I was first introduced to LinkedIn several years ago by my son, who told me that “I had to join LinkedIn.” I wasn’t sure why I had to join, but I took his advice, wrote my profile, uploaded a picture, and began building my online network by adding connections. I really had no idea where any of these activities would lead me, but I was having fun expanding my virtual network. Over time I became a bit of an expert on LinkedIn, and colleagues would ask me how to use it effectively. From my experience, the starting point is to write a detailed and comprehensive profile, including education and work experience. It is worth spending time to include the most relevant aspects of your career in the profile. It is also important to upload a professional photo and to include peripheral information like links to your blog and other social media sites.
After you have completed your profile (and proofread it), you should then begin inviting anyone and everyone with whom you have a business relationship. This should include people you know to some degree. You don’t need to know them well to invite them to be a connection. Additionally, when someone invites you who you know, accept their invitation and read their profile and list of connections. So you have written a great profile, uploaded a flattering picture of yourself, and begun to build your professional online network.
The next step is to begin to post updates of your professional activities: deals, honors, speaking engagements, publications. Spread the word about your business updates. Include web sites when relevant. LinkedIn will serve as a vehicle to promote your business, and without any cost except your time. If done properly, you can get information out on a regular basis about everything you are doing. Don’t be shy about providing these updates.
Another step is to begin seeking recommendations from connections with whom you have worked: clients, business associates, colleagues. You will also be able to reciprocate and provide others with recommendations on their work. These recommendations will then be posted on your LinkedIn profile. You should also join groups that are related to your field of expertise and education. Depending on the amount of time you have to devote to LinkedIn, you can join in discussions with other members of the groups, make announcements of upcoming events, and pose questions for group members. Ultimately, LinkedIn and other forms of social media are ways to engage and dialogue with members of your online network. Social media is not passive, but a vehicle to engage in virtual communication with others 24/7 and around the world.
You also need to periodically update your profile and continue to invite people to join your network. Read the comments of your various groups, and weigh in when appropriate. The more connections you have and the more active you are, the more value you will derive from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the premier business social networking site, and has become increasingly important in the process of business development. It should be an integral part of anyone’s social media campaign.