Thursday, July 26, 2012

To Effectively Use LinkedIn, Know Your Goals

Recently while visiting some friends that I hadn’t seen for a while, one of them asked me to show her how to use LinkedIn since she considered me an expert. I was surprised by the request; I certainly don’t consider myself an expert. I have been using LinkedIn for many years and have helped others get started, so I felt I could offer her some advice and was happy to help.
When I sat down to look at her profile and connect with her, I was surprised to find out she hadn’t yet created a LinkedIn profile. Obviously, this was my first tip: create a profile. Once she set up the basics, I asked what her reason for creating a LinkedIn profile was, what was her goal? That might seem like an odd question, but really, it’s an important one because the answer is different for everyone, so my advice isn’t necessarily going to be the same as I would give to someone else.
In her particular situation, she had a great job that she loved, and wasn’t planning on leaving. However, she and her spouse had opened a small business within the last year, and she wanted to use LinkedIn as a way to help build and promote the business. I thought it was a great idea and made some suggestions.
Here are a few tips I gave her:
  • Show both her current job as well as her small business. By doing this, you are clear on where you are at in your current situation. If you suddenly connect with someone who you might not in your daily job, but you would for your business that will help them to decide if they want to connect.
  • Add a picture. In her case, I thought her business logo was fine, since she is trying to build her business, but if you are using LinkedIn to network for your career, keep it personalized with a picture of yourself.
  • Add your history. People like to know where you worked before and it will help to identify those that you may be connected to through others. LinkedIn is all about connections, the more job history you have, the more likely you’ll be able to connect with those you know.
  • Build your network. Start reaching out to who you know and have worked with in the past. LinkedIn makes this pretty easy now with suggestions of people you know. When you send a request, be sure to send a short note, especially if you haven’t spoken to the person in some time, it will help to strengthen your network by creating a warm connection. If you don’t know the person, you can ask someone to introduce you, and explain why you want to connect. If you ask me to connect to someone in my network, I want to be sure I’m not going to regret it later!
  • Join groups that are relevant to your business or career. It’s easy to join a ton of groups, there are so many that look interesting! This can be difficult to keep up with all of them, especially if you can’t be on LinkedIn every day. Join the ones that make sense to your goals, and contribute where you can. Groups can be an excellent way to network, share ideas and learn. Definitely be careful not spam, you might be tempted to post anything and everything, but sometimes, less is more!

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