By Mark Lee Run your business How to use LinkedIn to find clients 11 Nov 2016 Too much generic social media advice is given to accountants that encourages you to waste time and energy. My business card includes the word ‘debunker’ as I like to debunk the hype and misconceptions around social media. You can be assured that my advice is independent and reflects my wide experience of both social media and accountants’ use of it. It’s best to recognise that LinkedIn is not like any other form of social media. It’s an online business networking site. Yes it can be useful to job hunters and recruiters. But it is even more valuable to accountants who want to secure more business. You can do this passively – by ensuring you have a compelling profile, or you can be more active and seek out potential clients. In this regard it helps to start with some clarity as to who would make an ideal client for your practice, or who else you would hope to influence – a prospective recruiter. Log in to LinkedIn If you’ve not done this before, just go to LinkedIn and register to create your profile. You can ‘get started’ in a couple of minutes and then refine your profile later. Tighten up your privacy settings Before you start editing your profile it’s best to turn off the setting that announces to your connections that you are updating your profile. Move your mouse to the top right of the screen and click the tiny photo or grey box to reveal a drop down menu. Towards the bottom is the ‘privacy and settings’ link you want; click on this. You may be asked to confirm your password again. Choose the options to turn off your broadcasts (for now at least). Update your headline Your headline is the line beneath your name. It appears on LinkedIn (and in search results) whenever your name appears. ‘Accountant’, ‘Sole Practitioner’ and ‘Owner’ are 3 of the most common headlines I see on accountants’ profiles. Even if you’re an employee you are not limited to your job title. You can be more inventive. Instead of your ‘title’ use the facility to stand out by promoting yourself with a headline (which you can change at any time). Perhaps something like: Saving tax for business owners and entrepreneurs. Upload a professional looking photo Most people would like to get a feel for who you are. A photo is a key way to show this. Update your summary If you’re in a hurry, simply copy here the text from your website that describes YOU. Not your firm. You, and your approach. What do you do? Why do clients like dealing with you? Planning to be passive? Passive users simply create a profile and wait to be contacted by other users. It may happen. It may not. I’ve seen plenty of accountants say they are on LinkedIn but get no new clients from the site. This is unsurprising if they have an incomplete profile and/or they have been inactive. Active access to leads Active users search out prospective clients, introducers, collaborators and/or influencers. They make their presence known on the site and in groups where their target audiences are also active users by offering constructive advice and ideas. You can also use the advanced search facility for lead generation activity – to find people who are your ideal target clients. First things first If you are like most accountants, your LinkedIn profile will pop up first whenever someone searches for you online (eg: using Google or Bing). This is generally true regardless of how search engine friendly is your website. And it is even more likely if you don’t have a website or much of a profile page or photo on your own website. Your profile, if well crafted, will also show up when anyone searches for someone like you on LinkedIn. Do it now Do not leave updating your LinkedIn profile too late. It will work better for you if you build up your connections, activity and profile generally over time. It may be too late to evidence your credibility and expertise when you suddenly need to find a new job, start your own practice or want to use the site for lead generation. Mark Lee is a professional speaker and mentor for accountants.