I got this question twice in the last week, which made me think it was time to answer it.
Lots of people set up a LinkedIn profile, perhaps finish it, perhaps not, and then try to decide which of the myriad invitations they receive each week to accept. Other than that, often the profile sits on the site, unused. So how should you use LinkedIn?
As with many social media/social networking platforms, the answer is “it depends.” Let’s take a look at LinkedIn from the minimum required up to spending some time each day on it.
Setting up your LinkedIn profile
This is your dead minimum. I’m of the opinion that just about everyone over the age of, say 18 or so, should have a complete LinkedIn profile. Why? Because for most people, their LinkedIn profile will be the first result in a Google search of their name. (I just checked my name, and yes, it’s still the first one for me.) Google searches are now standard tools used by both HR departments and potential customers. If you want to be found online, a LinkedIn profile is required.
Since it’s often the first result in a search, why not make it complete and represent you the best way possible?
Connect to some folks
A LinkedIn profile with connections looks like a LinkedIn profile which is used. In addition, you can’t do much with LinkedIn if you aren’t connected to some people.
Should you only connect to people you know, or should you accept every connection request sent to you? Either is acceptable. So is an in-between approach. Decide if depth or breadth is more important to you and use that to guide your decision. I accept most requests, except for people who share none of my interests or who bear the stink of a spammer. (Yes, those exist on LinkedIn too.)
Do some searches
Remember my A-B-C post? In it, I talk about using LinkedIn as a way to connect to the people you most want to meet. Think of it this way. If you know you want to meet a person at a particular company, you can:
A) Call all your friends and ask them if they know someone there. Better hope they both answer your call and can remember everyone they know or have ever met. Good luck with that.
B) Do a targeted LinkedIn search and get the same information in about 1/10 (or less) time.
I know which one I’d rather do.
Yes, this does require doing some research and knowing who you need to meet and why, but it can pay off big time, especially if you are looking for a job.
Publish some stuff
While you can use LinkedIn as a publishing platform, I don’t recommend it. Remember that you don’t own the platform, and LinkedIn could change its terms of service at any time. I’m a fan of blogging on a site you own, like your own website. However, you can link to your blog or other articles that you write on LinkedIn, and it’s a good way to get the word out about what you know. If the posts you link to are informative and have good calls to action, you can get some clients that way.
Create/Update your company profile
I admit it. I haven’t looked at my company profile on LinkedIn since I set it up. However, one of my ex-clients swears by it and says it’s good for SEO and that she’s received thousands of dollars in business from it. Guess what’s on my To Do list?
To Group or Not To Group
That’s a good question. A couple of years ago I didn’t hesitate to advise people to participate in LinkedIn Groups. Now, I’m not so sure. Lots of things have changed, and many groups prohibit posting your own articles to Groups, even if they are informative and not sales oriented. Groups without such policies have become repositories for Spam. I guess if you can find a private group on a topic of interest to you or your clients, there may still be value in them.
LinkedIn has tried, over the years, to become more like Facebook, and I’m not a fan of the changes. I still think there’s value to having a profile, but I’m not sure I’d recommend spending lots of time there. Maybe drop by once a week or so to see if there are any interesting updates from your connections or to browse for interesting profiles. Stop by more often when you are actively looking for or making connections.
Anyone have anything to add? Have a great tip that’s worked great for you?
Image credit: By Nan Palmero from San Antonio, TX, USA (Linkedin ChocolatesUploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons