Is LinkedIn the Sleeping Giant?

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LinkedIn may not be as flashy as Facebook or as trendy as Tumblr, but for most people with a business, it’s definitely a must in the social media world. With a solid user base of over 75 million people, LinkedIn is popular among high-level businesspeople; according to the LinkedIn PR page, executives from each of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies belong to the site. LinkedIn focuses more on professional activities and accomplishments, and less on cute games and applications. So if your target market trends a bit to the older, corporate side, LinkedIn may be the place for you.

The first thing to do on LinkedIn is to create a profile that discusses your professional expertise and experience. Currently, businesses cannot create profiles online, so your profile will represent you as an individual. Then you will link up with friends and colleagues.  The site makes that easy by showing you users who have attended the same school or worked for the same companies. Once you have requested to be made a contact and your request is approved, you will be able to see your contacts’ contacts, making it a virtual game of six degrees of separation.

One of the best aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to request an introduction to someone who is not in your immediate network but is a contact of one of your own contacts. If you are looking to partner with a specific person, you can ask to be introduced through a mutual contact, thereby smoothing the way. Another great resource is the large number of “groups,” for everything from sales and marketing professionals to White House staff members. These groups allow you to follow conversations, suggest topics of interest, and find additional contacts.  For small business owners trying to gain visibility, these groups can be invaluable.

Once you have created your LinkedIn profile, search the groups directory for appropriate groups to join. You can currently join up to 50 groups, but be judicious; just as with social media in general, you are better off joining just a few groups that you can really participate in, rather than joining dozens you can barely remember you are part of. Once you have identified your groups, here’s your daily to-do list:

  • Post an update to your profile. While profile updates are less critical on LinkedIn as on other sites, they still demonstrate that you’re using the site and are updating regularly. (1 minute)
  • Respond to invitations to connect. You can arrange for these requests to be sent directly to your email in-box, too. (1 minute)
  • Add additional contacts. Each time you approve a request to connect, you will automatically be shown other people you may know. Spend a few minutes looking for potential new contacts and requesting to add them to your network. (3 minutes)
  • Read current updates in your groups, and respond to questions and conversations. (4 minutes)
  • Post new threads in your groups with related topics and points of interest. (3 minutes)
  • Request introductions. Spend a minute asking for introductions to anyone you may want to “meet.” (1 minute)
  • Write a recommendation. LinkedIn allows you to write and receive recommendations from your contacts. Writing one creates good karma, and increases the likelihood someone will write one for you in turn. (2 minutes)

LinkedIn is a much more serious site than most other social media outlets. While you can still express your personality, realize – and respect – that most people are there for professional networking purposes, not to share their latest exploits . As long as you stick with the vibe, your updates and posts will be welcomed and appreciated.

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