using social media
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 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.
The concept of business networking is changing as rapidly as every new development in social media. Self-styled experts are telling us to tweet, to post, to update, to blog, while traditionalists are insisting that there is no substitution for face-to-face, belly-to-belly old school schmoozing. While some are quick to embrace every new social media fad and channel, others wisely adopt the solid aspects of social media, while continuing to talk to others in person and on the phone. We have more choices than ever about how to build relationships and develop business through the networking process. It takes a discerning approach to utilize all of the options in an optimal manner. For example, we are able to easily find out about people in advance of meetings through Google or LinkedIn. However, this pre-knowledge is not enough. We still need to meet people in the moment and be open to them as they express themselves. Just because we can find out a lot about others in advance doesn’t mean we always should do so. In fact, some people might resent or be suspicious of people who seem to know too much about them. Additionally we might make incorrect assumptions about others based on where they worked or where they went to school.
Social media allows us to “network” in front of a computer screen or on our smart phone. We can certianly enhance the effects of in person meetings by a judicious use of social media. Some people will truly be impressed with us for “doing our homework.” However, a dependence or over emphasis on social media can backfire. You might decide to send a Tweet about a meeting you had with “Bob”, but “Bob” might not have wanted that meeting to be broadcast over the internet. I suggest using social media as an enhancement of the overall networking process, not the centerpiece. If you have a pleasing personality, you are missing out by not meeting others in person. Conversely, it is short-sighted to eschew social media because you don’t know how to navigate it. Ultimately it is the confluence of face-to-face networking and social media that will yield the best overall results.
There have been and will continue to be monumental advances and changes in the way people connect. No one really knows exactly how the business world will look in five or ten years in terms of how people interact with one another. Take a look at business cards of 20 years ago. Almost all of them had physical addresses on them and few of them had e-mail addresses on them. Today almost every business has a web site, and most progressive businesses use that web site as a integral part of doing business. The other day I exchanged cards with one of my competitors, and was astonished that his card did not have his e-mail address on it. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to be successful in business, but you have to at least have an e-mail address so people can get in touch with you.
The real key is balance, and the realization that you have to use various channels in order to connect effectively with a variety of people. More importantly, you have to be flexible and determine which channel they have tuned in, so you can reach them. Be open to change while continuing to use more traditional approaches that still yield positive results.
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.
Social media is ubiquitous. We are being implored, seduced, and threatened that we must use it or perish. I was initially a reluctant participant, entering each new platform and site with trepidation and doubt. I considered myself an “old school” networker who met others face-to-face rather than virtually. However, a few years later and I am a strong advocate of using social media to expand your network…and your message. It started with LinkIn, was followed by my blog, Facebook, and then Twitter. I have become quite active in all of those platforms, but never stopped meeting others face-to-face in networking groups, for coffee, and meals. It is really the confluence of social media and face-to-face networking that makes an effective marketing strategy. Social media allows you to take your campaign global without leaving your office (or computer), while the face-to-face interactions give others a sense of you as a real flesh and blood human being. Just as a good football team has to have a varied attack (rushing and passing), an effective networker must also vary the attack. Continue to show up to mixers and gatherings, all the while remaining active and visible in social media of your choice. You don’t have to tweet, but you do have to meet. Remain open minded, because one thing we can be sure of, and that is change. Stay aware and stay connected, not only for the business benefits, but also for the intrinsic joy of being connected in a meaningful way with others.