LinkedIn: You Can’t Do That Anymore

Checked your LinkedIn profile lately? It looks a lot different — and it may not be as effective in marketing your freelance business as it was before. And if you’re using LinkedIn to search for prospects, that’s changed too.

You can’t do many of the things that you probably used to do on LinkedIn anymore, and the new profile design only gives you 201 characters (45 on mobile) to make a great first impression.

More changes are coming. LinkedIn plans to roll out all of the changes by May 2017, but this is likely to be delayed, says LinkedIn trainer Mark Williams of winbusinessin.

Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in June 2016, the social media platform has been looking for ways to get people to use it more:

· 66% of Facebook’s users are active every day

· Only 22% of LinkedIn users are active at least once a month or more.

“LinkedIn has appallingly low levels of activity at the moment,” says Williams.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says that Microsoft will be “investing in and innovating on LinkedIn to drive value for our members and our customers” in a blog post about the acquisition. Weiner also says, “The LinkedIn you know and value is only getting better.”

I’m not so sure about that.

Getting users to upgrade to paid accounts is a big reason for some of the changes, say Williams.

A Long List of Changes

LinkedIn is prettier now, but 17 features, including Advanced Search, are gone. Other features have changed a lot. The main addition is an interface with a cleaner design that’s more intuitive and easier to use. It’s based on LinkedIn’s mobile interface.

I’ll cover the key changes for freelancers, and what you can do about them, here. This is based on the best information available to me as of February 2017. But there’s not a lot of credible information out there yet. And more changes will be coming, including possibly some changes to the changes.

Two big changes impact freelancers are:

· No more Advanced Search

· Profile changes.

One change for the better is the invitations feature. You can now invite someone you don’t know well to connect with you without having his/her email address. And LinkedIn actually suggests that you send a personal invitation when you want to connect with someone, and lets you click a button to do this.

What Freelancers Will Miss

One of the biggest changes is that LinkedIn has dropped Advanced Search, which let freelancers filter searches by keyword, first and last name, title, and location.

“This move is essentially forcing those that are using LinkedIn for lead generation to upgrade to Sales Navigator., says Melonie Dodaro, author of The LinkedIn Code. Sales Navigator starts at $64.99 month.

You Can Still Find People

You can still do good searches. But Boolean search (e.g., using AND, OR, and “words or phrases in quotes’) isn’t as effective as it was before. Viveka von Rosen, author of “LinkedIn Marketing: Hour A Day” and a blogger on Social Media Examiner, tested identical Boolean searches in the old and new interfaces. The results were very different she says.

The regular search bar does a pretty good job of finding people, says Williams, since LinkedIn’s algorithm sorts people by relevance. So, for example, if your prospects are marketing managers, anyone with a current job title of “marketing manager” will come up higher in the results. “LinkedIn is trying to give you highly accurate results without having to do sophisticated searches,” says Williams.

Hospitals are one of my target markets, so I tried a Boolean search for Johns Hopkins Medicine AND marketing. I got 11,609 results. That sounds overwhelming, but some of the top results were great prospects for me. So if you have the names of companies that you’d like to work with, and try different job titles of people who hire freelancers, your best prospects should rank highly in the results.

And with a free membership, you can still filter searches by the level of connections (first, second, or third), companies, and industries.

A Big Network and Groups are More Important Now

Connections search is gone, says Williams. So you can’t access the profiles of your connections’ connections, unless you’re also connected to them too (first, second, or third). If you click on the link of someone you’re not connected to, you’ll get a black box and a notice about upgrading to a paid membership.

The solution to this, I think, is to have a big network and join relevant groups. I know one person at Johns Hopkins Medicine, for example, and when I scrolled through her connections, hundreds of people I didn’t know came up as 2nd or 3rd degree connections. So I was able to see their profiles.

When you join a group, you can see the profiles of all members, and they can see yours. And each month, you can send 15 individual messages to members of any of your groups for free. This limit applies to all of your groups, so it’s 15 free messages per month total, not for each group.

Speaking of groups, they’re still there, but they’re harder to find than they were before. In fact, the first time I wanted to find my groups after the interface changed, I had to ask my friend and colleague Ruwaida Vakil. She told me to:

· Scroll down my profile to Following.

· Click on the relevant group OR

· Click See More to find my other groups.

Things Freelancers Must Do

Profiles have also changed a lot. They look cleaner, but you need to know about some of the differences and revise your profile to maximize your impact.

Update the Beginning of Your Summary

The Summary is now part of the top section of your profile. Only the first 201 characters show (45 in mobile) before you have to click See more to read the rest of the summary. So what you say first has to be concise and client focused. I had to revise the beginning of my summary because I had a subhead in all caps that looked great before. In the new design, LinkedIn ran the subhead into my text, which made I look like I made a mistake and didn’t make much sense.

Williams also recommends putting contact info in first 201 or 45 characters. That’s not a bad idea, at least for now, since the contact information is now in a new place (to the right of the main profile instead of part of the header) and people may not know it’s still there.

Industries are no longer shown, but they’re still there behind the scenes, and used by LinkedIn’s search algorithm.

Check Your Photo and Background Image

Profile photos and background images are different now. Your profile photo, now in center of the intro section, is smaller and round. Make sure that it still looks good, and that key parts of the photo haven’t been cropped out.

Profiles, including the background image, look different depending on whether the user is on a smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. 60% of users access LinkedIn on smart phones or tablets.

The size of the background image has changed. This was another thing I had to change. Before, I had a beautiful shot of the Himalayas from a trip to Nepal. In the new design, only a little of the mountains showed and it just look strange.

LinkedIn recommends that background images be 1536 x 768 pixels. My first new background image was smaller and LinkedIn wouldn’t accept it. So I had to use Canva to re-size it. Williams says that the best background image is something generic and simple. Don’t use an image that has information people need to read — because it may not be visible or legible across smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.

Help More People Find You

Keywords are still important in your headline, which is still limited to 120 characters, but not so much in the rest of your profile.

The vast majority of searches, says Williams, are influenced by:

· Your activity

· Things you have in common with the people searching for you

· Skills listed, especially when the people searching for you have matching skills

· Your network; if you’re closer to someone (e.g., 1st degree connection instead of 3rd degree connection), you’ll come up higher in his/her search results

· Profile views.

Sharing and engaging (your activity) helps you rank higher in search results. The top of your home page has a prompt to “Share an article, photos, or update.” It’s important to share relevant articles, photos, and updates that people engage with (like, comment, or share). And it’s important to like, comment, or share your connections’ articles, photos, and updates.

More Changes

Additional Information and View Profile As are both gone now. Advice for contacting us was under Additional Information. But you can easily put this information in your summary. In fact, I always put my contact info in my summary, and used Additional Information as a place to include it again.

I think View Profile As was an important feature because it let me see what my profile looks like to other people. I tried to get to the “public” view by Googling myself and clicking on the link to my LinkedIn profile, but I didn’t. Lastly, you can’t move profile sections or the order of your recommendations.

There is a new section called Accomplishments, where you can add projects, courses, publications, certifications, honors and awards, and patents. To add another item to the same category, you have to click the category again in the box on the right.

Learn More

Here are a few resources for learning more about the changes to LinkedIn:

THE ULTIMATE LINKED IN PROFILE CHECKLIST FOR FREELANCERS

[Podcast] Mark Williams on the Big Upcoming Changes in Linkedin

LinkedIn Changes: What Marketers Need to Know