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November 28, 2011

The Third Network May Just Be Misunderstood

by stevenwyer

Right now there seems to be the Big Three – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Most people know about Facebook. As a matter of fact, Facebook is expanding its functionality so quickly that it is hard to keep up with it. Twitter has become a powerful global tool for change and gained respect for its ability to instantly mobilize causes and provide a “voice” for the people. Then there is LinkedIn, which has100 million members, lots of money from a recent IPO and is highly regarded within business circles. There is a significant difference between the two general market social platforms and LinkedIn, however. Even if you don’t know how all of the bells and whistles work on Facebook and Twitter, you get immediate gratification for even basic use. LinkedIn has proven to be a bit more elusive. Most professionals do the best they can to get a basic site set up and then ask themselves, “now what?” I thought I might take a high level approach to getting plugged in to LinkedIn. Here then are my basics.

1. Put your professional photo on the site. I am always amazed to see people that go through the effort to set up a LinkedIn account and then don’t bother to post a picture. If you see someone who hasn’t included a photo, what does that say to you? It could be perceived as the person having something to hide, or they just aren’t a very experienced LinkedIn user. Either way, there is nothing positive about the missing photo. Women often get weird about this but realistically the probability of being stalked on LinkedIn is pretty remote.

2. Join LinkedIn groups. There are over 871,000 groups on LinkedIn. LinkedIn members can participate in a number of professional conversations happening in their industry and areas of interest. You’re allowed up to 50 groups on LinkedIn, and as a new member you can really get a boost from joining a number of groups. When someone only has a couple of groups, or – even worse – no groups, the business social site has far less value than when a solid broad diverse base of groups are joined. By joining groups people can get to know you and your business.

3. Participate in the dialogue.  There is little benefit to being a bystander once you join a group. By participating in group conversations you have the opportunity to become an influencer. Post comments on your groups on a regular basis. DO NOT however use a group as a sales opportunity. You will be shunned.

4. You are now an open networker – so let it be known.  People join LinkedIn in order to network, build their business and expand their opportunities. In order to implement this you need to consider accepting all or almost all connection requests. If you realize later on that the reason for a connection is so you can be “sold” something simply delete them. You may have no interest in networking with the individual who invites you. But you might have an interest in someone in his or her network. The more connections, the more likely it is that someone you want to meet will be “in network.” This makes your life on LinkedIn much better.

5. Threads are not for sewing. The thread in a group is usually about a single focused topic, and all comments concerning the topic are listed with it. Offer useful remarks. Again, no selling! Be polite and do not attack people. You don’t have to soften your position on a subject but you must be civil.

6. Accept everyone, but invite with purpose. As you begin your LinkedIn journey here is the key question; what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to find employment in a particular city? Then focus on inviting people from there. Is there a particular field of interest you are best suited for? Join the groups that most closely mirror your skill set and invite the influencers into relationship. Don’t just invite everyone who pops up on “people you may know.” Build a network by inviting intentionally.

7. Get recommendations…it’s not that hard. Recommendations are essential for building a strong professional online reputation. Ask for them actively and seek them passively – proactively by reaching out and asking someone you know to recommend you. Or more passively by recommending someone first – and waiting for LinkedIn to suggest that he or she recommend you back. Once you get the hang of this you will discover that everyone else is growing his or her network in the same way.

8. Diversify your contacts. Homogeneous – that is what I would call my circle of LinkedIn relationships. For awhile most of my contacts were white males in their fifties and so I decided to spread out a little. I have made it a goal to invite people of other races, genders and ages. There are plenty of people out there that are different from me, but from whom I can benefit. I just have to push myself outside my comfort zone.

9. Update your profile frequently. Your job and needs are changing. A stagnant profile makes it appear that you have nothing going on and that is the last thing that you want your network to think.

10. Use your network. As you invest your effort and energy into this new social environment you find that it will open up and become useful in many ways. If you have a question that needs asking — ask the network. If you have something spectacular — share it with your network. You will get to be known this way and people will begin to come to you for many different needs.

OK, there you have it! In re-reading this I realize that I too have to stay focused on my LinkedIn account in order to get the full benefit of being a member. Get to work, and if you are looking to expand your LinkedIn relationships invite me in!

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