Ever since Web 2.0 was introduced, or at least since “social” became the big buzz word, everyone talks about the three big social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (then there is the occasional MySpace fan, I never even made an account). Now, I always enjoyed myself a little Facebook, but was never a huge believer in its value as a business networking tool. I am pretty sure you know my stance on Twitter and its ability to help you achieve your goals, no matter what they might be. However, for the longest time, I did not get LinkedIn. I found its interface to be annoying and not user-friendly. I never really got any added value out of my LinkedIn network. To me, it was just another network I was on, that would send me annoying emails once a day.
A few months ago I decided to try and understand why it is so popular and what I was missing. Turns out, I was wrong about most of the things I thought about LinkedIn. The interface still needs some work, but in terms of a networking or an effective self promotion tool, it is up there with the best of em. Now, don’t take that out of context, self promotion is not what social media is about, but it is one of the perks.
So I began using LinkedIn both for this blog and for my job, which is in the foreign exchange industry (UPDATE: I now work here and use the same principles). In both areas, I was amazed by the results. I am getting very significant traffic to both sites from LinkedIn and the conversion rate of my Forex site has also shown improvement thanks to my LinkedIn activity.
I have made some great connections on LinkedIn that would never have come to be had it not been for LinkedIn. I am talking about some serious industry experts that LinkedIn made it very easy to connect with. The bottom line is, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all target different audiences and everyone uses them differently, but one thing is for sure, LinkedIn lets you “target” a much more relevant and focused audience.
Now that I am a little more comfortable with LinkedIn, I thought I would share some of my personal tips and advice on how to maximize the experience and what it brings you. Here are the first 10 things you should do after joining Linkedin.
- Experience is Key: Similar to a resume, the experience section of your LinkedIn profile is the first thing people look at when encountering your profile. Now, there is the famous chicken and egg question of employment, i.e you cannot get hired without experience and you cannot get experience without being hired. The solution is maximizing the experience that you DO have. Everyone, by the time they are looking for employment, have done something they are proud of. In the same way you write your resume, make sure your experience, whatever it may be, appears impressive to whoever is reading it. I am not saying to lie in any way, but there is a way of presenting things, and if you are not good at marketing yourself, get someone who is, to help you out. This is a key factor, show you have experience, emphasize the tasks you have done, and how you excelled at them.
- Post a Picture: This is a controversial one, I know. Not only that, but many people, who use LinkedIn daily, do not have a picture. In my humble opinion, this is a mistake. At the end of the day, business is business, but people want to see who they are talking to. I am not saying you will definitely not benefit from LinkedIn if you don’t have a picture, but I do believe it can only help you and not hurt you. People do not like communicating and interacting with Content Managers or Programmers, they like talking to people, and specifically ones that are smiling.
- Get Yourself Recommended: This is one of the, if not the, most important part of your profile. LinkedIn allows you to easily ask people who know you professionally to recommend you based on their impressions. At first, I was hesitant to do this, as I felt like it was a little bit like fishing for compliments. It is not. It is a totally acceptable practice on LinkedIn and makes the greatest impression on anyone who visits your profile. Now, here is the thing, when you choose who to ask for recommendations, be very selective. Ask people who know how to write well and whose opinion matters. What I mean to say is if someone has their current job as “unemployed”, not sure they are your best choice for a recommendation. As I have said about twitter on many occasions, social media is all about reciprocity. This is no different. For starters, if you get a request to recommend someone, understand that you were asked because that person has a high opinion of you. Write a serious and thorough recommendation, and make it as genuine as possible.
- Recommend Others: On the flip side, if someone recommends you, you should spend the time recommending them back (I know I need to do this, so if you wrote me one and are reading this, I have not forgotten). It is all about give and take in social media. If you are only a taker, within a short period of time, you will find there is nothing left to take as no one wants to give you anymore.
