This is a work in progress. I have been a Linked-In member for several years, but have only recently paid any attention to the possibilities. As with most of these posts, I write them as I stumble down the learning curve because it helps me figure something out. Occasionally, someone is nice enough to write and tell me where I have erred.
I am not much of a fan of social networks, but I do recognize that they have become a big thing. I have been forced to become a student of these tools and a user. I don’t have a Facebook page yet, but that day may not be far away.
Right now, the only network I use is Linked-In. It seems to have reached critical mass. I don’t know if there is something else that would meet my needs better, but like any tool, there is a fair amount of work involved in learning to use Linked-In, and there is a fair amount of work in making it work for you. And for me, if it’s work, I can’t help but look at it like a process, and every process needs to be written down and every process has to start with a purpose.
Purpose: To define a professional profile that accurately and attractively presents the detailed professional image that you are trying to achieve.
Your Linked-In profile is a lot like a resume. In fact, I can see a day when your Linked-In profile will be the first thing that employers look at. Resumes may already be obsolete.
Even if you are not looking for work, you are always looking for work or help with work on Linked-In. You should put those things into your profile that you would be comfortable sharing with a new employer or your present employer, and little else. If you like your current job, make sure your Linked-In profile reflects well on your current employer. In general, your linked-In profile should reflect well on everyone and everything you mention. Linked-in is not an arena for fighting battles.
I hope I never have to look for a job again, but that will only continue as long as my current and future enterprises bring in sufficient income. If I use my Linked-In profile properly with my other tools, I may avoid that fate. (Don’t get me wrong. I have loved most of my jobs, but I hate looking for work and I hate commuting. I really love my current job, and it involves no commuting.)
I maintain a Linked-In membership because I want to make more money doing exactly the things that I want to do. I’m not using Linked-In to promote my social consciousness or to keep up with my social network. I might use another networking site for those (with a great deal of caution), but Linked-In is all about what I want to do for work. I need to carefully and constantly define that, and Linked-In is a good place to keep that definition. I don’t want to do that in a way that closes any doors, but I strongly believe that you do need to project a vision.
Moreover, you need to project a vision with substance. If you want to get a certain type of work, you need to convince people that you are likely to be good at it. This is usually a lot easier if you have been living at least part of your vision, and have colleagues, employers, partners, and experience that attests to that skill. This should not be too hard if you are good at what you do and want to continue in that work and there are people that need that work. The more radically you want to change what you are doing, the more difficult it will be to provide substance for your vision.
Above all, keep your Linked-In profile accurate and credible. Remember, people can check out a lot about armed with nothing more than Google, especially if you have ever really done anything. You leave trails everywhere you go in the electronic world we live in.
I did not even know that Linked-In had a company profile capability until a very short time ago, but if you are a manager of a company and want to tell people what you company does, the Linked-In profile is a simple and free way to do that. If you work for a company, you should make sure your company’s profile is online and updated.
One of the things I like about Linked-In is that no one abuses their connections, or if they do, I have been lucky enough to avoid that. I get no unrequested solicitations. I don’t get that many of the kind of solicitations I am eagerly looking for, but I get some. That’s pretty good, and I actually think it is going to last because the unspoken part of Linked-Ins connection capability is the ease of disconnecting. People will be very unlikely to abuse their connections even on a small level because the risk is far greater than the reward.
I am pretty broad-minded about who I connect to. I can afford to do that because people only tend to come to me for stuff they will pay me for doing. Warren Buffett probably has to be more careful because he faces a real danger of getting excessively pestered. However, even for me I want to avoid connections that do not have a significant purpose.
I want to keep up with what friends and colleagues are up to, and Linked-In provides a quick way to do that if they keep up their profiles. If they don’t, I am no more ignorant for making the connection. The connection also gives me an persistent email link to the person. I would say past colleagues are your best connections because they already know your work. Hopefully, they appreciated and would like to have you on their side in a future endeavor.
I can’t think of any negatives letting these same people know what I am up to, but I control that by what I put into my profile. I wouldn’t want thousand of connections like some people have because I would suffer from information overload. I have enough connections already so that it would be a mess if they all used the broadcast power of Linked-In, but they don’t. With rare exceptions, most of the Linked-In updates have to do with new connections to my connections.
I should pay some attention to who my connections are connected to, but that’s a lot of work and kind of invasive. In all cases, I really want to speak to my direct connections because that’s where I think I have the most credibility. I’d have to go and look at every profile unless I recognized the names.
Linked-In tells me that I am connected to millions of people, but I think they only list thirty that have a live direct connection. There is an implied power in the secondary and tertiary connections, but that is hard to exploit. The only way you can really exploit anything beyond your immediate network is to do something so interesting that your connections have to tell their connections, and their connections have to tell their connections. I don’t know if you would need Linked-In if you came up with something that interesting, but I think sometimes the right message can work its way down a connection chain until it gets to the person who needs to hear it.
To their credit, I think Linked-In is working to help you achieve getting your message out virally if you can, while maintaining a culture of consideration and respect. It’s a tough road to walk, but so far, so good.
My belief is that the best way to exploit those connections is to be very clear about what you or your business can do for people. You want to talk to people who are interested in what you have to offer, and those people can only find you if you tell them what you can deliver.
If you don’t get enough email every day, join a couple of Linked-In groups. I join groups because I am joining with other people who share my agenda, or at least are my competition. The best things about groups is that they have job postings and discussions. The job postings are interesting even if you are not looking for a job because they tell you a lot about what people in that group are spending their money on.
Although my impression so far is that Linked-In Discussions would be more accurately called soliloquies, they are interesting and useful. For best results, start or participate in discussions on areas where you are doing work currently. We have gained valuable insights from private comments to our discussions even though we have yet to attract a single public comment. As with every other aspect of Linked-In, proceed with discretion. Anything you put out there becomes part of the value matrix that you are creating for potential customers and employers. Make sure that each contribution to a discussion enhances that picture of value.
I still haven’t used this feature, but I have been thinking about it. My initial impression is that the best way to use it is very similar to discussion. That is, ask or answer questions only if your interest and knowledge is valid and current.
Blogs Linked to Your Linked-In Profile
Again, use discretion. Even if no one is reading your blog right now, someone will when you are trying to get a job or make a sale. Make sure that anything you write in your linked blog in mindful of this fact. Therefore, you shouldn’t link your golf blog unless you are in the golf business, and even then, the blog needs to exclusively support your business purposes. Avoid religion and politics because they won’t get you any new business, but could well cost you some. If you write a blog with significant religious or political content, people may find it anyway, but don’t push it in their face by making it part of your on-line profile.
I’d love to hear from people who are having success promoting their business with Linked-In.