Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is a professional networking site with a membership of over 40 million and growing daily. While it is a form of social media, Web 2.0, LinkedIn serves a more definitive role as a relationship building tool and as a business networking community, one often under-utilized.
The networking platform has the same basic features as other Web 2.0 sites ¬– members create a profile, list their educational and employment experience, interests, upload a picture, post a link to their website or blog…the usual information. Interestingly, while immensely popular with business and professional people, many members are yet unaware of the full power of the networking platform, as well as the various capabilities and features of available to LinkedIn members.
Business Identity: Internet and Offline Image
In addition to the social aspects of LinkedIn, the site is regularly visited by those seeking confirmation of an individual’s credentials and reputation, not only within LinkedIn, but as an established entity in the business community. Lack of a LinkedIn profile may be quite costly and many who have yet to fully develop their LinkedIn identity may be missing a real opportunity for exposure and validation. LinkedIn is an excellent place to develop and enhance your online identity, your Internet image, per se.
LinkedIn’s power, once recognized and fully appreciated, is quite persuasive. LinkedIn is heavily trafficked not only by human resource personnel but by prospective clients and customers seeking additional information during the information gathering stages of a relationship. In fact, all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented on LinkedIn. Social media and networking platform to be sure, but it is also a wonderful marketplace for those seeking employees and employment, including freelancers looking for new relationships and assignments.
LinkedIn’s Profile: Your Online Resume
The LinkedIn profile is your executive resume online and should be treated as such. The profile is the first impression, either a great one that states “I am someone to be taken seriously” or, conversely, “I am incomplete, look elsewhere!” For this reason, the profile should be as professional and as thorough as possible. When developing your online image, list your current or last held position, as well as past companies and affiliations. Set your profile to “Full View,” in order to make your information available for search engines to index, and customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name, not some obscure nickname; in other words, brand yourself. This can all be quite easily accomplished through the “Accounts & Settings” tab under “Public Profile”. Including a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature, and also when you comment on blogs, are great ways to improve your connect-ability and your professional identity.
LinkedIn and Connections: The Power of the Network
Probably the most important aspect of a LinkedIn membership is the ability to make connections. Connections are to LinkedIn, what followers are to Twitter, and friends are to Facebook. Significantly, there is data to suggest that the “link” between connections on LinkedIn has a much greater and lasting effect, and affect, than either of the two aforementioned social media platforms.
LinkedIn members, those who are “linked-in,” build a contact network by inviting others, users and non-users, to become a part of their network. Members join a network by agreeing to “connect” and non-users may join, and take advantage of a wide array of benefits, depending on membership level, or create a public profile at no charge with limited access to the features of the paid membership. Your profile will also assist past and present associates, clients and partners in finding you. Features can assist members link-up with past employers and employees, various alumni groups, and other associations and groups. An individual’s network is then built based on connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know through 3 levels. Making connections in this fashion is designed to build trust among members, and has the potential to link you to tens of thousands of professionals. People are more likely to do business with or hire someone who comes recommended by another individual or company who they know and trust.
LinkedIn and the Power of the Group
If you would like to connect specifically with members based on interests, affiliations and goals, you can also join or create a LinkedIn Group. LinkedIn groups can be created by anyone for any purpose. The most popular groups are those with a networking focus, primarily networking with others in a specific area of expertise. After networking, professional education and information sharing are very popular group memberships. Basically, the possibilities are endless when it comes to group formation and affiliation, if two or more people come together, a group is formed.
LinkedIn’s “Advanced Search” feature can be a valuable tool whether you are seeking a new position, or want to assess the competition, research a perspective employer’s current workforce and turnover rate, or get to know more about the individual interests and accomplishments of those you may be considering working with. You can also use the “Advanced Search” to find people with similar education backgrounds and/or technical skills; and, to find out what companies they are currently employed by, or see who within your network may be initiating a new startup. The possibilities for using the LinkedIn search are myriad, it is a powerful information gathering tool when applied properly.
LinkedIn Answers: Ask and It Shall Be Answered!
The newest feature to be added to the site, “LinkedIn Answers,” allows you to ask for advice. Members can broadcast a business-related question and seek responses from both their network and the greater LinkedIn network. Let’s say you were looking for an accountant qualified in a certain area, or trying to gauge the appropriate salary range for a particular position, this would be an excellent forum from which to receive valuable responses.
Some other interesting statistics to consider when weighing the value of getting LinkedIn:
- People with twenty or more connections are over 30 times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity
- A company’s decision maker tends to be the more active user of the site
- The greater the number of connections the greater the likelihood of higher personal income
The Ultimate Internet Image and LinkedIn: Recommendations and Referrals
One of the most attractive features of a LinkedIn membership is the ability to give and receive recommendations. The recommendations are not only in the nature of peer reviews and recommendations but also recommendations from business clients, associates, colleagues, and employers. The LinkedIn recommendation, received in such a manner, is an invaluable tool not only in job-seeking but as an image and business building tool. The public nature and cumulative effect of such recommendations adds additional weight and value to the recommendation, not only enhancing one’s status and reputation within the LinkedIn community, but as a tool to be used by anyone seeking an objective evaluation of the individual’s credibility and competence, given by his or her peers.
LinkedIn: Do Not Be Caught Online Without It!
Overall, the LinkedIn membership is a vital asset for any business person, online or offline, interested in building a network for personal promotion and advancement, as well as for the promotion of business interests. LinkedIn membership is also a not-so-subtle message to anyone interested that an individual is at least established enough to have taken the time to build a relationship with his or her peers and to have been recognized as a colleague and a peer by those interested enough to make a connection with them. The connection, an active process of approval within the LinkedIn community, further validates the status of the individual members within the business community…or at least within the LinkedIn membership, which is basically one and the same. Ultimately, no serious marketer with an online presence should be without a LinkedIn membership and an active and engaging profile; thus assuring the Ultimate Internet Image!
Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., CEO and Founder