LinkedIn is, without a doubt, a professional networking juggernaut. At last count, 150 million people have joined the site for a variety of reasons — job seeking, networking, maintaining connections, company research, etc.
Although LinkedIn is designed for professional purposes, the site is no different from other social networking platforms in that you need to invest time and energy into your LinkedIn presence in order to maximize your experience. LinkedIn can be a great tool for lead generation and business development, but in order to reap these sorts of benefits, you need optimize your profile and maintain visibility. Here’s how.
Get More Out of LinkedIn
Your profile. When’s the last time you updated your profile? Even if you’ve made changes within the last few days, consider making another update. Here’s the trick with LinkedIn: in essence, it’s a fast-moving stream of content, conversation and activity, just like any other social site. Each time you make a change to your profile, post content or participate in a discussion, that activity appears to your connections. It’s like a reminder to your network that you’re on the site. The more visible you are, the more likely you are to be contacted for professional opportunities or sought out as a knowledgeable person within your industry.
At Burns & McDonnell, we focus on LinkedIn training for all of our employees. We use LinkedIn for HR recruitment, business development, research and for networking with clients and peers. One of the most common mistakes we see is that people treat their LinkedIn profiles like resumes. Sure, you want to encapsulate your work history and professional experience. But don’t feel the need to limit your information to a few sentences. Instead, give other LinkedIn users a thorough picture of your experience and accomplishments and what you bring to the table. Consider your LinkedIn profile a valuable piece of online real estate in which you have plenty of room to showcase your professional life.
Participate. LinkedIn offers a number of forums for connecting and conversing with other users. Once you’ve created your profile, explore LinkedIn’s Groups. You may be amazed at the options available. Consider joining your college alumni group (there will be one, we promise), or one of the myriad groups filled with business professionals engaged in your line of work. Groups are great ways to meet like-minded people and ideal venues for posting relevant content that you think other users may find interesting.
Or spend some time using LinkedIn Answers, in which users pose questions. Browse questions that align with your interests and/or industry, and spend a few minutes each day answering a few. Again, LinkedIn success boils down to your visibility on the site, and answering questions is a great way to stay visible — and a smart approach for demonstrating your expertise to an engaged audience. Many professionals who use LinkedIn for new business development find that participating in LinkedIn Answers is a quick route to new opportunities.
Expand your connections. The larger your network, the more prospective opportunities you’ll have. LinkedIn makes it easy to add connections with the “People You May Know” section that appears in the top right corner of your home screen. You can also opt to enter your email user name and password, and LinkedIn will tell you which of your contacts are registered on the site. A quick word of advice? When you send someone a note to connect on LinkedIn, take just a few minutes to personalize the default message that will be sent to your prospective connection. Remind the person of how you met, or let him or her know why you want to connect. It’s a small yet meaningful gesture that demonstrates your thoughtfulness regarding your network selections.
It may be a struggle to find time for LinkedIn amid a hectic schedule, but trust us — it’s time well spent, regardless of your business goals. LinkedIn is a powerful tool, but just like anything, your success is driven by what you put into the site. There is, after all, a reason they call it “social networking.” You have to participate — connect, converse and contribute — in order to reap real benefits.