I was first introduced to LinkedIn several years ago by my son Billy. He said, “You have to join LinkedIn.” With some prompting and good old fashioned logic, he convinced me that LinkedIn was the wave of the future, a free online advertisement, and a conduit to everyone on the planet. So I joined, and did so with gusto, amassing many connections, some of whom I knew only peripherally. Today, 1703 connections (and counting) and 65 recommendations later, I am considered an expert on LinkedIn. I know many, though not all, aspects of this premier business networking site. I continue to invite people to be a connection, and accept invitations of others on a daily basis. What then are the basics of using LinkedIn?
First of all, you must sign up. Then you need to write a Profile as detailed and comprehensive as possible. Take the time to make sure you have included all relevant work and educational experience in your profile. You must upload a professional picture. This is critical. Once you are satisfied with your profile and picture, it is time to start compiling your connections. I recommend that you invite anyone who you know in business, friends, relatives, and significant people in your life. My philosophy is “the more the merrier.” The more connections you have, the more opportunity to build a truly wide social media network. The six degrees of separation principle is in effect here. You don’t really know who the people you know are acquainted with. This factor can be utilized when you want to be introduced to someone who knows someone you know.
As you begin building your online network, it is useful to read about your connections so that you have more to talk to them about. For example, if you have meeting with someone (connection or not) you can peruse their profile and find out about their employment, educational and personal background. This can be invaluable in your initial discussions. It is more and more common in business for people to do online research on potential business partners.
Another key component of your LinkedIn page is Recommendations. Ask for recommendations from people with whom you have done business. Another useful tactic is to write a recommendation for some of your contacts. As you gain new connections, continue to seek and give recommendations.
LinkedIn can be used to do research on people to determine their suitability. You can also use the Search function to find people, as most business people are now on LinkedIn. You can even find people who work at a specific company. For example, if I want to meet an attorney at a particular firm, I can search to see if I know anyone who works at that firm. With 1703 connections, I probably do.
You can join groups (there are hundreds of them), form groups, and have discussions and dialogues. Ultimately, LinkedIn is about an interaction and engagement of others. You can share your blogs (I am going to share this one), respond to others’ postings, and regularly post updates about your business activities. It is not enough to join LinkedIn, you have to be active in it.
You will determine your level of participation in LinkedIn depending on your needs and available time. If you are in business development or recruiting, it is an outstanding tool. But like any tool, it is only as good as your judicious and consistent use of it. I will be doing a number of presentations on using LinkedIn. Stay tuned.
I started using LinkedIn several years ago at the suggestion of my son, with no profile, no connections, no status updates and no recommendations. Over 1,700 connections, 50 recommendations, and countless updates later, I have come to use LinkedIn for several key benefits. First of all, LinkedIn allows me to find out about people with whom I am meeting or intend to contact. I can learn where they went to school, something about their career path, and other pertinent data. This can be extremely beneficial as a research tool and being informed in advance about the person and their company. Another benefit is getting introductions based on second level connections. Let’s say I want to meet the Administrator at a major law firm, and don’t know where to begin. I simply search the law firm and will immediately see everyone from that firm who is on LinkedIn. I then look for anyone I am connected (1st Level) who might know that person. The more connections I have, the higher the probability that I will have some type of connection to the firm. If I know my connection well enough, I can send a LinkedIn message and ask if they will make the introduction. It’s very powerful, and that power increases with the number of connections. The most fundamental tactics of LinkedIn are t0 write a detailed profile and make a lot of connections.
Another great benefit of LinkedIn is writing updates of your activities and posting articles or blog posts you have written. This can dramatically increase the traffic to your blog or web site. I suggest posting on a regular basis. Make your posts valuable to others, and not merely what you are doing. Information, articles, and humor will all attract attention. There is little doubt that LinkedIn is the premier business social media tool today. It should be used in concert with Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and other medium to improve your SEO. Be aware that the true value of social media inheres in the engagement of others. Respond in a meaningful way to what others in your “groups” post. Be active, continue to increase your connections, learn about them, and engage them on a consistent basis. LinkedIn offers great potential to raise your virtual profile in a significant way. But you have to be active and strategic in order to derive the various benefits of the site. Talk to others who have used the site productively to gain insights into other useful tactics that will enhance your visibility.
With the proliferation of social media, some people think that they can build a network with heavy reliance on it alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though social media can be quite useful in expanding your virtual network exponentially, there will never be a substitute for face-to-face contact. Social media is valuable in sharing ideas, updates, information, and other things. However, if you really want to make a deep, memorable impression with others, you must meet them in person and have a real conversation. Face-to-face, or even telephonic communication, allows for personal expression, tone of voice, body language, and a whole range of other emotions to be expressed. Social media, other than visual mediums like You Tube, do not allow such aspects of expression.
When you meet people in person, you are able to engage in verbal and nonverbal communication that make human beings unique. From the first eye contact, to the hand shake or hug, through the entire meeting, your flesh and blood presence imbues meaning that is so often lacking in social media communication. We have all experienced e-mail communications that led to misunderstandings among people. For example, there is someone at my work who persists in writing in all capital letters, not realizing that others perceive him to be SHOUTING. Most of us have hit Send, only to reconsider our words. There is obviously a time and place for the use of the various platforms of social media, especially when expanding our networks beyond our geographical borders. But if you really want to make a deep impression on others, I suggest you show up and meet in person. This is especially true if you are likable and/or pleasant looking. Continue to use social media (as I am doing here), but don’t shy away from the old fashioned cup of coffee or “breaking bread.” The truly successful networkers use a combination of social media and face-to-face contact. You should do the same.
