[09.13.11]
96 great comments!

Using LinkedIn: A Few Simple Reminders

This post is about using LinkedIn effectively. It offers some simple reminders for success.

using Linkedin

Sometimes life just gets really simple.  You get two warm hands wrapped around your cheeks, a set of eyes start at you and a message takes hold. Someone or some thing delivers an obvious lesson you need to share.

This week I was reminded of the simplicity of LinkedIn’s basic functionality. And I spent some time thinking about how we are complicating it.

We get caught up in perfect profiles, keyword writing, collecting badges (too many groups, too many connections) and using LinkedIn as a place for promotion. Not connecting.

And perhaps we are letting the complexity drown out our ability to get the basic intended value.

So here is my “two warm hands” example from last week:

Thursday night

I was speaking to a networking group at a Catholic Church in Irvine.  Someone asked a question about correct use of LinkedIn. And I mentioned my amazement that so few people actually using LinkedIn as it was originally intended. To connect with other people and allow that connection to lead you to others who might be able to help you. And you them.

Friday early morning

I got a note via LinkedIn from a friend (we go to the same church).  Since we are connected on LinkedIn, he reviewed my connections and noticed that I was connected to a director level person at one of his target companies. And then he did something that so few people do. He asked if I would introduce him to my contact.

Friday mid-morning

I sent a friendly note to my contact at the target company asking if he would be open to an introduction and if the position was still open. And I forwarded my friend’s profile.

Friday mid-morning (5 minutes later)

Yes, within 5 minutes I had an answer.  It was the answer we all would hope for following an introduction.  My contact at the target company said:  “Yes, but even better have your friend send his resume directly to me.  I’ll make sure it gets on top of the pile with the hiring manager.”  I couldn’t have scripted it better myself.

I haven’t heard what happened next, but my friend owns it from here, right?

“But the speed and simplicity of this experience blew me away. Because these high quality connections happen so rarely. Due to so few people initiating the request. And that needs to change.”

So I hope these reminders help you re-connect with the simple and profound value of using LinkedIn:

1.  Join LinkedIn

I said this was simple, right?  Amazingly, when I speak in front of 100 people, at least 1/3 of them aren’t signed up.  Amazing.

2.  Complete your profile

It makes you look engaged and available.  It helps people know where to place you in their life.  And it populates the algorithm so you can be found by people searching the site or looking for ideal connections.  How many of you have been on LinkedIn for years without getting this done?

3.  Connect with friends, old and new

Start only with people you know well or have worked with in the past.  Other people (complete strangers) who try to connect with you are just a distraction.  The odds that they will help you are lower (not impossible, just not as likely).  Especially if your relationship begins with no communication or a generic LinkedIn request. You see, the example above only happened because the two people my friend needed to make the transaction work were engaged and interested in helping.  Because we know and trust each other.  So start your relationships on LinkedIn with a personal connection request.

4.  Research your target companies

Once you find people you know (or people your friends know) within your target companies, send a note to ask for help.  Or get introduced directly through a connection (a button the right of every profile that makes it sickeningly simple to potentially get a note to a target connection through one or more people).  Yes, you get to use their friendship to your advantage.  And to build social credibility at the same time.

5.  Resist the temptation to connect with every group and person on LinkedIn.

You can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn but here’s the reality.  No one can participate in 50.  Most have trouble participating in more than a few.  So join a few and build awareness of your brand in those groups first.  Get used to connecting on LinkedIn as a active group member.  And then you can add more groups later.  In terms of connecting with people, establish a LinkedIn connection policy. If I can suggest an early strategy, don’t become a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker).

LinkedIn is not Twitter (where the expectations for “connecting” are lower).  To use LinkedIn right, you have to create awareness of your brand and build a basic level of trust.  Or people won’t take a risk to connect you with someone in their network.  It is just physically impossible to be ready and able to help others if you’ve never talked with them and know nothing about them (unless it can be found on their public profile).

As of today, I have 1,282 connections on LinkedIn.  And I am blown away by one simple fact.

Each month an average of about 1 person asks for an introduction.  Or asks that a note from them be forwarded to someone I know.

Really? In such a competitive market, why aren’t more people really using LinkedIn?

Is that the ratio Reid Hoffman had in mind when he created the platform?

Why aren’t you using LinkedIn?


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: | | | | | | | | |
Categories: Career Networking
  • Tim, So true. The two most powerful things about LinkedIn are the ability to gain introductions and maintain contact with your existing network. And LinkedIn makes it simple to do both these things. Unfortunately many of us do get distracted by the many other features, but asking for intros and sending short messages just tends to get things done on a basic human level. Thanks for the reminders!

  • Simple and basic reminders are often the most important ones.
    Nice job, Tim. It does seem that people have been overcomplicating things related
    to LinkedIn for the past several years.

