The power of LinkedIn is indisputable. It has become one of the top professional social media outlets as well as the best online resource for professional networking. As of August 2012, LinkedIn reported having more than 175 million members in over 200 countries and territories. From applying for jobs to bringing more attention to your company, LinkedIn is a tool which all professionals should know how to use effectively.
Although many (if not most) professionals have taken the time to set up a LinkedIn account, it can be easy to let your account simply exist rather than proactively reaching out and reaching the true potential of LinkedIn. There’s a plethora of ways to network through LinkedIn that are not used by the average user looking to connect with other professionals, many of which can be accomplished in a mere 5-10 minutes a day.
The first place I will suggest that you start is by joining groups that are relevant to your career focus, whether it be your current focus or where you hope to have your focus one day in the future (i.e. becoming a manager, lawyer, etc). As you join groups, start following the discussion topics that are brought up within them.
The value of discussions on LinkedIn is sorely underestimated. Joining groups on LinkedIn and actively participating in discussion boards allow you to share your knowledge and expertise, therefore bolstering the value of your personal brand. If you are unsure about a topic in your field, there is no better place to ask a question or ask for advice than a related group. As long as you are contributing where appropriate, you will increase your visibility, subsequently increasing your networking capabilities.
Another area to reach out to network with other professionals utilizing LinkedIn is the Answers section. Here you can browse through questions in different categories such as Administration, Management, and even Personal Finance. The Answers section provides another place for you to share your expertise and learn from others.
If you are participating in discussion boards and in the Answers section, an important thing to remember is that you have to stay up to date on all relevant topics. Follow your colleagues’ activity and companies you are interested in. LinkedIn Today is a wonderful tool to monitor current news in the industries and sources you follow. Engaging in current and relevant news molds you into an informed professional and will help you grow into an expert in your field. As you build a following you will find yourself connecting with other professionals quite rapidly.
Equally important to staying up to date and actively participating in the LinkedIn community is your profile. A common mistake is to simply create your profile when you join LinkedIn and then never return to it. With each new project and responsibility you are given, you should be updating and expanding your profile. This can be as simple as adding new details to your profile that elaborate on your current responsibilities and professional interests. You can even employ SEO strategy by incorporating keywords that are relevant to your work in your profile to increase your visibility in LinkedIn searches.
Effectively networking on LinkedIn is not as simple as building a profile and hoping your network will magically grow overnight. It takes time and effort to build a name for yourself and find your audience. Spending a little time every day on at least one of the areas I outlined above will help you build your personal brand and develop a network that will continually grow.