LinkedIn is, to me, the virtualized and interactive version of that pile of business cards on your desk. True, it's home to your online "resume", but it's also a mechanism to both demonstrate your expertise and share in the expertise of others, make business connections, and help connect others in your network with each other.
So here's my down-and-dirty guidebook for LinkedIn and my handful of tips.
Use a real photo. I like more casual shots because I think they exude more of the "real you", but hey. Do what makes you feel comfy. Just make sure it's really you.
Don't recite your job description. When you pen your profile - especially the summary - think in terms of what you accomplished and what your goals are, not the tasks you're responsible for on a day to day basis. Those are interchangeable for other people with your type of job. Instead, focus on what makes *you* and *your abilities* different than the next person with your same title. Write as though you're the one looking to recruit you. What would you want to read? A job description, or a colorful picture of what you've done and aim to do?
Think outside your office. Your current and past positions can and should include personal endeavors if they'll give insight into your overall expertise. For instance, aside from my position as Director of Community for Radian6, I list that I'm a blogger and speaker because, well, I am. (Which reminds me, don't forget to include a link to your blog and RSS feed on your profile). It offers a more well-rounded look at what I do, and illustrates that I'm more faceted than just the job I hold during business hours. Remember, this isn't a resume submission in a traditional sense. It's your chance to outline the dimensions of your expertise in several areas.
Function as a hub. I'm with Chris Brogan on this one, and I don't follow LinkedIn's advice that you only connect to people you know. Why? Because I think of it as building a network not just for me, but as a network *for* my network. If I make lots of connections and I can help someone use me as a hub to connect with someone else they need to reach, I think I've been helpful. (And yes, I vet those requests just to be sure I'm not sending a craptastic shiller to one of my friends or colleagues). Networking isn't just about you. It's about being a point on a matrix, at least in my view.
I check in every couple of days to accept connection requests and find those I might have missed.
Get and give love. Ask for recommendations from those who know your work, and display them on your profile. There's no greater testimonial for your capabilities than in the words of someone else who's worked with you. And don't forget to give back. Offer to write recommendations to those whose work you're familiar with. When it comes to either, a good recommendation focuses on what attributes of a person's work you're most familiar with, not just a glowing generic recommendation. If they're a great project manager, say that. Great networker? List that too. But skip the generalities; it doesn't help them or you to just have someone say "they're fantastic".
Lend a hand. Check the LinkedIn Answers section for opportunities to lend your expertise to questions in your field. There are categories for just about everything under the sun. Be selective and answer questions where you can contribute something that hasn't already been offered or point to a particular example of your experience. And don't shill. Believe me when I tell you that if you offer up a solid, helpful answer, people will check out your profile further to learn more about who you are and what you do.
I spend about 30-45 minutes, twice a week, checking out the categories I'm interested in and posting responses if I find something interesting.
Applications. LinkedIn now offers application plugins for a few popular web applications. Add the WordPress application to have your recent blog posts show up on your profile. I've added the Slideshare application too, to point to presentations and e-books I've uploaded to that site.
Groups. I don't belong to a ton of LinkedIn Groups, but some people swear by them. Like groups on other social networks, they're meant to connect people of like interest, industry, or professional affiliation. Groups can post questions among themselves and facilitate other information sharing. Check out your company or industry organizations to see if they've got a LinkedIn group that might be interesting to you.
So, how are you using LinkedIn? I know some of you use it more than I do. Have you found value in other areas that I haven't touched on here? Let me and others know in the comments.
This is a post from the Social Media Starter Kit Series. To see all the posts from the series, click here, or click here to download the PDF e-book version. Like this what you've read? Consider subscribing to the feed and never miss a post.
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