Sunday September 23, 2012
How to Authentically Position Yourself on LinkedIn.
I recently had a man contact me about helping him with his LinkedIn profile. I was wary at first because he sells real estate in Nigeria. Yup, I kid you not! It's not that I doubted that he was a legitimate businessman (OK – maybe I did at first), it's just that I knew he had some uphill battles to fight.
I've already worked with some MLM and direct sales people, and I thought that was a challenge! But the stigma of multi-level marketing is nothing compared to running a legitimate business in a country that has almost become the poster child for spam and scams. I mean, how many times have you received that email from someone who wants your Social Security number in exchange for millions of dollars in a bank account overseas?
Nonetheless, there was something about Ifemezue Uma that intrigued me. After a quick “look” into his social platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) I was impressed with Ife and decided to “meet” him to see what we could do together.
Now by meet, I mean Skype. I don’t think either of us was quite ready to fly across the oceans – but that’s what is so great about today’s technology. The first challenge was the internet. (Or I could have used Hookflash.) In the US finding a fast Internet connection is no big deal. If you don't have one at home, you just go to Starbucks. It's a little bit different in Nigeria. Ife had to set up a special link just to talk to me! But we were – eventually – able to get online. After a few technical difficulties, we were on our way.
One thing I will say is that most Africans can speak excellent English, and Ife was no exception. Good thing since I don’t speak any of Nigeria’s native languages!
After addressing some of the challenges Ife was up against, we got to work. This is what we did:
Made sure Ife had a full and complete profile.
As you can see in my previous posts on SPAMMERS, nothing says “This is a scam” like a barely completed profile. Ife already had an excellent profile, so we didn’t have to spend much time with that. He has been active in my tweetchats and has taken the advice from my blog to heart. So I really didn’t have to make many suggestions to get his profile up to snuff.
Showcased his credentials in Experience.
Since Ife actually does have a lot of experience in investing and the real estate business, we showcased it in his experience section. We made sure that each business he was involved with, especially an European investment firm, was highlighted accordingly. We clarified his positions in the title field and expanded the offer (and concerns) in the description field of his Experience section.
Addressed the stigma.
Ife did a wonderful job of addressing the challenges of doing business in Nigeria. He also addressed the common fears that Americans and Europeans have when investing overseas.
In fact, he did such a good job, I would like to share it with you word for word here:
“I am aware of the negative but often exaggerated news generated by foreign media about Africa and in particular Nigeria. This naturally would have a direct impact on the perception of most foreigners about the African Continent. The popular 'Advance Fee Fraud' (commonly called 419) to which several foreigners may have fallen victim to over the internet - through scam emails - has not helped matters either.
Despite these setbacks, there are Nigerians who are honest and willing to do legitimate business. I’m in no way trying to rebrand my country as that would be attempting to bite a lot more than I can chew but I’m simply here to represent the legitimate group of Nigerians. As always, finding the right individuals and companies to partner with should be done with caution as would be the case in any other country.
It may surprise you also to know that in Nigeria we have well over 60% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in our Capital Market and the Oil and Gas Industry is dominated mostly by foreign firms. Many foreign businesses are thriving despite the problems of power shortage, corruption and limited infrastructural development. These issues have remained the main focus of successive democratically elected governments and are being successfully addressed.
The power supply situation, admittedly, poses a major overhead cost for businesses due to the necessity to acquire generating sets and the fuel required to run them, but most times the opportunities far outweigh the disadvantages.
Besides the investment guarantee assurances of the Nigerian Investment Protection Commission (NIPC) Decree (http://www.nigeriasite.com/foreignprotect.html), countries are welcome to execute and enter into bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPA) with the Nigerian government. These are measures being taken to ensure that foreign money remains safe."
Told the real story.
As a privileged American living in the US, I only know about North Africa via movies and press. Guess what – the press isn’t objective and unbiased. So we get the sensationalized view. Ife addresses what its really like, and what the African people are really like. See above.
Uploaded his physical credentials.
