LinkedIn is everything from a virtual meeting space to a digital CV, but are you getting the most out of it? Here are five tips for using it better.
1. First impressions count
If you’re using LinkedIn as it was meant to be used — to extend your network — then there is a good chance you’ll be introducing yourself to people you have met briefly or not at all.
Even if they’ve left a lasting impression on you, people may not remember exactly who you are, so give them some clues, says social media lead generation expert Tom Skotidas.
“I would always seek context [for an introduction], for example finding people in common, or maybe find that I’ve worked with the same company in a different place. I’m not asking for a lead or a sale, I’m not asking you to buy anything, I’m actually asking you to network with me in the context of environmental clues that give you safety.”
Your first connection request may not get an equally enthusiastic response, but it will increase your chances of getting the connection. Breaking the ice is the hardest part.
2. It’s a popularity contest
The founder of internet company Orcon, Seeby Woodhouse, uses the CardMunch iPhone app. He snaps a smartphone photo of each business card he receives and LinkedIn transfers the contact to his address book and connects him with the contact on LinkedIn.
Woodhouse says he respectfully gives the card back, so it not only saves him time and Rolodex space, but also saves trees.
The big plus with using LinkedIn to keep in touch with colleagues and clients is people are actively updating their contact information as they change roles, so you’ll never get left behind.
Woodhouse puts his database to good use by sending mass InMails (LinkedIn’s internal messaging) to most of his contacts about once a year.
He doesn’t think it comes off as spam. “When I launched my new business, Voyager, I probably picked up between 50 and 100 customers, which is probably 3% of my LinkedIn database … it was a good start to get a customer base up and running.”
3. Personal branding
Don’t be afraid to pimp your profile — LinkedIn is all about you, not your company or your boss. Think of it as an opportunity to detail the intricacies and highlights of your career that you’re a little shy to bang on about in person.
Providing that detail upfront will show your connections how you differ from their existing supplier, account manager or promotion prospect.
Starting from this personal basis means LinkedIn is much more suited to the growth of personal brands rather than any rigid, company-wide marketing policy, says Skotidas.
“The platform is not actually built for companies that much — companies can participate and build company pages and use advertising and there’s value there, but the majority of the platform is person-to-person based.
“It forces you as a company to push your salespeople and other executives onto this network and allows you to connect person to person and influence the market in your favour.”
Open and genuine content sharing is key to using any social network — if you’re incessantly regurgitating the company dogma or posting about things you have no passion for, it will become obvious.
The content you’re linking to should reflect your individual interests and expertise because then you’ll be able to contribute knowledgeably to discussions that spring from them.