I have been promising to write a blog with Linkedin tips. These tips come from a few presentations I’ve done this year on the subject of social networking, which come from both research and life experience.
I started using Linkedin about five years ago. In the Linkedin world I might be considered an “old timer”. I actually remember when I signed up for an account. Clark Olson, a fellow instructor at Sheridan, had sent me the information and told me it was a great business development tool. He was my very first connection.
With Linkedin, I did what most people do initially. I treated it with cautious curiousity. I connected with a few people, and then sat there wondering when it was going to produce some sort of magic file. It didn’t. To justify the initial time investment I made, for awhile, I used Linkedin merely as a conversation piece and to get caught up with some people I had lost touch with. In retrospect, this was a great decision.
It wasn’t until I had about 100 connections that I started to see the value in it because you start to have information to follow.
Ultimately, Linkedin is what you make of it. Like real life, who you decide to connect to and the manner in which you interact has a lot to do with its ability to produce a result. I have numerous personal stories of circumstances in which Linkedin was the lever to getting a project. There is however, a certain mind set you have to have and some things you have to work on to make Linkedin a business development tool. With this in mind, here are a few tips for getting the most out of Linkedin:
1. Be strategic.
Connect with people you already know who may also be connected to people you want to get to know. In that video I circulated last week, the main character reconnected with someone with whom he worked with at the Dairy Swirl ten years ago. This person was even more lost in Linkedin than he was. This isn’t to say that someone you worked with at the Dairy Swirl isn’t a valuable connection (after all this person could now be the franchise owner of a string of Dairy Swirl or the Senior Engineer in an ice cream manufacturing company), or that you should be practicing snobbery or name dropping, however, if you are attempting to be upwardly mobile, you need to be cognizant of who you add to your list of connections. It is a sad truth that if all you are connected to are people who have not been upwardly mobile, it impacts your image. Being strategic is helpful to the overall picture that you paint about yourself.
2. Balance Your Public And Private Persona.
In the world out there, there are people who closely guard their identity and show very little of themselves in something like a Linkedin format. From the perspective of getting to know others and networking, being too reserved is as dangerous as providing too much information. Find a balance you are comfortable with. In a Linkedin context, I would suggest that networking is more easily facilitated if you identify things you may be involved with in the community, associations, etc. (If you haven’t done much of that sort of thing, you might want to think about getting started. It is good for you and good for others). Limit what you put on Linkedin in terms of this information to business-oriented involvement. Save things that are overly social in nature for Facebook.
3. Decide Who You Wish To Connect With Ultimately And Determine Your Path for Meeting These People.
Let me say this first. Unless a person is a Linkedin LION (e.g. a Linkedin open networker), it is generally considered to be poor form when you send connection requests to people you do not know directly. When people do this to me, I click the “Don’t Know” button and they are prevented from contacting me again. And, if they do this with others who feel like me, they could be banned from connecting over Linkedin. It is a system rule. Your best bet in connecting to people you don’t know is through the introduction feature. (e.g. get your friends to introduce you). With an introduction, you go from a cold to a warmer connection. This increases the likelihood that you’ll have an opportunity to establish the commonality that assists with connecting effectively with others.
4. Manage Your Time!
Linkedin is considered by many to be this century’s time suck. People who spend too much time on Linkedin are viewed by busy people as having too much time on their hands or are poor time managers. This is not an image you wish to project. As a general rule, I spend no more than 10 minutes per day on Linkedin and I think this is a good guideline. One way that I manage this time is by subscribing to RSS feeds in among the groups so that I can browse headlines and focus on participating when it makes sense to do so.
5. Join Groups That Interest You.
There are literally millions of Groups in Linkedin. Pick groups to join that are of interest to you and where you might participate. They are a great forum to meet people with common interests.
6. Don’t CYBERSTALK!
Many of the “experts” on job search recommend that you do reverse look-ups of the people who are interviewing you, so that you know more about who they are and their experience. Be very careful about how you do this. Last year, I had an uncomfortable incident in which a person I was interviewing, in an attempt to try to impress me, basically regurgitated my entire career in the interview. He went on to tell me about all the people we knew in common and personal things about them. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to freak me out, but indeed he did, and of course, his approach didn’t go over well with either me or the other people in the Company he was trying to impress. Use the information you gain from a profile and from a company website to help formulate your questions. Playing the “I’m a wiz at googling/Linkedin” card isn’t going to get you anywhere.
7. Be Yourself.
People tend to like other people in their “natural state”. While it takes some extrovertism to get out there in the social networking landscape, it is important to be yourself. You can be yourself if your profile is accurate, and if you’re nice and pleasant to deal with in cyberspace. People do remember people who have been giving, helpful, funny (to a point) and know how to develop lasting professional relationships and they will be supportive.
8. Engage in Social Networking Because You Like to Meet People and Give To Others.
If you are in this purely for yourself, you’re doomed. Try something else. Selfishness is noticed. From a business perspective, social networking operates on a “pay-it-forward” basis. For someone to want to help you, you have to be prepared to help them. To be able to help someone, you have to take a good inventory of your assets and your ability to contribute to the enrichment of others. Put another way, it has been said that the new economy is based upon the concept of “free”, and so you need to figure out what your free gift is.
9. Don’t Waste Other People’s Time.
Use the familiarity rule–the more familiar you are with someone, the more time you can ask of them. It is important to be cognizant of the time you ask of others. These days time is a precious commodity.
I hope this is helpful, and it encourages a few of you to “get out there” and get involved.