Monday, February 6, 2012

LinkedIn: What is it good for?

Been having such a busy (and productive) time, I've been neglecting to blog. Ordinarily I'd assume no one cared, but I actually have had a couple of people request a blog about LinkedIn — why I like it, how to use it, etc. So, here goes:

6 Ways LinkedIn Is Your Friend

1.) Directly Accessing Business Acquaintances

Granted, it isn't a sure thing, but LinkedIn often can be a handy tool in reaching business acquaintances directly. This has proven true time after time in my careers as a journalist and as a salesperson. Especially if you are trying to reach someone you don't know all that well or who you have lost touch with for a while and you do not know their direct phone number or current email address, LinkedIn can prove very helpful. Many people, myself included, keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date through moves and job changes, and often messages sent via LinkedIn will send an alert to the email address the LinkedIn user checks most often. (Note: If you are one of the few who does not keep up with LinkedIn in these ways, you should consider doing so. You never know what opportunities you might be missing otherwise!)

Working in sales now, I have to make a lot of calls to request meetings with people. Even when trying to reach people I know or have worked with in the past, I often encounter some amount of hassle finding the right phone number and dealing with a receptionist type, who usually wants to know what the call is regarding, or getting voicemail. Maybe it's the writer in me, but I am more comfortable putting down in a few sentences what my intentions are than leaving them in a vocal message. Anyway, I get a higher response rate from LinkedIn messages than I do from leaving phone messages. So there.

2.) Seeing Who Knows Who

Whether you are considering hiring someone for a job or entering into any business arrangement with another person, it's always a good idea to do your homework. LinkedIn makes it a breeze to see all kinds of information about would-be employees and business partners of all kinds. What did she study in school? Where has she worked before and how long did she work there? Does she have any recommendations, and what do they say.

More valuable than any of those things, though — especially if you are considering hiring a person — is seeing the connections you have in common, then picking up the phone and making some calls. If there's one thing I have learned in my 15-or-so-year experience in the business world it's that a whole lot of people who look competent on paper (or on the computer screen) aren't. It's always best to find someone — or multiple people — who actually have had business experience with a potential job candidate (or contractor, or vendor, or whoever) before and have a conversation. Sorry. I might get flak for saying so. (Not sure why, but I've noticed lots of people like to complain.) But, it's true. I learned this the hard way.

And, it's a two-way street. If YOU are the job seeker, vendor or salesperson, you can call friends, former co-workers, etc., who know the person you're interviewing or meeting with and ask them to put in a good word.

3.) Expanding Your Network

Just by being an active LinkedIn participant — by adding connections, posting to the newsfeed, joining groups and contributing to discussions, etc. — your network will grow over time. You get out of it what you put in. I get new requests to connect usually a few times a week. Most often, these requests are from people I've met in the past or recently. Occasionally, they are from people I don't know. LinkedIn actually says it's a no no to request to connect with people you don't know, but hey ... it works for me! I'm in sales. If someone, especially a business owner, wants to connect with me on LinkedIn, I'll take it!

Even if we're not talking about sending or accepting a "connection" request, there's plenty of value in just participating in group discussions. There are so many different groups on LinkedIn for virtually every industry out there. Join them! It's an easy way to share and receive industry insight from others in your field. Racking your brain about a work-related problem? Post it on LinkedIn, and you might be amazed by the responses you receive! Can't find a group that suits your needs? Start one of your own. It's free!

4.) Infiltrating a Company

Trying to get into a company, whether to land a job there or sell a product or service? LinkedIn offers advanced search options wherein you can type in the company name and bring up a list of people you know who work or have worked there. They can use their influence to usher you in. It's happened to me!

5.) Improving Your Google Page Rank

LinkedIn profiles get picked up pretty well by Google and other search engines. Here's a fun test: If you know it, Google my name. I'll bet my Google + profile shows up first and my LinkedIn profile second. In fact, if you're bored enough to try that, please do report back to me what results you get, because I'm curious to know whether my machine/IP address is biased. =-)~

Now try searching your name on Google. (Put your name in quotes.) Does your LinkedIn profile show up on page 1? If not, you've got some work to do. Fill out your profile more completely, update your status more frequently, join some groups, add some connections, then try again in a month or two and see if your ranking improves. I'm willing to bet that if you have a common name, the person with that name who is most active on LinkedIn will show up ahead of the rest. BE that person!

6.) Seeing Who's Viewing Your Profile

You know how every now and then on Faebook a scammy app appears that claims it will let you see who's viewed your profile? Well, on LinkedIn it's not a scam. You really can see who's been viewing your page ... sometimes anyway. First of all, you've got to check off a box in your profile settings giving permission for others to see when you view their pages. (Otherwise, you won't be able to see who's viewed yours.) With an unpaid membership, which is what I have, you can see only a limited number of page viewers.  Every week or so it will let you view five or six more.

Sometimes it tells you outright that it was "so and so" who viewed your page. Sometimes it tells you only that someone from "Company X" viewed it. Then it gives you a list of people from Company X, and you know only one of them, so presumably it was that person. LOL. Occasionally it says that "Anonymous LinkedIn User" viewed your profile. Presumably these anonymous ones are paying for an upgraded membership. I'm not sure what all special benefits a paid membership brings, nor how much an upgraded membership costs. Someday when I am rich and famous I may consider paying for an upgraded LinkedIn membership. I have a feeling at that point I'll have better things to do with my time, though.

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