[09.13.11]
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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
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Categories: Career Networking

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