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How to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be used by businesses and departments of any shape and size, and requires little social media know-how.
Brian Wallace | 27.11.2011
This article was published November 02, 2008.

In a time of stock market crisis, bailouts and a weak dollar, LinkedIn still raises $22.7 million in funding. How? It’s a relevant site with a number of useful resources for professionals and businesses. Meanwhile, the launch of the site’s application platform last week puts the spotlight back on this phenomenally useful social network.

Many folks involved in social media are so ADD driven to the latest social network, they fail to fully explore and make use of the networks that they are already part of. Enter LinkedIn, a haven for professional networking with an executive representation of all of the Fortune 500 companies. LinkedIn has a lot to offer regardless of where you are in your career, especially with the economy the way it is.

What Exactly is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has been around all the way back since 2003, and many people use it differently, so I asked the Twitterati, “What exactly is LinkedIn?”

As we can see from the replies above, some people consider LinkedIn to be a full-fledged social network, while others see it as a mere contact list or business network. The devil is in the details.
Should Businesses Care About LinkedIn?

Of course they should. LinkedIn has over 20 million members. LinkedIn can be used by businesses and departments of any shape and size, and requires little social media know-how. Search Engine Guide’s Jennifer Laycock recommends LinkedIn to small businesses that are looking to start using social media but just don’t have a lot of time to do so. Here’s an HR perspective from Jim Stroud of The Recruiter’s Lounge:

“LinkedIn is a tool recruiters cannot ignore. Recruiters who do not want to be bogged down with resumes turn to LinkedIn to find quality candidates and their peers. On the flip side, some recruiters use it to build up a massive list of contacts that they can use for email campaigns. This of course, is not the intention of LinkedIn, but its a fact of life. LinkedIn is becoming the next “Monster” with more and more recruiters turning to it.”

How Do You Get the Most Out of LinkedIn?

The old adage that “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” still holds value. LinkedIn takes this thought one step further, making it “who you will know soon to be of utmost importance.” Using LinkedIn, I’ve trained small businesses to spread their wings and get connected with companies that they might otherwise have thought were beyond reach, and to the persons they were looking for in those companies.

So, how do you meet people? Well, you can’t throw sheep or sick your zombies after them. There’s also no chat. And guess what? That’s totally fine. Many who use instant messaging aggregate different chat networks into a single app such as Digsby, Trillian, or Pidgin. So who needs another chat app?

Here are seven features LinkedIn does have that you should take advantage of:

Quick Lookup – Look up who you are having that next business meeting with. You’ll be able to break the ice right away.

Q&A – Post questions to others in your industry. The Yahoo Answers look and feel of this feature has definitely made LinkedIn more active and interesting. A public question can be responded to by anyone that works in really any discipline. Such was the case where Derek Edmond spotted a discussion occurring about the trustworthiness of SEO.

Recommendations – Have clients or co-workers post recommendations, which future employers and clients can view to gauge your skill and level of trustworthiness. Conversely, if you’re an employer, these imply trustworthiness for a potential freelancer or new hire.

Background checks – Look up potential new hires or freelancers. This should be right up there in an HR manager’s toolbelt.

See what your competition is up to – Keep track of what others in your industry are up to. Network updates gives you a feed of recent activity, so you can see who your connections have friended, groups they have joined, and the people they have recommended. You’ll even be able to see when people are switching jobs.

Introductions – Use people you already know to help make introductions. It’s a great way to get in the door with a company you need to contact.

Open Networking – Go out and become a LION! You are an open networker.
What’s Next?

LinkedIn has made a lot of recent updates and additions, including:

Group mania – LinkedIn has been making great strides in the groups area, having added search within groups, discussions within groups, groups you might like, and sharing groups. When you think about how much engagement and adoption groups have brought to Facebook, you’ll really begin to appreciate these changes.

Profile page – since most LinkedIn users spend a great deal of their time on profile pages, the subtle UI (user interface) changes done to the profile page are a great update.

iPhone app – LinkedIn has a pretty spiffy iPhone app that’s worth trying out.

While I really appreciate these additions, I think it would be great for LinkedIn to tell beginner users more about why to use the service. Similar to Twitter using the CommonCraft show’s Twitter in Plain English, LinkedIn could use its LinkedIn CommonCraft video to make beginner users see LinkedIn’s true value of building connections to help accomplish your business goals.
About the author: Brian Wallace