By Ondar Tarlow

This past May, LinkedIn celebrated its 10th anniversary, and in those 10 years, it has grown to be a powerhouse of social Although its 225 million registered members pale in raw-number comparison to the juggernaut of Facebook at more than 1 billion and even Twitter at 500 million, LinkedIn’s user demographics may be more powerful for professionals than other social networking sites. If your focus is personal brand awareness, talent acquisition, business development and employment opportunities, LinkedIn can provide a good venue for establishing your name and contacts within the mortgage industry, as well as associated industries.

To harness LinkedIn’s power on an individual basis, mortgage brokers and originators should explore the following five best practices.

1. Establish your personality
Stand out from the crowd by developing your LinkedIn personality. This practice begins with your LinkedIn profile page, but it should not end there. Instead, continually fuel your profile with valuable information and distribute it to the core audience with which you’re working to connect yourself.

The easiest and most powerful thing you can do for your personal profile is to complete it and achieve what LinkedIn calls “All-Star” status. This means completing all sections of your LinkedIn profile, including:

  • Photo: Don’t be bashful. Profiles that include pictures are more likely to be clicked on more often than those without. Make sure it’s a professional photo and not one from your high-school days or beach vacation.
  • Headline: Make your headline resonate with your area or areas of expertise and minimize jargon. Understand that LinkedIn, like the rest of the Internet today, is based on relevant keywords. Your LinkedIn presence should be keyword- optimized to net higher results when people are searching for you across search engines and within LinkedIn.
  • Background: Tell a story about you and your areas of experience and differentiation. Highlight successes and include awards, publications, volunteer experience, causes and recent projects you’ve been involved with. LinkedIn now allows you to paint a vivid picture of yourself and that’s what you want when you try to stand out from scores of industry professionals in your market.
  • Experience: The professional experience section is designed to provide your viewers and connections with information that is typically found in a résumé — but it’s much more dynamic. Company logos and other information automatically can be attached, so check that the logo LinkedIn provides for “ABC Computers” in Odessa, Texas, is correct and not for “ABC Computers” in Odessa, Ukraine.
  • Skills and expertise: Select and post whatever pertains to your line of work and skill sets that you have expertise in. Each of these skills and expertise terms helps to increase keywords attached to you and your profile.
  • Recommendations: These are still highly underutilized by many users but are highly sought after by potential business partners and employers. Write recommendations for your current and past co-workers, business partners and clients, and ask them to provide recommendations, as well. These testimonials are online gold in the business world.

2. Be Honest
Unlike your résumé, which may be sent via private e-mail, uploaded to a secure database or mailed, LinkedIn is open and transparent, so your background and experience should be, as well. If you didn’t serve as president of the company and bring forth hundreds of millions in revenue, don’t say you did no matter how long ago you served in the position. Remember, you’re looking to form and build lasting relationships rather than get shot down for a new position or business opportunity because the hiring manager or prospective business partner did simple due diligence and reached out to your first- or second-degree connections.

3. Connect transparently
Take the time to write a couple of sentences to make your requests to connect personal. Try to not be lazy and opt for LinkedIn’s common default message: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” If you’re taking the time to connect, let the other person know why you’re interested in making the connection. If it has been some time since you worked together, then provide some background and context about how you know each other. Unless you’re a recruiter or building a large sales database, focus on the quality rather than the quantity of  your connections.

Many times you may be asked to comment on a connection’s skills, background or work habits. You may appear a bit amateurish if you can’t respond or vouch for someone that you’re connected to because you were so focused on achieving the “500+” connection mark that you actually don’t know the person. Like any database, the list’s quality and depth are what drives its success.

4. Engage and share
Cultivate awareness by regularly providing useful information to your network in the form of commenting on network posts, sharing news articles and creating original content. Join LinkedIn groups (like alumni associations, trade groups, businesses, etc.) to help expand your network. This also will help create a more streamlined process to connect with people and engage with the content posted by those with whom you want to align yourself.

Regulate your posting to LinkedIn, and keep it from one post to two posts per week at most — compared with four posts to five posts per week on Facebook and as many as three times to four times per day on Twitter. You don’t want your valued connections to disconnect because you over-communicated.

5. Integrate media
Connect your LinkedIn account with your other social media accounts like Twitter. Although this saves time, be careful in how you communicate via different social vehicles because they may have different standards. Use multiple media types in your posts like photos and videos to help reinforce your communication and drive engagement.

Personalize your LinkedIn domain name to increase effectiveness and chances of being found via search engines. Include your personalized LinkedIn domain in your e-mail signature and other applicable correspondence to help amplify awareness and lift your personal brand over time.