10 Steps That Allow You to Unlock the Power of LinkedIn.

linkedin-logoLinkedIn is no longer a “new” phenomenon. There are now more than 70 Million members across 200 countries, dominated by US users. Members are affluent ($100k+ income on average), educated, and primarily upper/middle management, and in their early 40s. However while LinkedIn is rapidly growing among business professionals, only a small percentage of its members really harness its power. Many members end up joining LinkedIn after having gotten several invitations to join from business friends. They join, but then do little to make LinkedIn work for them. As if life, nothing just happens. You make it happen. So too with LinkedIn.

Of the many LinkedIn benefits, here are the three invaluable ones:

1. Reconnecting with people you know but may have lost touch with

Those of us who have been in business for a few years have a deep well of people we have worked with, but lost touch. Good people, people we liked. However, it’s awkward to call someone out of the blue after many years, while it’s easy and far less awkward to connect on LinkedIn (and you may end up speaking and meeting as a result)

2. Having access to their connections-2nd level connections.

How often do you want to meet someone yet you aren’t sure who knows them? With LinkedIn, it’s a snap.

3. Joining groups that are relevant to your background and interests and then joining conversations and thereby establish your expertise.

If you’re a serious business networker, and in today’s world everyone should be, LinkedIn is a gold mine. And needless to say, if you’re looking for business opportunities, it’s an invaluable tool.

Unfortunately what many people do once they join is put up a bare bones profile (if that), no photo, little summary of accomplishments, join few groups, post no information, and then complain “LinkedIn isn’t working for me”. If that’s you, time to get on the stick. For those who want to unlock the power of LinkedIn, here are 10 simple action steps:

1. Post a (business) photo-Not your Facebook photo from your high school graduation, please.

2. Fill out your profile completely-All jobs, all collegiate experience, groups, associations, honors, awards, Boards, etc. Unless you’re really not Don Draper and have been using a fictitious name, having a full profile is critical. Be sure to list all past employers, not just recent ones. Listing the more distant employers is the best way to connect with people from your “early years”.

3. Join groups-LOTS of them. I have heard people recommend joining 50 groups (yes, 50). More is better. You don’t have to show them all on your profile, but it’ll give you access to a larger universe.

4. Update your status often-this keep others updated on what you’re doing. It also provides information for the weekly update on connections.

5. Invite people to connect with you with a personal note. We have all received the generic default message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Don’t use it. Using the default message is a lost opportunity to really connect with the person. Write something short and personal even if it is just “Saw you were on LinkedIn. Let’s connect. Hope all is well.” How many people should you connect with? Hundreds. But don’t try to do this all at once. 1-2 a day is plenty. You’ll get there–Use the People you May Know function–and download your Outlook Contacts.

6. Check “Who’s Viewed My Profile”. In many instances, you’ll be able to figure out who’s checking you out.

7. Ask for and give several recommendations. Think about what you want to say about others and be sure their recommendations reflect what you want to have said about yourself (if it doesn’t be sure to ask them to edit-or don’t post it)

8. Use the Slide Share and WordPress functions to connect with your blog or a short slide presentation on your business.

9. Simplify the public profile link eliminating all the #s and letters. It shows others you are a more serious user.

10. Use the message feature to occasionally send out messages to your connections (a link to recent blog, article etc). You can send out a group message but write it personally, and sign it with your first name only). And importantly, disable the feature where everyone can see the entire distribution list.

LinkedIn is a golden opportunity to connect and re-connect with professionals, and in so doing build your “brand” whether it’s your company or just yourself. Take advantage of its power.

Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal, September 17-23, 2010

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