By Jean Kelley
Mention the phrase “social media” and most people automatically think of Facebook and Twitter. But if you have any dealings in the corporate world—whether you’re a CEO, salesperson, human resource manager, administrative assistant, or anything in between—you’ll want to take a closer look at LinkedIn.
Before you dismiss the idea of using LinkedIn because you only know it as that “bland” social media site where people go when they’re looking for a job, realize that currently there are 90 million LinkedIn users worldwide and a new user joins every second.
Unlike social media sites like Facebook where many people use the site for entertainment, all LinkedIn users are business-minded. That means the connections you develop on LinkedIn are more likely to positively impact you or your company. Therefore, if you want better or more professional business relationships, LinkedIn is the place to be. Even if you have a business profile on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn makes a perfect addition to your personal or business branding efforts.
An Essential Business Resource
The key to making LinkedIn work for you and your company is to use the site regularly. That means posting something, either an update or a question/answer, every seven days at a minimum. Why? Because the more you use any social media site, the higher your “Google Juice” will be. In other words, Google’s algorithm will notice your regularity and you’ll get a higher ranking with Google than you would otherwise. Additionally, the more you interact and post on LinkedIn, the more prominent you’ll become within your network.
Fortunately, staying active on LinkedIn is simple when you understand how it can benefit you professionally. Use the following ideas and suggestions to make the most of your LinkedIn account.
• Show off your skills. Make sure your profile is well-written and that it highlights what you currently do, what you have done, your strengths, your talents, your key attributes, and your education. Remember that people will access your profile for many different reasons (recruitment, background information, professional contacts, etc.), so be thorough and always make your profile public. Since your LinkedIn profile is essentially a dynamic mini resume, keep it updated, tasteful, and accurate. You also have the opportunity to display recommendations on LinkedIn. As a point of etiquette, when you ask someone to write a recommendation, you must reciprocate.
• Say something meaningful. By posting status updates that contain valuable content, you show your network that you are a team player and that you care about other people’s success. Remember that status updates are not the place to advertise your company’s products or services, nor is it a conversation group. A better idea is to share a best practice, announce a seminar/event you’ve been to or are going to, or give a quick tip. If you can’t think of anything to post, it’s perfectly acceptable to post a meaningful or motivational quote. The key is to post something interesting and relevant to your network.
• Uncover conversation starters. LinkedIn is a great place to get an inside glimpse of people. For example, you can look up potential clients or vendors on LinkedIn and see what kind of books they read, where they went to school, what their main interests are (based on the groups they belong to), and more. Now you’ll have more to talk about when you meet the potential client, vendor, or networking friend. Think of LinkedIn as a gateway to have a professional relationship with someone much quicker.
In fact, some estimates show that by using LinkedIn to research the people you plan to interact with, you can have a six-month head start on the relationship.
• Spot trends and hot topics. There’s an amazing amount of real-time information available on LinkedIn. By being a member of various groups that interest you, you can see what people think about a certain topic by the questions they’re posting and the responses they’re getting. If you want to know what the current trends or best practices are in lean manufacturing, for example, you could join several lean manufacturing groups on LinkedIn and track each group’s activity. You can then use the information you discover within your own company.
• Get an “in” with top companies. Whether you’re looking for new clients, vendors, or even a new job, with LinkedIn you can search the companies you want to work with and see who in your network has connections there. You can then ask that connection for an introduction to a decision maker who can help you. Even if you find that no one in your network has connections with a particular company, perhaps someone in one of your groups does. Continually build your LinkedIn relationships and make those key connections before you actually need them.
The Missing Link to Your Success
Even though 82% of people use some kind of social media regularly, social media itself is much like the Wild West. It’s not tame yet, and best practices are still being formed. With that said, if you’ve spent much of your time on other social media sites and feel they aren’t working for building professional relationships, then it’s time to give LinkedIn a try.
The key to making LinkedIn work is to work it regularly. Commit to spending at least 30 minutes per day on it, posting your ideas in updates, asking and answering questions, participating in groups, and reaching out to potential connections. Yes, it’s one more thing to add to your schedule, but by building relationships and gaining new information on people and topics, it’s also something that can make your job easier and your company better positioned.
Jean Kelley is president and founder of Jean Kelley Leadership Consulting and author of Get A Job; Keep A Job. She works with corporate leaders all over the world to help them achieve their highest potential. For more information, please visit www.jeankelley.com.
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