What is LinkedIn and do I need to join another social network? That’s what I asked myself when I received my first “invite to connect” several years ago. It was from a friend, so I figured it was safe, and I clicked on the link in the email and started my profile. I have to admit though, it sat unchanged for probably a year. My paper resume was up to date and it just didn’t seem important enough to take the time to transfer it over to digital. I’ve come a long way in the past four years. Now I can’t imagine not being on LinkedIn. It’s my professional profile, “on steroids,” a cache of valuable connections, networking right at my desktop, and some of the best industry articles I can find delivered to my inbox. As defined by the LinkedIn website, “LinkedIn is a networking tool that helps you discover inside connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners. It strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts.” If you haven’t already accepted your “invite to connect,” now is the time. Yes, you need to be on LinkedIn. And not just for yourself but your business too.
Here’s how to get started, from Forbes Cover Story Spells Out Why You Must Be On LinkedIn by Susan Adams (Forbes, June 2012):
Write a brief but specific summary of your career that is 100-300 words long. Include telling details and quantifiable achievements. Use keywords and phrases from job descriptions that would interest you. LinkedIn itself can help you do this. Use the “Skills & Expertise” link under “more” on the grey bar at the top of the page, and enter a job title. This will lead you to a list of “related skills.”
Do fill in the “education” and “experience” fields. Many people only include their current job. That is a mistake. Think of your LinkedIn page as an online, search able version of your résumé. For each of your jobs, include a crisp, detailed description of what you did. Quantify achievements where possible.
Do include recommendations. Recruiters read these. Get a minimum of five, and try to make them cover the range of your career. If you are in sales, include one from a customer, a colleague and a boss.
Flesh out your contacts. When inviting someone to connect, always send a personal note. When trying to decide whether to accept a connection, ask yourself whether you know the person in a professional or personal context, and would you want to connect with the person on professional matters, face to face. Would you be willing to ask that person for an introduction, and would you be willing to make one for them, if they asked?
If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a while you’ve probably seen an email informing you that someone you know (or maybe don’t know) endorsed you for a particular skill. I was pleasantly surprised when I received my first notice. But then after investigating I had to wonder if it really had any value. It’s as easy to endorse someone on LinkedIn as it is to like a post on Facebook. Is it a credible acknowledgement of my skills or a popularity contet? We’ll find out if the feature disappears by the end of the year, as some are predicting. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to be endorsed and it’s a friendly gesture to endorse someone you know.
Recommendations are even better. The Forbes article suggests that you should have at least five. If you don’t have any, you can start by writing some for people you have worked with. To do this, begin by stating how you know the person and any background info. Then add skills and qualities about the person. Try to put a specific example about something the person did that stands out. And then sum it up with strong statement of resolution: “I highly recommend Jen for anyone needing a quality website created in a professional and timely manner.” Then you can send out request for people to reciprocate and recommend you.
What are LinkedIn groups and why should you join them? If you want to make the most of your professional networking, joining the right group is a good use of your social media engagement time. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups, but to actually get anything out of them, 50 is too many. Social Media Examiner recommends choosing the top three to five groups that represent your target demographic. You should visit them two to three times a week. Target the most popular discussion in each group to get the most visibility. When you’re ready, start your own discussion. And eventually, you can start your own group. This is a great option if you don’t have a qualifying email address to start a business page.
If you have an email address with your own distinct email domain then you can start a company page. This means “firstname.lastname@example.org” and not a gmail, yahoo, or hotmail account. If you qualify, then you should take advantage of this opportunity. It allows you to be where your current and potential clients are. It’s another important way (some would say more important than other social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter) to engage with your market and tell your story.
Should you upgrade to a professional version of LinkedIn? Yes, but only if you are looking for a job, selling to businesses or recruiting. I like the teaser on the free account of only being able to see a few of the people that viewed your profile. With an upgrade you get to see everyone. Some might consider that alone worth $19.95 a month. Other benefits of the upgrade are that you can contact anyone in InMail, see expanded profiles, and you get more search filters and results. But the free plan offers most of this and is enough for my purposes.