     

    As for having a connection policy, I agree that it makes the
    most sense to connect with people you actually know. For some reason, people
    have been led to believe that “connection collecting” is a good thing. Like
    most areas of life, the focus should be on quality not quantity.

     

    While, I’ve always maintained a personal policy for only
    sending connection requests to people I’ve either met in person or had virtual
    interactions with, that doesn’t seem to as common as one might expect. The main
    issue I find with being connected to strangers is that it really diminishes the
    opportunity to build a meaningful professional network for networking purposes.
     

     

    I’m not opposed to accepting connection requests from
    strangers if there appears to be a reasonable level of common interest, but the
    majority of the requests I receive are generic and impersonal, leaving me
    wondering “why me?” Why did this person identify me as a logical addition to their
    network?

     

    Regarding introduction requests and other similar favors, I do
    seem to have a consistent incoming flow of those. I haven’t actually tracked,
    but at least a few per month on average. The tricky part is most of the time
    they are from people that I don’t know well enough to “represent” as a conduit
    to another person. Or, the other challenge is when the person requests an intro
    to someone that I don’t know well enough to contact on behalf of the requestor.

     

    In either of the above scenarios, I always recommend that
    the requestor take the initiative to contact the their target directly, especially
    if there is no value in me being the middle person. With a little bit of
    detective work and creativity, people can usually locate a way to reach out
    directly with their own personalized message.

     

    To avoid putting the person you are asking for help in an
    awkward position, I suggest only asking people you know well enough for them to
    have the ability to remember you and have recent knowledge of what you have to
    offer their other contact. It is a good idea to first ask how well they know
    your target connection and whether they would be comfortable facilitating the
    introduction.

     

    The more specific you can be in your request the better. For
    example, make sure you do your research and provide your connection with the tools,
    preparation and information to minimize the steps they need to take to figure
    out how they can help you.

     

    Above all, please make sure to consider that person’s
    perspective and remember to thank them for their efforts whether you receive the
    type of help you requested or an alternative recommendation. I’m always willing
    to do what I can to help others out, but it is disappointing how frequently
    favors are not followed by a simple thank-you.

     

    KB
    @TalentTalks:twitter 

  • Tim, your writing is so brilliant and brings the message home loud and clear – I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why I start my own LinkedIn presentations showing the power of Advanced Search and Engagement – two things that people take for granted all too often.  Thanks for helping remind everyone!

  • Tim, a much timely post! I’ve just experienced the ‘power’ of Linked In (so to speak). As you know I had been working on a industry change in my career progression and it took me all of 2 years to achieve it. And I’m delighted to say that Linked In was the primary reason why I was successful in the role I’ve just started. (I’ll have a note to you separately on my journey).
    But the two basic things we forget whilst using Linked in are : (a) Focus and (b) Help.
    Focus on the industry that you wan to be in. And help the people you are contacting/networking with in that industry before asking for help so that you can establish your value and be a wanted contacted.

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  • Hey Ping – Thanks for that reinforcement.  I don’t know why this is the first time I covered this topic.  It is a constant thought for me.  Why don’t more people use LinkedIn for its original purpose?

  • Wow, Kelly.  That was an awesome post!  Love what you said and will let it stand on its own.  Really valuable advice for anyone looking to build a strong, long-term network via LinkedIn.

  • Of course you have the right focus – you are Neal Schaffer after all!  🙂  Thanks for the comment and support as always. 

  • Joy – I so look forward to hearing about your new role.  That is great news!  I love your two focus areas.  Makes total sense.  Write soon.  🙂

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  • Kim Marino

    Great post. I especially can relate to using the Introduction on LinkedIn. I used it myself for the first time earlier this week. LinkedIn makes it so easy. And guess what! I got the call I was waiting for today. Read Tim’s post and let it motivate you to successs! Thank you so much Tim!

  • Thanks Kim.  Fun when it works like that, huh?

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  • Tomoko Mitsuoka

    Thanks very much for your “reminders” about using LinkedIn.
    I am currently trying to introduce LinkedIn to Japanese peopel (both who can and cannot communicate in English) who have not yet used or not know about LinedIn.  LinedIn was supposed to have a release in Japanse by now but seems to be taking time longer than expected.

    Your reminder made me think about my policy again and how and what I can advise to Japanese who have not yet used.  I have been receiving many “invitation” for past few months from people (some of them even state they are my friends!) I have no idea who they are.  Most of the time I accepted their invitation but your blog really gave me a good opportunity to think how I can build my own good network from now on.

    May I sumarise your blog article and put that to a group for Japanese?  They are quite new to LinedIn and your article woudl definitely help them a lot.

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  • Hi Tomoko – Thanks for your comment and I’m glad the post helped you.  It is especially important to get started with the right policy!  Yes, you are free to summarize in your own post – just would ask for a link back when you do.  🙂 

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