The burgeoning of social media holds a special interest to me as a psychologist and teacher of networking and interpersonal communication skills. Is it virtual or is it real? It is both. Social media allows us to communicate in much wider areas than traditional forms of communication like face-to-face and telephonic communication. For me, it has allowed me to spread my network worldwide in ways that would not have been possible in the past by traditional forms of communication. However, social media can never and will never replace other forms. You cannot hear dialects, voice tones, and you certainly can’t smell another person over the internet. Granted, Skype has brought to fruition the promises and predictions of the futurists. We can actually see the people we are talking to on the phone (er, computer) The limits of traditional communication are things such as time and distance. Social media has no such limits. However, in Facebook for example, there are many inherent possibilities for misreading the communication of others. This is especially of sarcasm or use of idioms. The “wall” is a public place where some choose to expose all manners of messages and psychic “dirty underwear.” I use it for humor and philosophical musings, rarely sharing any of my deeply private or inner feelings.
One major advantage (which could also be seen as a disadvantage) of social media is that is puts you in touch with people who are really marginal or peripheral in your social sphere. Many of my many Facebook “friends” are not friends at all, but perhaps are only business acquaintances or friends of friends. And the notion of “unfriending” a relative is truly bizarre to me. It is great to receive a huge number of birthday wishes, but impossible to respond appropriately to all of them. I have learned much about many through social media, and that is mostly a positive for me because of my profession. But am I really open to others who wear extreme or opposing viewpoints on their profile shoulders? I could find something in common in one person, and feel polarized from another. We know much more about others than we did previously if we truly embrace and get involved in social media.
Social media tends to put us in touch with many more people than previously. With that increase there is an inevitable variation in quality that comes with the quantity. For the curious, social media can be a source of endless delight. But it can be a huge time suck, and extremely addictive. It is currently influencing politics, ideas, and athletics. It is influencing almost everything as it is truly in its stage of unprecedented growth. The question of how much you embrace social media depends on your interests and goals. If you are curious about others, want to expand your virtual and real network, have something to say, want to communicate electronically with others from your present and past, or are trying to expand your business, it can be a great boon. But if you are exceedingly private, want to leave your past behind, and hate electronics, then you should probably stick to the old ways.
My generation of baby boomers is deeply divided on this topic. Some are all over it and using it to its maximum, and others don’t know the first thing about it, and aren’t interested in learning about it. No one really knows where all of this is going. One thing is certain, and that is that things will change, and evolve, but social media in some form or another is here to stay. In addition, there are a large number of people that will never call you on your land line or drop in for a visit without texting you first. And like the true early bird that I am, I will Tweet this blog.
There is much and sometimes contentious discussion these days about the best ways to network effectively. On one side are the “old school” traditionalists, who eschew social media and believe it is always best to meet face to face. On the other extreme are social media devotees, who are “true believers” in sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The best method incorporates the best of both worlds, and involves face to face contact enhanced by the use of social media sites. I refer to this as Holistic Networking. In this approach, networking becomes a way of life that is infused in both in person and online activities.
It is not “either-or” but both methods utilized together that yield the best results. I often hear professionals lament their lack of time and unwillingness to attend so many networking events or to use social media. “I should guest more”, “Did you get any business from LinkedIn” and other comments betray a reluctance to embrace either approach fully. It is perfectly acceptable to use one method more frequently or enthusiastically than the other. You don’t need to attend networking events every week or join numerous social networking sites or groups. The important thing is to realize the value of both approaches and their interaction. One supports the other. For example, you might meet someone at an event, become a connection on LinkedIn and Plaxo, and develop business based more on one approach than the other.
To be an effective networker, you must used a varied approach. Success is really a combination of what you know, who you know and who knows you. Given the global marketing strategy of some businesses, social media allows you to do things that in person networking does not. Conversely, there is a limit in how deep your communication can go online. You can’t shake someone’s hand or see their smile online You need to show up, and show up regularly. Be open minded but don’t overdo one channel at the expense of the other. Network on a consistent basis, follow through and chart the effectiveness of the various strategies.
Below you will find some general tips for effective online social networking. I recommend you focus on a few sites. For business, the best and most used are LinkedIn, Twitter and Plaxo.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Make your profile as detailed as possible with professional background, education and areas of expertise. This is a free online advertisement.
2. Invite everyone you know professionally with a personal note.
3. Build your network daily, weekly and monthly.
4. Join groups related to your professional and educational background.
5. Ask and answer questions.
6. Review your connections, their background and their connections. Level 2 connections might just be the people you want to meet.
7. Acknowledge birthdays and accomplishments of others in your network.
My new book CONNECTING: BEYOND THE NAME TAG will be available Fall 2009, published by Believe Publishing. This book provides numerous effective networking strategies and emphasizes cross networking of face to face and social media.