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LinkedIn is a social networking enterprise geared for professional networking. It differs from Facebook and MySpace in that it focuses on building networks to advance one’s career and demonstrating expertise. LinkedIn (as of March 2009) has around 36 million registered users representing 150 different industries in 200 countries.
LinkedIn is all about connections: Those that know you directly (first-degree connections) and the people that each of those connection know (second-degree connections) plus the people that each of the second-degree connections know (third-degree connections), and so forth. So how do you build your network? Think about your friends, your parents friends and colleagues you’re acquainted with, your teachers, religious leaders, adult 4H or scouting contacts, neighbors, etc.
Begin to gather e-mail addresses for these first-degree connections and invite them to join your network. If they are not currently on LinkedIn, invite them to put up a profile and then join your network. If you have 25 first-degree connections, each of which has an average of 25 first-degree connections, each of which have another 25 first-degree connections, you will end up with a way to connect with over 15,000 people in no time at all!
LinkedIn is all about professionalism. You can’t contact someone unless you know them. People you invite to join your network can opt out if they feel they don’t know you. What you contribute to your profile and LinkedIn services (such as Answers) is expected to be related to careers and business-related interests.
Use the information below (and at the recommended links given) to get started.
Creating a LinkedIn Profile
1. The first thing you will need to do is to join LinkedIn, which is not only free, but offers complete security for your personal contact details. All messages are routed to you via LinkedIn; those contacting you never know your direct e-mail unless you give it to them. To join LinkedIn, visit: http://www.linkedin.com/secure/register.
2. Next, start developing your own profile by first reading the material posted on LinkedIn’s New User Guide (http://learn.linkedin.com/new-users/), which covers these topics:
Own a profile that truly represents you.
Ensure your connections represent your “real-world” network. Leverage the power of your LinkedIn network!
3. Check out an extreme makeover of one person’s LinkedIn profile: see the “before” with critique at http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/linkedin_profil.html; view the “makeover” at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/guykawasaki.
Searching on LinkedIn
LinkedIn allows you to search profiles for diverse information and contacts. You can search for people, references of job applicants, and answers to questions on a wide variety of topics. For a complete “how-to” of LinkedIn’s search functions and advanced search tips, visit: http://learn.linkedin.com/linkedin-search/.
Adhering to LinkedIn Etiquette
Like all social networking activities, posting information on LinkedIn should be done with care and consideration. Remember, whatever you post online can be viewed by anyone. If there’s something you don’t want a client, family member, or employee reading, DON’T POST IT. Keep in mind the following when using LinkedIn:
1. Don’t invite someone to join your network unless you know them and they know you.
2. Don’t accept an invitation to join another person’s network unless you know them. Look at their profile if you’re unsure and see if the information gives you a clue as to how and where you met them.
3. Don’t post your e-mail address under your name on your profile. That way, you will only connect with people you know — a more secure and credible approach to using social networking.
4. Don’t apologize for inviting someone to join your network or asking for a recommendation. If you’ve carefully selected the recipient of your request, there will be no problem. Remember, everyone on LinkedIn is there to build a professional network; they understand the importance of connecting and recommending.
5. Remind people you contact how they know you. Make it easy for them to want to connect with you.
6. Try to keep your communication informal, yet professional — kind of like the conversation at a charity event with colleagues and casual friends from your community. Your knowledge and your personality are both important to convey.
7. Post only pictures on your profile that make you look professional.
8. Be very honest in your bio: your profile could be viewed by anyone and everyone. Making yourself look more qualified than you are will never work with a public profile.
9. Although it is nice to have people recommend you on LinkedIn, be sure to offer to do the same for others. If you say nice things about others, others will likely do the same for you.
10. Make sure everything you post on LinkedIn is correct in terms of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Nothing makes a bad impression like typos and poor usage. Ask someone proficient in writing to edit your profile. When answering or asking questions in LinkedIn Answers, first compose what you want to say in a Word document (and check spelling/grammar), and then copy and paste the text into the appropriate space on LinkedIn.
Using LinkedIn Groups
“LinkedIn for Groups” offers users the ability to set up a particular professional interest group (typically under a parent organization, such as an alumni group or professional organization). Then, interested members can join the group by either being invited to join or by asking for approval to do so from someone already involved.
LinkedIn works to ensure that all groups are officially sanctioned by their parent organizations, including having permission to use the name/logo of the group and having relevant people involved.
There are likely some 37,000 “groups” that have been set up by LinkedIn users, with some 500 of them listed in the site’s directory (www.linkedin.com/groups). Besides boosting your credibility and giving you a new avenue for seeking advice, others in the groups you join form a special sort of connection.
You won’t have access to their extended networks for introductions, but you will automatically be considered a direct connection to each group’s members so that you can see their full profiles and they can appear in your search results. By joining just a few groups, you can add tens of thousands of people to your network without having to do so one at a time (and without having to be introduced one contact at a time).
For more information, read the blog article at: http://blog.linkedin.com/2008/08/28/post-3-2/.
The benefits of using LinkedIn Answers are many. You can increase your knowledge on any number of topics. You can offer answers to questions where you have good information to share. If your answer is rated the best by the person who posed the question, that ranking (called an expertise point) will show up in your profile and attract more people to learn about what expertise you have to offer. Learn more about using LinkedIn Answers at http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=answers_info&goback=.ahp.
Having someone post a recommendation for your skills and work experience (whether they are clients, community organization leaders, or past employers) can really improve your profile. To ask for a recommendation, go to your profile and click on the “Recommendations” tab on the left. Follow the directions to request a recommendation from someone in your network, and think carefully about the message you send that person regarding the recommendation you’re asking for. Be sure to:
Pick someone who knows you well and can recommend you for specific work you have done. Give the person you are contacting some idea of what you want them to recommend you for (e.g., ask for one or two key skills you demonstrated on a recent project). If appropriate, offer to reciprocate with a recommendation of your own; for clients and employers alike, being recommended for one’s leadership and management skills is always a plus. Prefer quality over quantity: try to get those who recommend you to be brief. Be brief yourself when recommending someone.
For more guidance, review this blog article on LinkedIn Recommendation Samples: