I’m consistently surprised by the number of business people who don’t see, or even try, to understand the value of social media. If you have no interest in being employed now or in the future then so be it. Go ahead and ignore it all – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… but if you are currently employed, are looking for employment, or think you might go back to work in the future, ignoring social media is essentially burying your head in the sand.

At some point someone is going to perform a Google search for your name. Someone who is considering doing business with you, hiring you, networking with you, etc. Why not do everything you can to ensure the information they find is positive, accurate and truly represents who you are and what your experience is?

This doesn’t have to take up an extensive amount of time and the key place to start for any business person is LinkedIn.

Create/update your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is complete and clearly outlines your work history and experience. Unless your resume is severely out of date, this should take you less than an hour to setup, then about 15 minutes to review and update on a monthly basis.

Connect with everyone you know. It’s about quality not quantity with LinkedIn Connections. The more people you connect with, the larger your network will be and the more opportunities you will have to connect with key people down the road, so don’t be shy. You can import contacts from almost any email program so you won’t have to manually add people. Simply upload your contacts, choose which ones you want to send a Connection request to, and off they go. This should take you less than 30 minutes.

LinkedIn offers a handful of applications you can add to your profile. One of my favorites for people with limited time to spend on the site is Reading List, which allows you to share books you’ve read or are currently reading. It’s a great way to take your profile a step further and allow people to understand more about who you are and what you stand for.

Change your status update once a week. Share great articles or blog posts you’ve read, tell people what you’re working on, or share snippets from conferences you’ve attend. This kind of information helps to enhance your profile beyond just the typical information found on a resume. This takes a few minutes at the most. The hardest part is remembering to do it in the first place, so I recommend setting up a calendar reminder for it.

What’s your preference – spending a little time upfront establishing your brand and reputation online, or taking a risk on what potential employers/clients might find?

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