- Answer Questions: This is something I unfortunately do not spend enough time doing, but it is on my list. Make sure to read the status updates of your friends, and answer any question you can. Look at relevant groups, read what people are asking, and if you have the knowledge, share it and answer questions. Not only does this help promote your name as an expert, all your answers appear on your connections’ home page. Answering questions on LinkedIn is a very effective tool to promote yourself and enhance your network.
- Ask Questions: Do not be afraid to ask questions. A real expert knows his limits, no one will judge you if you do not know something. Asking questions also enables people to answer them, another useful tool for connecting with smart and experienced people in your field. Questions also appear on the home page, and keep your name in the mind of your connections.
- Connect, connect, connect: OK, now this bullet is up for debate and I know many people are going to disagree with the way I use LinkedIn. I am a strong believer in the first half of the buzz phrase “Social Media”, i.e Social. Social networks, whether Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are all about connecting, communicating, and interacting. They are not a popularity content (ahem Twitter), a simple tool to view friends’ pictures (Facebook), or another form of communication with your co worker who sits two feet away from you. The point of LinkedIn, in my opinion, is to connect with people who work in your industry, people who can potentially help and enhance your professional network, and people you might be able to help in one way or another. If you are connected to someone on LinkedIn, it does NOT mean you have worked with them for 5 years in the same office, I do not need a social network to connect with such a person. LinkedIn is for connecting with professionals that share a common ground and interest with your and your profession. So connect, connect, connect, and when in doubt, connect.
- Get it Out There: Similar to Twitter and possibly Facebook, depending on how you use it, you should link to your LinkedIn profile any chance you get. This is of course assuming you completed the above steps and your profile is something you want people seeing. Add it in your email signature, add it in your Facebook and Twitter bio or profile, send it to your friends, invite people to connect with you, make sure people know you are now on LinkedIn. Get it out there!
- Join Groups by The Dozens: This is the one step that has brought me more results than any other. Whatever field you are in, chances are there is a relevant group on LinkedIn. Use the advanced search feature, and join any group you think might be somewhat relevant for you and your professional goals.If you do not want to receive daily or weekly emails, you can disable them, but the very presence in a relevant group is sure to get your name out there. I would not stop with just joining the group, I would share insights on the wall, but more about that in the next bullet. LinkedIn is a very effective networking tool that is magnified significantly with its implementation of the groups feature. After joining a group, browse its members, consider connecting with some, and communicate with as many as possible. Just remember, as opposed to possibly Twitter and definitely Facebook, when you participate in the dialogue of a LinkedIn group, the kind of people who will see that are just the people you want to, and not irrelevant friends who just read your content as a personal favor, or Twitter bots who are not reading anything. It is the most effective tool to reach a highly relevant and targeted audience.
- Show your Expertise: This is something I have a hard time with, if I am being honest. I am so traumatized by the phrase “Social Media Expert” that I do not like calling or marketing myself as an expert (not that I am one). However, many people, who are a lot smarter than me, have told me that if you have what to offer others, it is not the time for humility. No one says to go showing off how popular you are (ahem Twitter spammers), but make sure to share your expertise with others. Share your knowledge across the LinkedIn platform, whether on your status, others’ statuses, groups, or discussions. Market yourself as an expert in whatever field you are in and make sure the next time a friend is looking for someone who “knows his stuff” in your field, they will immediately remember how you just displayed a deep understanding of the subject matter that afternoon. I do not need to tell you how that will help you and your professional goals.
As I mentioned in the intro, I only recently discovered and began to unleash the real potential LinkedIn has to offer. I am learning new things every day, but the bottom line is, if you follow the ten steps above, you will see quicker results than you will see using any other traditional marketing tool, and more targeted and immediate results than other social networks, including Twitter.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic, especially since like I said, I am learning new things every day. If you have some important tips, or disagree with any of mine, please let me know in the comments. In the meantime, connect with me on LinkedIn here, and follow me on Twitter here.
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