How to use LinkedIn effectively

Gavin Llewellyn on LinkedIn

There has been more than one occasion when someone has suggested to me that LinkedIn is simply an online destination to post your CV. But if this was all LinkedIn were for, I’m certain the company would have not have been valued at $9 billion following its IPO in May this year.

LinkedIn is much more than a ‘digital resume’. In fact, it’s the professional social network, allowing millions of users from all over the world to connect with classmates, colleagues, business partners and friends. As Chris Brogan and Julien Smith state in ‘Trust Agents’:

“LinkedIn is a living network of relationships, and it is a reputation engine. It’s the opportunity to connect with people and build business relationships”.

So what should you do once you’ve signed up? Here are a few ideas on how to get the most from LinkedIn:

Update your profile

First of all, make sure you’ve got an accurate, up-to-date profile. You should think of your LinkedIn profile as your ‘enhanced’ business card. First impressions count, so make sure you do the following:

  • Include a professional, clear picture of yourself – not a logo!
  • Make sure the professional headline that appears below your name includes your job title and company
  • Write a compelling summary of who you are and what you do in a professional capacity. Try not to use too many management buzz words and focus on telling a story. Include ‘specialties’ to highlight your key skills
  • Include both professional and extra-curricular experiences on your profile, for example membership of sports teams and networking groups

Add applications

If you’ve got a blog or a SlideShare account, considering importing them within your profile by using LinkedIn Applications.

Integrating these accounts is an excellent way of demonstrating your skills, competencies and thought-leadership on your area of expertise and is a great way of allowing you to ‘stand out from the crowd’.

Create connections

Start building your network by searching and connecting with people by using the LinkedIn search facility.

Although LinkedIn states that you should only attempt to connect with people you know personally, I don’t see anything wrong with reaching out to those you respect or would like to network with. When adding someone to your network, select ‘friend’ and make sure you edit the default message and tailor it to explain the reasons why you’d like to connect.

Feel free to connect with me – you can check out my LinkedIn profile here.

Update your status

The LinkedIn status update allows you to include both text and links to let people know what you’re up to or to share an interesting news article or blog post with your network.

You can write about anything you like in the status update although I would highly recommend that you consider the community you’re communicating with and customise your LinkedIn posts accordingly. LinkedIn is a business-orientated network and your updates should reflect this environment.

On a related note, DON’T connect your Twitter account to your LinkedIn status update. I can guarantee that nobody in your LinkedIn community will want to see updates like “@alexk1041 – LOL me 2!” in their newstreams!

Make recommendations

One of the most powerful aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to give and receive recommendations. Recommendations add credibility and social proof to your profile and suggest to others that you’re a professional that others can rely on and vouch for.

When making recommendations, only choose to write references for people you have worked with directly. Recommendations should be authentic and I believe this can only be the case if you’ve had a genuine working relationship with someone.

Ask for recommendations

Writing a recommendation may well inspire someone to write one for you in return. But if this doesn’t happen don’t be afraid of asking.

There is a handy ‘request a recommendation’ tool but once again make sure you edit the default message and write something specific to the person you’re requesting a recommendation from.

Get actively involved in groups

One of my favourite aspects of LinkedIn is the opportunity to join and get involved in groups. They’re a great way of networking, finding new people to connect with and discovering what the big trends and issues are right now in any given subject area.

Participating in groups will give you the opportunity to take part in discussions and answer other people’s questions, allowing you to show off your expertise and knowledge.

Stick around

As with anything, you have to stick around and stay the course to make something work. Signing up to LinkedIn isn’t suddenly going to bring you a flurry of job offers.

To begin with spend some time getting to know the place. Log into LinkedIn every once in a while and spend around 20 – 30 minutes per week building your connections, tweaking your profile and participating in groups. The more involved you are the more opportunity may come from it but this will require some effort

In this post I’ve pointed out just a few ways to use LinkedIn effectivelythere are many more. But what are your LinkedIn tips? What advice would you give to someone joining for the first time?