Ignoring the power of LinkedIn to drive new business and build relationships is missing a big opportunity for companies small and large alike.
LinkedIn is the first place many larger businesses check out potential suppliers and new hires. Using LinkedIn makes you more visible to existing and potential clients as well as your peers. These reach and growth figures are undeniable:
LinkedIn has over 65 million members in over 200 countries.
A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of our members are outside the U.S.
My ten practical tips are aimed at helping you to get more out of LinkedIn.
1 - Complete your profile
Improve how people can find and connect to you by adding past places you have worked, details of your higher and further education (leave out schooling before 18), activities and professional memberships.
You have 1895 characters to create your LinkedIn profile. Do include:
HOW WE CAN HELP YOUR COMPANY
CONNECT WITH ME AND MY COMPANY
To make elements of your profile stand out use block capitals and plenty of spaces between sections.
2 - Add a photo
A photo is a great visual prompt to remind your contacts who you are. Profiles with photos look less interesting and without a photo you become a grey head and shoulders. People sometimes ask "€œI had a professional shot taken a few years ago is that ok?"€ Yes it is! Ensure the photo is decent if not recent. A decent photo can be used in many social networking spaces whereas a recent photo of you on the beach may not be what your clients want to see.
Photos can be up to 4MB in size and need to be common file formats such as JPG, GIF, and PNG. You can preview your photo before saving and sharing with your contacts.
Once your photo is in place, it"€™s part of your personal brand, so stick with the same image, rather than changing on a regular basis!
3 - Professional Headline
You can use up to 120 characters in your Professional Headline. Most people"€™s headline is "€˜Owner, ABC Ltd"€™ and if I"€™m searching through several hundred contacts, that doesn"€™t stand out, whereas "€˜Dave Chaffey, Expert Digital Marketer - Consultant, Author and Speaker"€™ jumps right out from the page.
Find your Professional Headline at the top of your profile directly below your name.
4 - Get recommended
LinkedIn makes it so easy to seek recommendations. These are mini case studies that will get reviewed and are a great way to showcase your talents.
Every six months seek newer recommendations from different people. This builds up the number of recommendations which features in your public profile as well as keeping your profile fresh. Simply click on the profile / recommendations / request recommendations button.
If you"€™re not happy with a recommendation, you can always choose not to display it in your profile!
5 - Make recommendations
Where you are happy with a service, product being sold, company or person, do make recommendations. This only needs to be a short paragraph about their best qualities.
If someone recommends you, wait a month before returning the favour. Otherwise on the updates page it looks like you were obliged to make the recommendation.
6 - Join groups
Joining groups gives you access to a wider pool of contacts, allows you to display group membership on your profile and enables you to network with a more targeted group of people. Some groups are very sales orientated, others require membership or professional qualifications and their focus tends to be different.
The great feature about groups is that you can belong to the same group as someone without being connected to them. This means you can see what your competitors are involved with (and they can see your activity) but they can"€™t access your connections.
You can currently join up to 50 groups in different categories: alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non profit and professional.
There are over 500,000 groups on LinkedIn and if you can"€™t find the group you"€™re looking for, you can always start your own!
June 2010 update: Linked In has enhanced the interface for Linked In Groups. This blog post explains the updates to Linked In Groups. The post and video explains how active contributors can benefit and they are rewarded and highlighted more within the new system.
7 - Ask and / or answer questions
Inside the LinkedIn community you can ask and answer questions. If you"€™re exploring new markets or wanting to know the latest software tool in a specific industry, you can ask questions and within a few hours the answers will appear.
Answer questions to share your knowledge or expertise or to recommend others to help.
Even better, Google seems to love LinkedIn questions and finds them within a few hours.
8 - Update your status
LinkedIn status updates are a maximum of 141 characters. Use this to talk about your new blog posts, share what you"€™re reading or comment about your day.
Think about your updates "€“ LinkedIn is a professional network not Facebook!
You can add your Twitter account to LinkedIn, so that when you post a LinkedIn update it tweets at the same time.
9 - Build connections
LinkedIn is not a business card competition! If you add connections to your network, each person can see your connections, unless you hide your connections, which isn"€™t in the spirit of the network "€“ unless you"€™re a recruiter.
You can build the number of your connections by:
Finding people in your address book that are already on LinkedIn and importing these contacts.
Sending invitations to people you"€™ve met at an event "€“ it"€™s a great way to stay in touch and find out more about someone.
Using the "€˜company search"€™ tool to find colleagues or reconnect with people you"€™ve worked with in the past.
Sometimes you may find your connections know someone you"€™d like to meet. You can ask for an introduction, in the same way you would do at a face to face networking event.
Think carefully about adding connections and only click the "€˜add connection"€™ button if you"€™re happy to share your address book with that person.
10 - Personalise emails
LinkedIn provides a range of template emails to add someone to your network and request recommendations. It"€™s a good idea to personalise these templates and say why you"€™d like to be connected to someone, rather than sending the "€˜I"€™d like to connect with you on LinkedIn"€™ email. If it"€™s someone you haven"€™t met for a while, this breaks the ice and you"€™re more likely to generate a positive response.
And finally, treat LinkedIn the same way as you would face to face networking. You need to work at it to get results.
I'd love to know more tips on how to use LI effectively. Please share your belows.