LinkedIn is designed specifically to help business people network. It is the leading social network site for professionals because it is an excellent platform to make connections and to showcase your business. People automatically check LinkedIn to see if you have a "valid" presence. In other words, if you're not in the "Who's Who" (LinkedIn), potential subscribers will question your credibility and trustworthiness. While there is a wide range of professional social media sites out there -- some very general and some industry-specific -- the best-known and most popular is LinkedIn, with over 150 million members worldwide. A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. In a 2011 study conducted by Performics, a research company, nearly 60% of respondents say LinkedIn is their most important social network account. LinkedIn is an excellent source of background information on people and companies, and it provides opportunities to create new relationships.
LinkedIn is used to:
- Stay in touch/network with industry associates and former co-workers
- Identify potential employers/employees
- Promote your professional services to potential clients
- Use Groups - industry, interests to share and hear ideas related to your profession
- Gain access to a large network by drawing on the connections of other users
One of the primary capabilities of LinkedIn is its ability to connect you to a larger network of people through your own connections. LinkedIn shows you the degrees of separation between you and other LinkedIn users, and lets you connect with those outside of your direct network through introductions.
Join LinkedIn Groups. This is a fast way to let LinkedIn know your areas of special interest and become part of your desired community. The Groups feature is a great way to demonstrate thought leadership around a specific area. Simply make a list of keywords that relate to your interests and core competencies, and run a search for any LinkedIn Groups related to your keywords. Once you find the right groups, participate in discussion, ask questions and make connections. You can create a higher interaction rate by making sure you join groups aligned to your business mission and interests. For example, on my LinkedIn page, I belong to 25 Groups. You can view my LinkedIn page at: www.linkedin.com/in/valeriealee.
Use LinkedIn Answers to ask thought-provoking questions or become an "expert" by providing valuable answers and demonstrating thought leadership. LinkedIn Answers are a great way for you to showcase your interests, expertise and problem-solving capabilities to entire networks of people. You and others can Search Answers. You can ask a question. You can see a list of the latest questions requesting answers. And you can view a list of your own questions and answers (something that can come in handy, if you want to jog your memory for post ideas). You can also see which questions and categorie generate a high rate of interaction and response as well as which ones fall flat and remain ignored. Going to Answers and viewing the featured Questions in its feed can provide you wtih valuable clues about where to focus your energy. If a particular category is highly active, explore that category. Build your expert status by thinking up strong questions or answering them for that particular category. If nothing else, the answers others give can offer valuable tips and clues in increasing your own business effectiveness. In short, you can use LinkedIn Answers as both a valuable resource in itself and to help you boost your own "expert" authority status.
Next week, I'll cover one of my favorite social media sites -- Twitter.