If you haven’t come across it before, LinkedIn is a website which allows you to list your contacts, see who they know, and then see who you’re connected to in turn. You can test out the theory of Seven Degrees of Seperation – although I haven’t yet found anyone who is connected to the Queen or Johnny Depp. It’s focussed on business users, so is perhaps more useful than other applications such as Facebook – and although LinkedIn can be quite addictive, it doesn’t eat up nearly as much of your time. Lots of people join LinkedIn because they receive an invitation from someone like me. But they don’t go on to make the most of LinkedIn because they’re busy, or they don’t understand how it could be useful to them. So here’s how to use LinkedIn to your advantage. These rules also apply to other networking sites like Facebook or Myspace, if that’s more your cup of tea.
How to use it
Firstly – make sure you’ve got a good profile. Put a little thought into how you want the world to see you. Remember that search engines will pick up your LinkedIn page, so if someone is looking specifically for you, they might well find that first. Spend a little time on this, and make sure that you’ve got your key messages right. If you’ve done a sketchy profile before, because someone has invited you to join, then make some time to go back to it make sure it’s up to date and says the right things about you. Then, invite people. LinkedIn makes this easy, so you can import your address book from Outlook and send people invitations. It’s tempting to just send a blanket email to all these people, but let’s not be hasty here. One of the primary uses of a tool like LinkedIn is to give you a good excuse to get back in touch with the people that you’ve not spoken to in a while. So, do take the time to tell people that you want to get back in touch with them, and encourage them to email you back. You could send them to this article if you want them to understand how they could use LinkedIn to their advantage.
Why would I want to do that?
Why do you want to get back in touch with people who you’ve lost touch with? Well, these are people who could be in your network, but aren’t. They’re people who could be telling other people about you and what you do, or could be out there looking for opportunities for you, but because you’ve lost touch with them, they’re probably not sure of what you’re doing or don’t think about you when something comes up that you’d like to hear about. Most business opportunities come through networking, you need to make sure that your network is as wide as you can make it, and one of the best ways of doing this is by getting involved again with people that you’ve already made a connection.
Finding the right people
You can also use LinkedIn to find out who the other people in your network know. As well as being fascinating, it’s great when you need an introduction or some background knowledge about someone. Say you have a meeting with a potential new client – by looking them up on LinkedIn, you might well find that you know someone in common. Then you can get in touch with your mutual contact, and get some background information about what they’re like, what approach you should take. They may even be able to recommend you.
Rules for using LinkedIn
Here are some rules for using LinkedIn
- Only invite people that you’re met or you know – if you send out random invitations you’ll only end up annoying people and getting a bad reputation
- Don’t treat it as a point scoring exercise – it’s better to have 30 good contacts, rather than 100s of people that you don’t really know.
- When you meet someone for the first time, do send them an invitation to join you on LinkedIn. It’s a lovely way of saying that you enjoyed meeting them and would like to get together.
- Don’t include really personal or wacky stuff on your profile – remember that people who see your profile will be wanting to do business with you
- Do spend time on your profile
- Do spend some time on inviting people to join your network – more fun and productive than watching Eastenders!
Keep in touch
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Get yourself some great advice for your business
If you’re reading this because you’re using LinkedIn for business, you might want some advice on other parts of your business. Here’s how my business advice for small businesses in Brighton, Sussex and London works. If you’re not up for full on mentoring yet, and maybe you want some help with a particular aspect of your business, here’s all the details of my decision making one off sessions.