Maximizing LinkedIn – Good Practices for Good Results

I’m fortunate to have a group of very bright, very successful friends – many of whom I know via the world of social mediums. Erica Friedman is one of them, and is a regular LinkedIn user and contributor. She’s written a terrific post about how to get the most out of LinkedIn, so read on and enjoy:

Professional networking is practically a full-time job in itself. There’s association meetings, and internal meetings, and a million times a day when you are in the position of selling yourself, your company or your product.

There are any number of popular Social Networking sites, of course, but there’s always some risk in mixing business and pleasure. Friend your boss on Facebook and he or she might see those photos your friend took last weekend.

When it comes to professional networking online, the one community that pops up in conversation first is…LinkedIn.

Like every network, LinkedIn gives back what you put into it. And, like so many Social Networking sites, LinkedIn can be a confusing experience - but with a few basic guidelines, it can be a useful professional networking and business development tool. Here are a few things that will go a long way to making your experience more meaningful:

1) Complete your profile and keep it current

Your profile is more than just your resume. Of course you do want to list your work experience and your education, but your profile can be more than that. Did a good job? Get recommendations that highlight your skill sets. Have colleagues, clients and peers tell the world what kind of person you are.

Once you have your profile completed, don’t just walk away. Tweak it from time to time. Give it pizzaz, keep it current. Every time you make a change – add a Twitter feed, rewrite your headline, etc, – your connections will see that there have been changes, which draws their attention back to you.

2) Join Groups and use them

Groups on LinkedIn can represent an interest, a professional credential, your education, your industry or just about any kind of affiliation. Associations, fraternities, and hobbyists all have groups on LinkedIn. There may be a group for business people in your state or in your town. Groups are a great way to meet people with at least one thing in common with you – surely that’s enough to start a conversation, even if it’s not destined to be an eternal friendship.

Don’t join 100 groups that you never read in order to impress someone. Join 10 groups that you read and comment on. Weigh in on a discussion or add a great link to a news item you’d like to share. Don’t just be a one-way communicator – make sure you comment on other people’s posts, as often as you post your own.

Groups give potential employers and clients a glimpse at your professional interests and affiliations, so choose wisely. It may seem funny at the time to join “Bring Back Tar and Feathering As Punishment,” but what is it going to say about you as a professional?

3) Answers are a great way to showcase your skills

One of the most “interesting” features of LinkedIn is the Answers section. Answers are questions asked by other LinkedIn users and open for debate, discussion, sharing and humor.

Answers can be a fabulous resource and a great place to meet new people to connect with. Answers can also be a cesspool of political rants, useless commentary and a sinkhole of time and sanity. Choose your poison wisely.

Avoid agendas, highlight your experience by choosing professional questions asked professionally and then answering them professionally. You’ll shine above the rest with well-thought out answers to interesting questions. From time to time, you’ll be rewarded with LinkedIn’s version of a cookie – a Best Answer. Best Answers are awarded by the people who ask the questions. People who award you a Best Answer are great choices for new connections and possible business relationships.

If you decide to ask a question yourself, you’ll be asked to chose a category that the question best fits into. These categories are inadequate, but don’t stress about it. Pick the best possible one. When you ask your question, thefirst few answers may be sarcastic, “clever” (by which I mean “annoying,”) or otherwise kind of useless. People use the Answers for a lot of different reasonsand in a lot of different ways. Not all of them are helpful to you or even sensible. Don’t let them get you down. Thank the folks who reply helpfully and ignore the rest.

4) Help is your friend

One of the oddest things about LinkedIn is the otherwise highly intelligent and accomplished folks who set up profiles, but really don’t know how to use them. What makes these folks “odd” is that they frequently send messages to the public Answers areas asking how to do simple things, or writing extremely angry posts there, because they think those areas are LinkedIn Help. Do yourself a favor – once your profile is set up, look at your Account & Settings. Make sure your username email is the one you want to use. Turn off email notifications, or you’ll get an email box *full* of group notifications and replies and comments and posts and….

