LinkedIn? You’ve got to get linked up
by Jay Wilkinson
Jay Wilkinson of Firespring explains to OPI readers that LinkedIn can deliver your business real results via virtual networking
No matter how you look at it, there are two sides to social media. If you’re seeking out the more professional, LinkedIn is it. LinkedIn is a great tool for you if you’re looking for a place to network and connect with not only business professionals in your immediate circle, but with those across the globe.
This is not the place to post what you had for dinner last night, or display photos of your children and pets, but it is the perfect place to boast your professional talents – where you’ve been, where you’re going and what accolades you’ve received along the way.
LinkedIn is a network for professionals to post their profiles including a shortened version of their resume, any associations or groups they are involved in, awards they have received and any specific intentions they may have (finding a new job, looking for business partners, seeking professional ideas/advice).
It is also a place to connect to others in the business community. By ‘linking in’ to another professional, you are automatically connected to that person’s network and can leverage those relationships accordingly. Just a handful of the right links could lead you to a networking circle of hundreds, even thousands. A few more advanced and more recent features of the application include TripIt, where you can log your business and personal travel plans, displaying where you’ll be and when on your profile.
If you wish to share presentations with other professionals, you can do so with SlideShare. You can even keep your colleagues up on your reading using the Reading List by Amazon. And if you’ve delved into another online avenue, blogging, LinkedIn offers a few applications to share that with your network as well.
The final key component of LinkedIn is groups. When LinkedIn first went live, the primary benefit was a link that displayed on your profile page allowing your network to see who you were affiliated with. But in the past year, the group application has truly come to life.
Groups are now lively forums where members discuss trends applicable to the group, post articles and other educational information, even post job opportunities or requests for employment. Many companies are joining in on the fun by creating their own group profiles. OPI has its own group where it posts articles and additional industry information.
Now that you have an idea of the basics, here are a few real-life examples of the benefits of LinkedIn as well as some tricks of the trade.
The meet up
A former colleague of mine linked up with me on LinkedIn several years ago. Even though we used to do a lot of business together, we hadn’t spoken in several years. This colleague used the TripIt application on LinkedIn to track his travel.
It just so happened we were going to be in the same town at the same time so we decided to meet up for coffee. It turns out that he knew of a lead seeking a large project in my industry. I would have never known about this opportunity had it not been for LinkedIn.
This colleague was not someone I would’ve e-mailed and said, "Where are you travelling- I wouldn’t have picked up the phone and called him to ask for any new leads. This entire scenario took place for no other reason than our connection on LinkedIn. That’s one of the site’s greatest attributes. It opens the doors into new companies, new business opportunities, that you may have never known existed otherwise.
The sales pitch
One of our B2B salespeople swears by LinkedIn. He makes great use of his connections. He doesn’t directly pitch his network through LinkedIn, which would break unwritten social medial rules, but he uses the tool exactly as it was meant – to connect and network with new people.
This salesperson seeks out companies that he knows could be potential customers and finds someone he knows in the organisation to link in to. He then asks that LinkedIn connection who would be responsible for purchase decisions regarding the product he’s selling. Depending on the relationship with his connection, he may even ask for an introduction. Either way, our salesperson receives the most important piece to making a sale – a name of a decision maker. This salesperson attributes at least five of his major customers to starting a conversation on LinkedIn.
The ladder climb
Another somewhat surprising benefit of LinkedIn is the ability to modify search engine rankings. There are very few other social media options that will climb search engine rankings quicker than LinkedIn. Try typing your name into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. What comes up? Maybe it’s your company profile, maybe even your Facebook page or Twitter account, maybe it’s not actually you that gets first place but someone with the same name as you.
If you’d prefer to have one of your most professional faces forward when someone searches for your name, making a few tweaks to your LinkedIn profile will help it gain top billing. This can be beneficial for both your personal profile as well as your company if you have created a group or have several employees with strong profiles. While just having a LinkedIn profile should take you a long way up on search engines, there are a few additional tricks:
1. Create a vanity URL. You’ll notice while editing your LinkedIn profile, you have the opportunity to create a personal URL such as http://www.linkedin.com/in/yournamehere. This is not only a great tool to easily send people to your LinkedIn profile, it will also help the search engine spiders easily find you.
2. Update your description. You have a few hundred characters to describe yourself at the top of your profile. Most people leave this field blank and it is auto-filled with their job title. But if you personalise this field, you’ll automatically make it more search engine friendly for whatever terms you use.
3. Treat your profile like a website. If you are familiar with how to write for search engines on your website, think in those same terms when writing your LinkedIn profile for yourself or if you create a group for your company. Use keywords wisely and often without overdoing it.
Who to connect to
Once you’ve done enough to increase your search engine ranking by fully completing your LinkedIn profile, connecting with a large network and staying active on the site, you’ll notice an influx of requests (called invitations on the site) to link in with others.
The same rules do not apply to all social media sites when it comes to who to accept and who to reject. Remember, anyone you accept into your LinkedIn network will be privy to all of the information on your profile, however, also be aware of how easy it is to get information about a person on the internet, whether you’re linked in or not. So how much you share really just depends upon your personal preference and your intention regarding how you will use LinkedIn.
First off, if you do not know a person and if evidence suggests there is no way you would know them (for example, if they’re from a company or city you’ve never heard of), do not connect with them. There are spammers in the social media world, just as there are in your inbox. Be aware that you will receive requests from such individuals. But if the contact is legitimate, if you know the person making the invite, then there are a few more things to consider.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to LinkedIn, if you saw that person on the street and recognised them, you can and should link in to them. It doesn’t necessarily need to be someone that you would track down or even make an effort to say "hello" if you saw them. If you know the face or the name, that’s sufficient enough for a LinkedIn connection. Now, if that person is someone who you’d go out of your way to stop and talk to, that’s a great Facebook friend as well. But if you’d recognise the face and then look the other direction, don’t friend that person on Facebook; save that connection for LinkedIn instead.
What to watch out for
One last note about LinkedIn is to be aware of company pages. If your company has a few participants on LinkedIn, the application has likely created a company page for you. Search "companies" at the top of any LinkedIn page to find out if your organisation has a presence (it likely does). You’ll see this page lists a brief explanation of your company as well as number of employees, ratio of males to females, etc. The application will also use profile changes to track changes in your company such as where employees came from before joining your company and where they’re going when they leave. It will even track recent promotions based on job titles.
The most important aspect of company pages is that any person who notes on their profile that they work for your company can edit your company page (and write anything they choose).
There are no permissions required for someone to say they work for your company and there are no access restrictions on your company page. It’s a good idea then to have a company representative monitoring this page.
So get connected
Armed with this knowledge you should feel comfortable enough to at least start out on your LinkedIn journey. If there’s one social media application that fits for business people, this is it, so be sure to take advantage. Connections and networking couldn’t get easier than linking in.