My LinkedIn account has been terribly neglected. Even as I write this sentence, I feel as though I should be updating my LinkedIn profile instead.

Let’s just say I am “kind of” LinkedIn. I have two friends in the Twin Cities who are experts on LinkedIn and who speak and teach on the subject. I recently had coffee with one and lunch with the other. They let me ask questions about LinkedIn, and gave me some advice on how to improve my profile.

I like to think that my LinkedIn profile educates people. It could be used as an example of how not to use LinkedIn, rather than how to.

I even apologize for my inability to write a decent summary of who I am, which helps to draw attention to my lame professional summary.

It isn’t because I don’t know who I am, or that I don’t know how to write a summary. It’s because I lead a rich and full life, and I am not sure exactly which parts of it are important to people who may look me up. Do they want to know how many houses I sold last year? Is my volunteer work important?

Both experts I spoke to agreed that a great profile picture is essential, and that having a well-written summary is important. Beyond that, there wasn’t a lot of agreement on what to look for in the LinkedIn profile of a real estate agent.

One expert told me that if he were using LinkedIn to find a real estate agent, he would be looking to see what kinds of groups and organizations the agent belongs to so he could get a better feel for who they are as a person.

The other expert said that she would be looking to make sure that the agent was a community expert who was passionate about the community and involved in it.

As I listened to these two people who I have a lot of respect for, I kept thinking that my “job” is to sell houses, or to help people buy them. What they were telling me had little to do with selling real estate, but it is their vision of what a real estate agent should be.

Both experts agreed that if we use LinkedIn, we should be putting updates on the site, and that those updates are different than the social updates we put on Facebook.

LinkedIn updates can be about what we are doing in our businesses, or what we are reading, or for sharing blog posts and articles that we write for business. Updates about volunteer activities are also OK. But all of these LinkedIn updates should be career-related, rather than personal.

My takeaways from my conversations with my expert friends, and from LinkedIn presentations I have attended, are:

  • Real estate agents must be on LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn is primarily for networking, which isn’t the same as advertising.
  • All businesspeople, including real estate agents, should have a complete profile.
  • Having a professional quality head shot is important.
  • People want to know much more about us than just that we sell houses.
  • As agents we have to convey trustworthiness and likability.
  • People looking for a real estate agent probably will not be searching LinkedIn, but people will use it to do additional research once they have identified some qualified agents.
  • The endorsements we get on LinkedIn are not very meaningful because there are too many endorsements, and they are too easy to get.

I listened to a presentation given by one expert, Paul DeBettignies, a Minnesota technical recruiter and author of Minnesota Headhunter. DeBettignies advises that job seekers leave the following words and phrases off of their LinkedIn profiles: maven, guru, rockstar, ninja warrior and master. He says recruiters are tired of those words or they have been overused.

I would add “geek” and “tech-savvy” to the list. My best guess is that real estate professionals should not be putting those words in their professional summaries either.

Anytime I ask marketing experts outside the real estate industry about how agents should market themselves, I get a diverse set of opinions. People have different ideas about what a real estate agent does, and they have different ideas about what they want from a real estate agent. When people search for us they search according to what they want a real estate agent to be.

Advertising exactly the same way everyone else advertises probably isn’t the best strategy on any platform. It might be better to advertise our own unique services and talents, like “historic home expert” or “condo specialist.”

There are probably hundreds of agents who could do a great job working with any of my clients, but I want to give people reasons for choosing me over them. There’s no shortage of real estate agents, and there are plenty of qualified individuals to choose from.

LinkedIn profiles probably don’t generate any business on their own, but are part of a bigger picture and sometimes become part of a background check when people are searching for a real estate agent or get a recommendation or referral.

LinkedIn is for networking, and it works just as well for an agent who wants to know more about her clients as it does for someone who wants to know more about an agent.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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