Online Networking with LinkedIn

Sheilaby Sheila Scarborough

LinkedIn is an excellent way to get started networking online; I call it the Web 2.0/social media “starter drug.”  The sedate black-and-white layout of a LinkedIn profile looks like a resumé, and unlike MySpace or Facebook, no one will flash nudie photos or SuperPoke you with a sheep.

People are on LinkedIn for business and professional networking. You should be, as well.

Here are some suggestions for the best way to establish your online networking presence:

Your LinkedIn Profile

Under your name is your professional headline for what you’re about – your “elevator speech” when someone asks, “What do you do?” Personalize it, but keep it short and succinct.

More specifics:

  • Your profile URL – Choose the option for your profile URL extension to be your name, not a bunch of numbers. It looks more personalized and professional. Consider adding that URL to your standard email signature.
  • Your photo – People want to see who they’re dealing with, so get a professional headshot, not something from Glamour Shots at the mall.
  • What are you working on? – Update this line frequently; it’s no-cost billboard advertising for your activities and services.
  • Your Web site or blog – You or your company have one (or both) so put it in your profile.

Powerful LinkedIn features that are underutilized

  • Answers – Ask questions, and answer questions, across a broad range of topics related to almost any profession.  Don’t overdo it trying to rack up expertise “brownie points,” but periodically look at questions that are asked in subjects about which you are knowledgeable.  This builds your credibility as an expert within your profession.
  • Recommendations – Recommend colleagues, service providers and/or business partners that you know and trust.  There is a short preformatted form that you can send to request recommendations for yourself, when appropriate.  A little blue REC icon appears next to the names of people in your network that you’ve recommended.
  • Connections – I allow mine to be visible (since networking is the whole point) but some others do not.  Don’t get caught up in a numbers game; networking influence is not measured by having 500+ connections. Always personalize the standard “invitation to connect” wording, especially to clearly identify yourself to someone you’ve just met.  Think of it as exchanging virtual business cards. If in doubt about digital etiquette, consider whether you would exchange cards in person.  If not, don’t do it online, either.
  • Groups – Find groups to join that interest you, like college alumni or corporate groups.  Don’t join just for the sake of joining, any more than you would in your offline life.
  • People, Jobs and Companies — These tabs are research gold mines for job listings, finding people who worked at same company with a prospective employee or employer that you’re investigating, and to research companies (they have categories like Most Connected, Fastest Growing and Most Viewed.)

There is no real mystery to online networking; tools like LinkedIn simply remove geographic barriers, awkwardness and a lot of stovepipes from the process.

Now, take those rubber-banded business cards out of that drawer and get busy!

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