I’ve been on LinkedIn almost since its early days. To be honest, at first I didn’t see a lot of value in it, so I just created my profile and left it alone. Then, about 6 years ago, Paul -a colleague of mine at the time- pushed me to be more proactive with it (and with networking in general). I took that advice to heart – and it has paid off.
Now it’s 2013 and I’m amazed when I see young (and old!) professionals who have a gazillion friends on Facebook, but don’t have a decent LinkedIn profile. In fact, this post was inspired partly by one of my colleagues on my team that, to my dismay, barely had a LinkedIn profile. And she’s in sales. C’mon! If you’ve got more friends in Facebook than connections on LinkedIn, you’re doing it wrong. Whether you are a professional just starting your career, a seasoned executive, a freelancer or a business owner, you need to step-up your LinkedIn game. Today.
The multiple uses of LinkedIn
What people don’t realize about LinkedIn is that it is a big resource for a lot of work-related situations. While traditional resumes are not dead yet, LinkedIn has been encroaching on that territory for some time now. But having your resume online is not the only reason you want to use LinkedIn. There are multiple other situations in which it is quite useful:
- If you’re in the recruiting industry you may already know the value it has when sourcing candidates. But you’d be surprised to find out how many executive recruiters I’ve met whose LinkedIn network is not that great.
- If you’re in sales, LinkedIn can be a tool to find prospects, get in contact with them through acquaintances, and most importantly -regardless of the source of your lead- approach your sales cycle with a little more information about the company. If you’re in business development, it’s a great tool to find people you might have in common with your future partner.
- As a job hunter you can use it to find out open positions (job postings in LinkedIn are growing nicely) and network with people that might be able to put you in contact with the hiring manager. Never apply through the website if you can get someone to refer you!
How do you step-up your LinkedIn game? Glad you asked! Here are 5 ways.
1. Complete your profile
I know this sounds too basic. And for some people it is. But you’d be surprised how many people do not have a complete profile on LinkedIn. Just the other week I interviewed a candidate for a sales position that barely had any information about him in there… and barely 5 connections. Listen, I really don’t mind if you’re doing keg stands in your Facebook page. But not having a full LinkedIn profile? That does work against you in my book, at least a little bit. It shows you don’t take your professional life seriously, and if you don’t do that for you, how will you do that for our company? It’s not going to make or break any candidate, but it counts for something. Especially because, well, we operate in the technology industry, and that was a sales position we were talking about – and oh yeah, it’s 2013! The best way to get the most out of LinkedIn, is to complete your profile, including your education and relevant past work experience.
To what extent you fill out your profile page is up to you. For example, in my profile page I just include past positions and companies. Speaking about numbers, and other details in such a public place doesn’t seem right when some of those numbers are confidential. I’ve seen executives do this (I grew sales from $X to $Y) and when those numbers are supposed to be confidential… you don’t look that good. In that case you’re better off leaving those in your resume.
2. Use it before you need it: Be proactive and deliberate.
The most important thing that people need to realize about LinkedIn is that you have to build your network before you need it. If you’re looking for a new hire, new job, prospect or partnership, it’s already too late to start building your network.
You have to be proactive and deliberate when building your network. Start with your colleagues, the people you do business with today on a regular basis. Then go back to your previous companies/positions. Add classmates, past customers. LinkedIn has a nice feature where it recommends people. When you’re just starting to build your network, this tool can provide very good recommendations, including people that have worked in the same organizations or attended the same school as you. Take advantage of it. Set aside some time every now and then to add people, and include a personal note.
3. Different Social Media Channels, Different Relationship Thresholds.
You just don’t go around friending people you met at the Starbucks line on Facebook. Likewise, you might not have everyone from your family on Twitter.
Every social media channel (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being the three major ones) has different etiquette and protocols for adding people. On Twitter you can add anyone you want – you don’t even need their permission! On Facebook you might want to add only friends and family. LinkedIn lies somewhere in the middle. My personal policy is: I’ll add anyone I know or have done business with – even if it was just one transaction/deal and I’ve never met them in person. That seems to be the norm for most of the people I know.
4. Don’t Be *That* Person
Yes, you want to grow your network. But don’t just add people indiscriminately. I get daily request from people I don’t know. And they don’t even bother including a message of why they want to get in touch. Don’t be *that* person. Adding people you don’t know actually dilutes the value of your network. And to someone like me, you’ll just look clueless.
I’m OK if a salesperson tries to contact me through LinkedIn as long as they add a note and explain what they want. But it irritates me when someone wants to sell me something (you can tell by their profile) but are so lazy to not even write, “Hey Rodrigo, I’m such-and-such with ACME. Do you have some time to chat about…?”. Of course, the “official” way to do this is through InMails, which are available on paid accounts, and is a good segue to point #5…
5. Consider Using A Paid Account
LinkedIn paid accounts offer some great benefits, but that does come at a price. In my opinion, the price is too steep and LinkedIn might benefit from offering an entry-level version. But that’s just me – and they might be pricing the accounts at the most rational, revenue-maximizing level. If you’re in sales, paid accounts offer a wealth of information and I’d recommend at least giving them a try. And you should know you can associated LinkedIn Maybe you company will pay for them. In fact, it’d be nice if LinkedIn came up with some business pricing and companies assigned users to them, just like any SaaS service. Well, that’s another story.
If you don’t want to spring for a paid account, you can get by (at least for the contacting part), through introductions by third parties. They just take a little more time, but they do the trick as well.
As for my colleague, a few days ago when I started writing this post, she was at 71 connections. Today she’s at 371. That’s proof that it only takes a bit of effort to start building your online network.