A few months ago I decided to get a little more out of my LinkedIn page. I’ve been on LinkedIn for a few years now and use it similarly to any other social network–I like to see status updates, help me remember names and faces (and where I know people from), and check on other people to see what they are up to. However, once I decided to use it more effectively, I started to become more involved with it and started to change the way that I used it. Overall I feel like I was getting more out of the service. It’s not Facebook–it’s not even really a Facebook for business–it is a unique social networking site that can enhance your business and can be a solid tool that can help you with your business.
First off, in order to have a real LinkedIn effort, you have to make sure that your profile is complete. Go through and spend some time updating your experience, specialties, and expertise. Have a good picture so people can identify if you’re the person they are looking for. But also make sure that your profile is interesting and conveys your personality. Consider it a form of your resume and put your best foot forward (but make sure it’s still “your foot”). Having more connections is better (if they are real). It’s not a popularity contest, but if you’re only connected to your dad and best friend you aren’t going to be able to use it for much. So build connections. As you meet people send them an invite and a note indicating when you met them and follow up on anything that you talked about when you met. One of the first places I looked for new connections was high school and college classmates. I don’t talk to many people from high school anymore so I had no idea what a lot of them were up to. When I started looking them up I came across several that were in the internet marketing industry. I began to reach out and “catch up” with these people to see if there were any help we could offer each other.
Next, I began looking through contacts of people I knew well. I found people I knew that I wasn’t connected to, but I also found people I wanted to get to know, but didn’t know (or didn’t know well). I reached out to my contact that I knew well and explored the opportunity for introductions. It provided a unique opportunity to meet people that I wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise. As I went through I also was able to see what some of my connections were up to. Some had changed jobs and some had been
promoted within their same company. It gave me an opportunity to reach out to them and offer congratulations or ask questions about how things were going. I re-kindled some relationships–not just for work, but also personal friends that I hadn’t talked to in a while. Running a small business, this information is very helpful in utilizing contacts and tools properly. We had one person I knew that was in between jobs and we reached out to him to see what he was up to. We ended up being able to offer him office space for a few weeks and in return got some advice and consulting from him on a project we were working on.
Some other ways LinkedIn can help:
Industry News: LinkedIn offers “Top Headlines” in your industry. You can follow various industries and get news and information specific to your industry. This is yet another way to stay on top of what’s going on. There are a lot of ways you can get this information, but for some people, bringing it together with other business tools can be helpful.
Set up a company page: use your company page to build exposure for your business. You can have your blog posts pushed out and build your reputation and exposure for your company.
Groups: You can join groups that allow you to get in contact with people in a similar space to share ideas or connect with–even if you
have never met them personally (make sure that you have meaningful interactions and specify how you know them when asking to connect–and don’t ask to connect to anyone you don’t actually know–it’s bad form). It allows virtual networking to occur–and can be a highly valuable resource for people in a particular space. Position yourself as a resource and contributor, in addition to asking questions. Offer your opinion on questions and make it valuable by using personal experience and expertise.
Hiring: Sure you can post jobs and do your recruiting on LinkedIn. You can use the Advanced Search option to search for people by expertise and a host of other options. But you can also use it to learn more about people who you are looking at hiring or working with in another capacity. Find out what they where they have worked in the past, what specialties and expertise they have and who they know. If you have connections in common you can contact that connection to get additional information about them.
Conference Prep: We used LinkedIn as a core part of our Trafficado Hardcore PubCon Prep to make sure we were getting the most out of our conference experience.
Leverage your expertise: LinkedIn has an “Answers” section that allows you to help others get information and give you more exposure. You can share your expertise with others and build your reputation as an expert. This will help build your company profile and can help with referrals and build your credibility.
Lastly, don’t forget to look at how you can help others. I was able to focus on reciprocal help–things I could offer to other people and things other people could offer to me. It can’t be one sided–you need to be able and willing to offer help to others. As you start using LinkedIn for more it can be a powerful tool to help you in several ways. You can learn about people, companies, grow your exposure individually and as a company, and increase your reach to build reciprocity benefits. Make sure that you are approachable and offer help in addition to seeking out help from others. The relationships you build are what makes LinkedIn valuable–so make sure to build them properly.