Your daily work ritual starts by checking your e-mails. A notification “to connect” with a colleague or old friend on LinkedIn appears. Or worse, a complete stranger. It doesn’t matter actually, you’ll ignore it either way. It’s not even interesting enough to delete. We’ve all done it. But have you made a smart choice?
LinkedIn specifically caters to business, both for individuals and companies. You might be asking if you really need to be signed up on another social network? Why are over 400 million people signed up with LinkedIn, and growing at a rate of 2 new users every second? What value are they getting out of it? Let’s look at the benefits of creating and managing a personal LinkedIn profile.
1) Increase Visibility
Think of LinkedIn as your online resume. With your personal profile you can:
- Describe your work experience – including all the companies you previously worked at, projects you were involved with, volunteer work and even charities you support.
- List your particular set of skills, which your colleagues and other connections can then endorse you on.
- Be head-hunted by recruiters.
LinkedIn does a good job of suggesting which parts of your profile needs to be filled in to optimise your account, though basically you need to fill in every possible field that you can to ensure a good profile rating. Please be sure to create a professional look for your profile, with a suitable profile photo for a business environment. Remember, this isn’t Facebook, you are looking to impress your peers or potential employers. Photos of you on holiday or on a night out are not the kind of thing you want to publish here.
With a fully completed profile, you have a platform in which you can be easily found (go ahead – try searching for your name and the word “LinkedIn” in your preferred search engine).
2) Building Relationships
Making connections is one of the cornerstones of LinkedIn (along with participating in groups). After completing your profile, your next step will be building your list of connections. You can start with your current colleagues (you can ask them to endorse your skills too) and your friends. Another option is to re-connect with old colleagues, acquaintances, or alumni.
Another reason for making connections is that as part of a list of requirements, you’ll need “several connections” in order to create your own company page.
3) Learn from Others
There are various groups on LinkedIn to suit every kind of niche you can think of. Joining and engaging with these groups gives you the chance to:
- Communicate with others about your industry, share and comment on content.
- Create lasting connections that can help further your career.
Keep in mind that LinkedIn recently made the decision to make all groups private, and that you need the group manager to grant you access. Once accepted, be sure to look at the group rules and adhere to them. Also don’t promote your service or company within a group, rather add value by participating in discussions and connecting with others.
4) Establish Yourself
If you’re ready to take the next step, why not create your own group? You can:
- Share your own expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
- Teach others by posting your own original content, and engage with your follower base – if you’re receiving comments, like or reply to them.
- Send out a weekly e-mail (LinkedIn Announcements) to connect with your followers.
- You should always aim to provide value.
People love to belong, and if you share high-quality content, then you should have no trouble building a strong community. But be careful when approving individuals who want to belong to your group, do your research and make sure they have an active interest in your niche.
The downside with groups is that with LinkedIn’s recent changes to their group algorithm, more companies are reporting spam filtering through to their groups. This eventually lead to popular SEO site Moz, closing its LinkedIn group (consisting of over 30,000 members) last Friday, citing the new changes as the reason behind the closure.
5) Find Opportunities
LinkedIn connections are grouped into three different groups:
- 1st Degree Connection – People you are already connected with.
- 2nd Degree Connection – People that are connected to at least one of your existing connections
- 3rd Degree Connection – People that are connected to your 2nd degree connections.
If you are looking to connect to a 2nd or 3rd degree contact, you can contact them via InMail, request an introduction via a mutual connection. If you’re not connected in any way, you’ll send them a regular Connect request, but be sure to personalise it as opposed to sending the default request . Remember to use their name, and refer to a project they completed so that they feel you are familiar with their work.
After you’ve added your first batch of connections, you will look at connecting with people who could prove useful in terms of your professional career. There are many who believe you should have as many connections as possible, but the truth is that your connections are only as valuable as you make them. You don’t need to accept every invite, or spam others for connections (which could affect your account negatively). Focus on who can help you on your path to success.
You can also find new job opportunities by following companies. This is much like any other social network, but the difference here is that you can view more specific information (for example, how many employees they have, job listings etc) and that the content here is more geared towards a business environment. When you follow relevant companies, you can keep your eyes peeled in case they list any available positions.
By creating and utilising a LinkedIn account, you’ve adding a valuable tool for your professional career. But the value you receive from it will be equal to the amount of time and effort you put into your overall strategy. Next time you receive an e-mail notification regarding somebody wanting to “connect” with you on LinkedIn, click it, and assess its professional worth. It’s all a part of a successful LinkedIn strategy which can help your career.