Getting Started with LinkedIn - Top 12 Strategies

If you are like most business people, you have probably been sent an invitation to a site called LinkedIn. Then, if you are like the majority of us, we delete the link thinking, "Oh no not another site that I have to sign-up on." So, you are probably reading this right now, going yep...that is me. Why should I register on the site, normally sites like that just send me junk and fill my inbox with worthless email? I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are plenty of sites out there that want you to register and then send you spam 50 times a week. LinkedIn is not one of them. LinkedIn is a powerful networking site, creeping up on popular social networks like MySpace and Facebook. The benefit about LinkedIn is that it is entirely business focused. So, are you interested yet?

What Can LinkedIn Do for Me?

I have been asked the above question more times than I can probably count. My answer to everyone is always, "LinkedIn is a great way to find people. We all go through life never really knowing everything about our work colleagues (sometimes even our friends). LinkedIn has allowed me to read someone's business history in a single screen. The site also helps me understand who they know and network with."

Some interesting facts you probably did not know about LinkedIn:

* The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven. * The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes. * People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five. * All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.(blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html)

Top Reasons to Use LinkedIn

1. Building your Reputation. LinkedIn is a great tool for people to outline their experience, accomplishment, organizations and network. Too often I have seen incomplete profiles. A crucial element to get LinkedIn to work for you is to make sure your profile is 100% complete. Include all your previous employers, groups you belong to, your "advertisement", websites and other important information. LinkedIn is also becoming a place where employers find candidates, so if you are job hunting, this may be the place for you.

2. Find Qualified Candidates. Ever struggled looking for an employee? If you are like me, it is a love hate relationship. I want to find the best candidate because it will benefit the company, but weeding through all the applicants can be exhausting. Well, how about using your network to find employees? For my last two positions, I hired individuals that came recommended, yes I said recommended, from my network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a great job posting board, which is also very inexpensive. Even if you don't want to field unknown candidates, you can send out an email to all your connections.

3. Find New Connections. Have you ever felt like sometimes you see the same people at the networking events? Would you like to meet new people? Use LinkedIn and do a search. For example, let's say I want to meet Architects. I just go to LinkedIn and type in Architects in the search box. LinkedIn will search my contact's contacts and return the results. The best part is it shows me how I am connected to the person, which can then be used for introductions. I ask Joe Smith to introduce me to his friend the Architect. LinkedIn also provides results of what they call 3rd degree friends. Essentially, your contact has a contact that knows the architect. It seems complicated, but it is a great way to expand your network and your friend's network. Try a search, see what happens. LinkedIn also has introductions, a tool they offer to give you an introduction to a person you want to meet.

4. Increase your Google Ranking. Ever wondered how people's names come up so high up on Google searches? I do not have the secret Google formula, but I can tell you a well written LinkedIn profile earns a high rank on the page. The not so lucky are the people with common names, like Joe Smith, but, the more you have information like LinkedIn (or Blog articles), the better your Google ranking.

5. Make your meeting go smoother. I was once introduced to a contact who knew all about me before I ever met him. He even went on to tell me who we knew in common....talk about ice breaker. All he did was search for me on LinkedIn and viola....all my history and information. I have to admit, from a bird's eye perspective it sounds a bit creepy, but sitting in the meeting it was not. I was actually relieved to have something in common with the person. He, of course, told me he had viewed my LinkedIn profile, which took all the creepiness away. I thought after that meeting, what a great way to learn about someone, search for them on LinkedIn.

6. Ask for or Give Advice. In the question and answer section of LinkedIn, users can post questions and answer questions. For example, if you are a computer hardware expert, you would scroll through and try to answer questions relating to your specialty. What does this do? Well, it builds your credibility as an expert in your field. On the other hand, have a question you want some peer advice on? Ask the LinkedIn users. I have scrolled through the Answers section many times and I am always pleased with the responses I have read, always very professional.

7. Scope out Competition, Customers, Partners. I, like most people, use Google or another search engine to see what information I can find out about my market. The market includes your customers, competitors and partners. LinkedIn is a great tool for research. I especially like it because you can usually see where a person worked previous to their current position. Knowing that information provides a much more in-depth picture about the person or company. Another key advantage is to see what groups your customers or potential customers belong to.

8. Groups. LinkedIn just added a new tool to search groups. The groups range from networking groups to Alumni groups to Company groups. Groups can be a great tool for networking. For instance, I am a member of the Alumni group where I went to college. The group is quite large, but I can search within the group for prospective clients, partners or competitors. I use the group as a common thread when trying to talk to or meet with people. For example, "Joe I see that you are a member of XYZ Alumni group, so am I, what did you study?" There are many different ways to use the groups and their members as leads into conversations. As a plus, when you join a group you can show the group on your profile. The benefit could be others see the group and find they have a common thread with you.

9. Recommendations. LinkedIn has created a system where your contacts can recommend you. I think it is a wonderful tool. Now, when I am searching for a product or service or even a new connection, I can read what other people have to say. I know and you know, we can talk about how great we are till we are blue in the face, but when someone else confirms it......you may have struck gold. Leverage the power of LinkedIn to get recommendations and be sure to give them as well.

10. Help Others. The saying is Give and You Shall Receive. Use LinkedIn to introduce people you think would be a good match. You can easily do introductions to the people with LinkedIn's inMail. The nice thing about giving a contact more connections on LinkedIn is that no one wants to be the person with the least contacts....so help out a friend and send them a contact or two that makes sense for them. Part of helping others can be helping them use LinkedIn. Most of the people I have met have done very little research on how to use LinkedIn to its full potential.

11. Use it on the go. LinkedIn is configured to be able to use it on your handheld device. While you waiting at the airport, doctor's office or another waiting area, log into LinkedIn and network from anywhere. Just go to linkedin.com.  Now you can just browse to the apps on your iPhone or Blackberry.

12. Setup a company page.  While this is still "technically" in beta, it is a good place to get more exposure online for your business.  Setup your company profile information and at the minimum, as people view your profile, they can get more company info if they choose.

I hope you start getting more from LinkedIn! And while you're at it, drop me a line at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimalbritton