CPAs aren't necessarily well known for their social prowess, but in a highly referral-based industry, cultivating good networking and business development skills can be an imperative. Building relationships in the business community can be a tremendous way to get referrals. The connections you make out in the world (whether it's at at networking event or in your social life) may end up being a valuable resource for future clients, so it's important to find ways to make connections any way possible. In our highly social media-driven world, LinkedIn is an excellent tool for solidifying and seeking out such relationships. We've put together a list of ways you can boost your presence on LinkedIn and make a lasting impression.
Try to be active on a regular basis.
Regular activity on LinkedIn increases your visibility in the business community and helps you stay fresh in the minds of those your business contacts. A great way to maintain a regular presence is to share helpful or useful articles with your connections. If you come across an interesting article that you think your associates would benefit from, why not share it? This demonstrates to people that you're thinking of them and how you can best serve them. While it's great to take an interest in your potential clients and referral sources, it's also important to demonstrate your personal business acumen. Make sure to promote yourself. When you have a professional milestone, share that with your comment Make sure to post when you receive a promotion or recognition for any awards or milestones.
Make sure you have a profile picture and keep it professional.
Profiles without a photo are easily overlooked. They lack credibility. So be sure to include a photograph in your profile. This is the gateway into your profile and your professional online image. It's the first thing someone sees, so if you are connecting with someone with whom you don't already have a close relationship, it's important to represent yourself properly. Try to use a professional headshot if you have one. Lots of companies take individual headshots of each employee. If your firm does, use this photo. If your picture is outdated, ask if you can have a new one taken. Try not to use a photo that's too old. Stay up to date. If you do not have a professional photo, ask a friend or family member to take one for you. Dress professionally and "on brand." Pay attention to the background and lighting (nothing distracting or inappropriate in the background, and in clean, non-shadowy lighting). Make sure the photo is close up. It should be of your upper torso and head. Don't crop a larger photo or it could appear pixelated and blurry.
Join LinkedIn groups.
As we mentioned, staying active on Linked In can be really important to make an impression. A great way to stay involved is by joining "groups" that you can contribute to. Joining groups in relevant fields can be a great way to get your face and your business in the forefront of your peers' minds. Share articles or comment on postings that other people have shared. Try to get involved in discussions with others. It's good to be involved in multiple groups, but don't necessarily try to be everywhere at all times. You don't want to monopolize people's LinkedIn feeds either. Choose a few groups that are really relevant to your industry or niche, that you can solidly contribute to and focus on getting involved in just those.
Have a detailed profile, (without writing a novel).
Make sure you share enough about yourself that someone can find ways to relate to you, without being so wordy that it feels like a chore to get through your profile. Include key words that will jump out at people. Be specific about what it is you do, and offer some details about what makes your firm great (and you, within that firm). Talk about your work in detail (what your particular practice area and skills are, for example). Utilize the summary section to include keywords related to your particular position. You can also talk about your professional goals and accomplishments. In your work experience section, include some specifics about what you do (the types of clients you see, your specific skill sets, etc.) so that people who might want to refer a client to you will know if you are the right fit.
Be sure to fill out some of the additional sections to boost your professional image.
If you've been recognized for any awards or achievements, make sure to promote them in that section! Are you a member of any organizations? Make sure to include those! You may find yourself in touch with someone else associated with that organization that you might otherwise not connect with. It's important to demonstrate a well rounded career with an upward trajectory, so be sure to regularly update your profile as your career develops.