Are you on LinkedIn yet?
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Of the online networking sites available, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for professionals and entrepreneurs to network and make the connections to succeed in the business world.
LinkedIn can be a great resource for researching your industry and can open doors to key connections and deliver results for people who take the time to understand how it works and use it to their advantage.
LinkedIn is a business-oriented, platform, not a social platform, so you won’t find folks posting pictures of their children or latest vacation as with other social media sites, most commonly Facebook. LinkedIn, which essentially is your resume online, is used by more than 175 million professionals and business owners to make qualified connections, share ideas and search for jobs and business opportunities.
For small business owners, LinkedIn can be a great tool for marketing their products and services, promoting their brand and learning about vendors, customers and competitors.
Even so, many small businesses still are not convinced of the usefulness of LinkedIn for their business, according to demographics and stats compiled by Blue Rise Media, an Internet marketing, social media and SEO company. The data shows that only 30 per cent of Linked In members in the U.S. are part of a small enterprise with a staff of less than 1,000 individuals.
If you’re a small business entrepreneur who hasn’t gotten on board, it’s time you get with the program, says Jason Alba, creator of JibberJobber,a job search organizing tool, and author of the book, “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???”
“If nothing else, LinkedIn has kind of replaced the phone book or the yellow pages. I regularly find myself going to LinkedIn to find out about someone, or a company,” Alba says. “The single thing that makes it a great business tool is the diversity of members. With almost 200 million members, you should be able to find a path to almost anyone you need to talk to.”
What’s nice about LinkedIn is you can set up a basic profile for free that includes applications such as blog feeds, slide presentations, video, Twitter feeds and more. You can sign up for discussion groups, build a contact list, and see who’s been viewing your profile.
Nevertheless, to maximize LinkedIn for business, it’s important to be strategic about how you use it. Here are some key steps for optimizing LinkedIn from Alba, the author and JibberJobber creator.
- Set up a strong profile page with relevant information and a professional portrait photo.
- Next, build your network. Be proactive in managing your relationships. Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen.
- Connect with people you know first and then use the search function to find people within your industry.
- Recommend or endorse others first before asking for endorsements from others. On that note, LinkedIn has added a new feature called “Endorsements” that allows users to endorse skills or expertise of any members in their network.
- Join a group to help build your network and stay abreast of developments within your industry.
- Use the site’s question-and-answer function to help put your brand in front of an audience and demonstrate your expertise in an area.
- Lastly, use the Advanced People search to find prospects and connect with key decision-makers.
“From the search results, figure out how to network into the person you need to talk to, then ask for an introduction or pick up the phone,” Alba said. “That’s about as tangible as it gets. The tool is there, waiting for you to use it.”