to post things that are simply self-promotional or sales oriented. You can easily be identified as a “spammer” within LinkedIn circles and that reputation can be hard to lose. Always make sure your information is useful to the audience.

Update Often
You should try to update your status and profile at least once a month. Most people receive a LinkedIn status report on a periodic basis. Every time you make a change to your status or update a portion of your profile, all of your connections will see it. This helps keep you on the top of their minds. The more connections you have who know you and remember you, the greater your chance is to be called when someone has a project for you.

One great way to keep your profile current is to search new articles related to your topic area or potential clients. Post links to the articles in your status with a brief summary and your own personal “spin” on the article. Your introduction to the article may look something like: “Great article on the problems with machine translation of medical materials” with the link after it. This gives your contacts a reason to read it and helps establish you as a credible resource while keeping you on their minds. Adding an article link is easy to do. Just go to your Home page on LinkedIn and you will see your photo with an empty box that says “Share and update” under the Network Activity heading. Write your blurb and click on the “Attach a link” text in blue under your blurb to add a link to the article. When you are done (always make sure to double check spelling, grammar, and your link) simply click on the “Share” button.

LinkedIn Language
One of the greatest features for translators and language specialists on LinkedIn is the “Create your profile in another language” capability. This allows you to showcase your language specialty and gives you greater credibility in both English and the language(s) in which you specialize. Remember that when you save these they will appear live, so be cautious about putting up items with typos or mistakes that can make you appear sloppy or unprofessional.

Asking to be Connected
Now that you are using LinkedIn more, you can begin to do research on specific people that may be in a position to use your services. If you know, for example, that a particular person is the decision maker about your services at a particular firm, you can search for him or her on LinkedIn. If you find the person, you can check if you know anyone who might be able to connect you with him or her. LinkedIn will tell you how many connections it will take for you to get introduced. It is not recommended that you blindly solicit people on LinkedIn. But you can ask others to introduce you to make a connection with an individual and start a relationship.

Building a Network
As you become more familiar with LinkedIn you can begin to expand on the efforts you have started. Other social networking tools can help with your efforts, such as Twitter or even Facebook. Remember that this effort will take time to generate results. So be patient and keep in mind that successful marketing is based on consistency. In time, you will find that using LinkedIn will help promote you and establish you as a credible source for translation or interpreting services.
Don’t forget that everything you do online is being tracked and usually can be seen. So avoid being unprofessional or saying anything negative about somebody. Avoid “over-sharing” information about your personal life, your personal beliefs, or even lifestyle choices. This can lead to people not considering you for possible projects or your being labeled as unprofessional.

Building Your LinkedIn Presence

• The key to a good profile is being very specific when describing your current position. Use a title that is clear to understand.

• Your description should provide more detail about the type of work you do and for whom you do it. It should be broad enough to give people a sense of where you might be a good fit.

• When describing past employment, highlight those experiences that are relevant to the type of work for which you are looking.

• Remember to focus on the things that will help you get the type of work you want to get.

• Try to update your status and profile at least once a month.

• Make connections: the larger your network, the greater your chance of being found.

• Recommendations are critically important for your credibility. Make sure they are well written, talk about the work you do, and support your case for getting hired.

• Protecting your LinkedIn profile and credibility is very important for long-term success.
Avoid placing anything on your LinkedIn page that would give people a reason to have an unfavorable impression of you or your work.

• Join a LinkedIn group and hang out where the people with whom you are trying to connect hang out.

• Post useful items on the discussion boards of the group to which you belong. The article should contain information that would be useful to the target audience of the group as it relates to your translation or interpreting expertise.

Michael T. Pellet is the managing partner of Neueblue, a marketing consulting and branding firm located in the Washington, DC area. An entrepreneur and small business owner, he has extensive experience in building small businesses from the ground up. He has conducted and taught numerous seminars, workshops, and classes on marketing techniques, small business management, and branding. Contact: michael@neueblue.com.