LinkedIn officially launched on May 5, 2003 with a total of 4,500 members in the first month. Known mostly as a business social network, LinkedIn has been adopted globally with nearly 2 billion people searches in 2010 and over 90 million users in January 2011. To top it off, a forthcoming IPO will raise even more money for expansion.
Yet amongst many business professionals, LinkedIn seems to fight perception that it is strictly a site to visit when you need a job.
With new features added regularly and all of the Fortune 500 represented, LinkedIn is a valuable source of data and connections that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re not a regular LinkedIn user, I encourage you to look beyond the basics and see the opportunities for businesses to showcase their products, advertise in and out of network, and content sharing/syndication.
Here are 5 tips for individuals to help companies get more out of LinkedIn:
1. Use Your Profile as a Destination In an informal check of LinkedIn search strength, I did a Google search of 20 contacts. In every case, regardless of how visible they are on the web, LinkedIn profiles appeared on the first page with the vast majority appearing in the first five results. Keep your profile current to highlight your experience and expertise at all times. It can serve as a great way to share your history not only with other LinkedIn members but anyone online given the strength of search results.
2. Linking Content via Applications As the site has evolved in the past few years it now offers a number of opportunities to share content from the site directly. Your LinkedIn network should be a strong source of support for your news and updates as your contacts are likely connected to your industry. By utilizing the available tools to link to your blog, twitter feed, or to create polls you can share helpful information with this network that may be passed along further to create new connection opportunities for you or your business.
3. Connect with New Contacts in Groups and Answers LinkedIn Groups are a great way to identify other users with similar interests and needs. In addition to the inherent benefits of learning from others, Groups offer a number of benefits for each user. You are able to view other members contact information and participation in a group or the LinkedIn Answers section allows you to highlight your ideas and insight. By providing useful information to others you will improve your own reputation as an expert resource on select topics. The creation of Open Groups is of benefit in a broader sense as well since discussions can be viewed by anyone on the web and picked up by search engines.
4. Research Potential Most LinkedIn users are familiar and comfortable with the people search capabilities of the site to find potential connections. Don’t forget to utilize other search tools on the site though as there is extensive data available to you. A very simple search of “public relations” provided over 11,000 listings nationally and indicates where I have a direct or indirect connection to that company. Using the search tools available it’s easy to track current openings, identify key leaders at the organizations, and recent additions or departures. Are these helpful for job seekers? Absolutely, but this information is of tremendous value for a new business discussion or a sales inquiry as well. Perhaps you have a contact from a prior project now on the inside.
5. Recommendations As either an employee or a business, a recommendation can carry a great deal of weight in the eyes of future customers. By essentially collecting success stories in advance you have the ability to create a testimonial page on a highly-trafficked, well-established site that can lead to future opportunities based on your work appearing in searches for specific keywords by others. These provide concrete examples of a (hopefully) good experience with you in a personal manner. It’s word of mouth promotion in a neighborhood of 90 million professionals. Not a bad target audience for most and one that shouldn’t be missed.
With a rich set of data available to you at no cost (these features are all available without having to go with the premium membership), LinkedIn should be a part of your networking and online marketing mix.
Do you have a great business success or a unique personal story based on your use of LinkedIn? Perhaps an unusual connection that highlights the full reach of tiered networks?