It never ceases to amaze me that people who can be quite proficient on social networks still fail to exploit the opportunities provided by Linked In. In the past week, I have tried to advise a handful of my colleagues that they should either have a presence on the network, or should actually utilise the presence they already have. There is nothing more frustrating than finding someone and then finding there is nothing on their profile but their name and where they work.
For many Linked In is seen to be just a way of openly looking for employment or new business opportunities. But it has many more benefits that come from finding new people to add to your network and engaging in discussions. It is involvement in the groups that makes the difference, and identifying the right ones for you is a worthwhile investment of time.
I have made some great contacts through Linked In and it has allowed me to get involved in discussion around work related issues, business opportunities and has served as a way to promote my latest blog. It has also enabled me to catch up with many former colleagues and renew acquaintances.
So how do you make the most of it?
The key to Linked In is ensuring you have a thorough and detailed profile that covers business and employment issues and other important hobbies and interests. Try to hit 100 per cent completion by detailing all the elements that feature on your CV. Find the right kind of picture that presents the image you are looking for a blend of work with a little social twist. Once you have completed the sections then make contact with people who may be able to recommend you. These are people you have worked with during your career who will be able to promote your positive traits.
It is important to know what you want to achieve by linking to people through the network. You can then easily identify the people and organisations that you want to make connections with. Joining the groups, as I have said before, is an important way to discuss issues and then develop new friendships and connections.
Join your profile with your website and your blog. This helps to easily keep your profile refreshed and updated. It develops a coherent Internet presence for you. One thing I would avoid is making a direct link on Twitter. If you are a prolific Twitter user then it just clogs up the Linked In home page and can be frustrating for the person who is connected to you. You can do individual updates on Linked In and that is the most productive way of keeping people in touch with key aspects of your work and life.
Start discussions using the new networks that you will now be connected to. If possible start new discussions and add questions to the key groups that you are linked to. Don’t wait for someone else to ask something, do it yourself. If you have a question you would like the answer to then ask it and make the links to some like-minded people who reply.
Use Linked In as a portal or website to a whole range of information. It isn’t meant to be a passive site – it is very much a social network. Gaining the most from it relies on you being an active user. Sitting back and watching what happens on Linked In is not a way to exploit it. Use it for searching about aspects of work or life that you are interested in, and explore what you find.
Someone once said that Linked In is like the business Facebook, and I suppose in many ways it is. Its growth and usage are increasing and much of that is driven by the current economic climate. But with the right approach, a bit of determined hard work and an eye on regular usage and maintenance you can make some extremely useful connections. The time is right for Linked In to stand shoulder to shoulder with the giants of social networking – Twitter and Facebook.