Ife also has physical certifications and degrees – literal pieces of paper credentialing him. These will be uploaded into Box.net so that any potential investor can check the veracity of his claims. Can they be forged? Of course. But in most cases spammers are simply not that ambitious, careful or knowledgeable! If you have certifications, degrees or licenses and you are in a questionable industry, make sure you share them! Let people know you are legit!
Uploaded pictures of his properties using Slideshare.
Most of us have no idea how beautiful Nigeria can be. Again, we just have the images or war and starvation
Obudu Cattle Ranch
shared with us through the press. But Ife loves his country and wanted other people to see its beauty. So Ife is creating a Power Point of the places, people and properties he has in Nigeria (and elsewhere) that we will upload using the Slideshare app.
It is important to have legitimate, influential connection on LinkedIn if you want to present yourself as genuine. Because Ife’s profile is authentic and “real” he can more easily connect with business people who can potentially become vendors or clients. (Like me!). This is where the “People you may know” feature comes in handy!
If you are in an “iffy” business, then it is crucial that you get recommendations from legitimate business folks. And if you are legitimate, then that should be no problem. Get recommendations from happy clients and employers.
Posted all 3 websites
Again, most spammers don’t have real websites, or if they do, they are atrociously transparently awful. If you have a real business, like Ife, then by all means get your website up on your profile and make sure you use all three links! If you have only one website, then post three different pages. Preferably ones that will legitimize your business (Like testimonials, service offers, etc)
Posted Twitter accounts
If you are active in Twitter, make sure your Twitter accounts are linked to LinkedIn. I always say a Tweetstream is like your stream of consciousness. You can really get to “know” an active Twitter user by reading his or her stream. This can go a long long long way towards legitimizing you! (I have only been fooled once by a connection I made on Twitter. And it turns out he was a legitimate sociopath. Yes I mean you Colin. ) In most cases, the true authenticity of an active Twitter user might go further than a lie detector in showing you who a person really is!
Increased group interaction.
The only thing most SPAMMERS and SCAMMERS use groups for is to hawk their wares. Spammers just will not invest the time necessary to build a relationship. It’s important if you are in an industry that is generally perceived as “iffy” to build real relationships with people, and groups is a great place to do that.
Ife and I met on Twitter and interacted several times before I got a sense of who he was and agreed to work with him. Having taken the business relationship “IRL” – well – through Skype – I feel more comfortable trusting my instincts.
What can you do?
Trust your instincts
Even if the person you are interacting with seems legit, trust your instincts! I was just contacted about doing a speaking tour overseas and despite my contact having all the “right” credentials on LinkedIn, I had that sniggly feeling in the back of my mind. When I did a little more checking, it turned out that I was right, and the offer was a scam.
On the other hand, I'm in Oslo right now speaking at the re:think Oslo conference and Arnt Erikson, its creator, found me and contacted me through LinkedIn. So certainly not all "overseas" deals are scams. Many if not most will be legit. But you must trust your instincts and you must do your homework!
Do your due diligence
With the internet and all the tools available these days, you can do your research. Do your due diligence any time you are going to invest a large sum of money, either overseas or right here at home. I can not tell you how much money I have poured down the drain in get rich quick, MLM and “mastermind” programs. Both schemes and legitimate businesses. If I had done my research rather than getting all excited by the hype, I would have several thousand more dollars in the bank right now!
Protect yourself when investing.
I am not an investment advisor nor do I play one on TV, but my guess is that there are many third party services that can protect you and your money when you do invest overseas. Find out what/who they are and if you are serious about an investment, utilize them. The relatively small expense up front might save you thousands – if not millions later on.
Back to Ife-
I truly feel honored to be working with Ifemezue. I’ve already told him that he should focus on becoming a thought leader and Industry Expert on overseas and African investment! Talk about opportunity. When we acknowledge and embrace what is a challenge in our lives, there is no limit to the successes we can achieve.
In fact - here's a blog post he wrote on just that: http://ifeuma.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/how-linkedin-killed-my-african-dream/
If you have a challenge in your business or industry, don’t hide from it. Embrace it. Bring it to light. Acknowledge it to the world and let that be your transparent and authentic path to stratospheric success! Just like Ifemezue!