Take a few minutes and visit the Help page before you need it (the link is on the top right hand corner, right next to Account & Settings.) The link to Customer Service can be found as a tab behind *any* question on Help. There’s also a tutorial and the usual tips and tricks that are helpful at the Learning Center.

Above all, when something isn’t working, don’t get angry. LinkedIn has glitches all the time. It’s not you. It’s just a site and if you use it right, you’ll have plenty of emails, Twitter feeds, Facebook friends and Google Waves to keep you busy while it resets.

Erica Friedman is the President of Yurikon LLC, a social media promotion company focusing on small and “micro” niches. She writes about Social Media Without Delusion at SocialOptimized.

  • http://themarketingmark.blogspot.com MarkSherrick

    LinkedIn is definitely a community all too itself. Its underrated as a mass networking too by many who think its just a place to post your resume and brag about what you've done professionally.

    In my limited exposure to the parts of LinkedIn beyond the job networking aspect, its been a great tool. Easy to get into, hard to really get it right.

  • ShellyKramer

    Well, hopefully this information from Erica will help, Mark. I liked LI a lot more before the economy really tanked and it became an online resume service. But it's hard to ignore the ability to connect with others, interact in groups, answer questions, etc., as a way to build your own personal brand and even, potentially, develop new business opportunities.

  • http://themarketingmark.blogspot.com MarkSherrick

    Definitely. I joined it back when it was new and that's pretty much what it was, and recently rediscovered it and all its good features. Gotta spend some more time with it for sure.

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  • http://www.wchingya.com wchingya

    That's a really nice article, Shelly. As much I am indulged with Facebook recently but no doubt I'm planning to learn more about LinkedIn. I agree on the Q&A section can best showcase one's expertise in own niche, truth is we never know who we might bump into or even a potential client/collaboration on the way. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • http://twitter.com/donpower Don Power

    I have a feeling that Linkedin may become the new Twitter – ie: businesses will use this platform for their realtime updates to generate interest in their business. You provide a great groundwork in this post, for people to get used to the capabilities and opportunities within Linkedin.

    Cheers!

    -Don

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    Shelly,

    This article was mentioned in my class tonight. David said you rocked!

    Erroin

  • Anonymous

    That’s awesome. And I’m sure that I know what your reply was …….

  • http://twitter.com/JustineBoucher Justine Boucher

    I definitely agree that LinkedIn is one of those sites where you get out of it what you put in.

    You recommend joining 10 groups vs. 100, which may be great for engagement and content, but in terms of making new connections and widening your contact net, I’ve suggested joining as many groups that interest you, especially if they have a large member base, host events where you can meet new/future contacts IRL or serve as a good jumping off start when introducing yourself to a prospective contact online. This connects you to contacts you wouldn’t otherwise be able to message as a 2nd or 3rd degree connection.

  • http://twitter.com/Ad_Chickadee ★ Ad Chickadee ★

    I’m also started tapping into my connections for more than just networking for a new job – I recently filled a focus group study for a client in the health care industry through my local connections.  Best part – we were able to fill it in a day just from my LinkedIn contacts.

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  • http://www.rocktheworldbook.com/ Mike O’Neil

    Great short analysis. This is the part that really got me saying YEAH!!

    Choose your poison wisely.It’s particularly interesting how there are now many different circles and cultures WITHIN LinkedIn. The LION’s, the Groups people, the Answers people, Tweeters, the Slideshare fans…

    FInding the one that works for you is kind of like starting like moving and going to a new high school.  Embarrassment and lost time may result…I tell new users to wait on any major Group and Answers activity until a little later, when they know their way around a bit.  

    I have them lurk a bit first and see how others are behaving before stepping out too far.  

    Otherwise they might do something they will regret, like asking a question that has already been asked over and over.  They’ll let you know if that happens!

    The issue is time. We work with sales reps and they love shiny objects that steal away sales time (Groups, Interests).  

    At least they can put it off to when they can’t be calling on customers.  Since you can only join 50 groups, there is a learning curve there on which ones to join and what to do there.

    Fortunately you can add/delete most groups pretty easily.

    Mike O’Neil
    @mikeoneilrocks

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