Each day we see the continued encroachment and entrenchment of social networking products such as FaceBook, Twitter, and MySpace. No doubt that if you are in business, you likely have heard of LinkedIn too. If not, we can best describe LinkedIn as FaceBook for grownups; or perhaps more accurately, FaceBook for business professionals.
While most people, including self-proclaimed addicts, will see FaceBook as a recreational diversion, what distinguishes LinkedIn from having the same label is its pure focus on business and business relationships. Even the main Home Page shows little about it but a work ethic with Contacts, Groups, Jobs and Inbox being the primary headings. In fact, the most ‘recreational’ aspect of this section would be Your Reading List – where you can list books you have read and even post a review and whether or not you recommend it.
The key value of LinkedIn is getting plugged into a form of business networking like no other. While attending networking groups in person is valuable, most busy professionals do not have the time to travel and engage in these activities on a regular basis. With LinkedIn, your contacts immediately become your networking group, with a section on the Home Page even suggesting “People You May Know”, and their degree of separation. Other sections on the main page include updates from your contacts and groups, announcements on events and peer-to-peer recommendations on people and products.
Recommendations are a particularly powerful tool, giving you and your company credibility and free press with each garnered. This is where some effort is required on your part too. Adding contacts and constantly updating your profile to include new business products and services is mandatory. Real value becomes evident in telling your story through the Education and Experience sections. Active participation in groups does much to enhance your profile too.
Like so many things, with LinkedIn you get out of it what you invest. Most successful members spend at least 15 minutes a week tweaking their profile and relationships. While a professional version of the service exists, most people will find excellent value in the free version. And while LinkedIn suffered some growing pains a year or two ago, their IT strategy now ensures a robust and solid interface, with quick page navigation and solid security.
If you are not already a LinkedIn member, consider giving it a try – if you are already….send me an invite for some special tips.