I receive at least one question a month from readers who want to know why and how they should bother with a presence on LinkedIn.
First, the why. As you probably know, LinkedIn is an online network of millions of experienced professionals from around the world, representing hundreds of industries. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments and helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners.
By establishing a network consisting of your connections and your connections’ connections, you are automatically linked to thousands of qualified professionals. It’s a painless means to get introduced to advantageous contacts through people you already know and to create new relationships with people who may be in a position to help you down the line.
Now, the how. In his book, I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???, Jason Alba suggests the following best practices for making the most of your LinkedIn participation.
Share information freely
Make sure you are showing enough information on both your public and private profiles. If you want to promote who you are and why you are valuable, make it easy for people to learn about you without having to sign up or log in.
Advertise your profile
If you don’t have your own website, use your LinkedIn profile as an online resume. Put the URL in your e-mail signature and in blog comments or online articles you write.
Request endorsements from people you’ve worked with successfully in the past, and write them endorsements in return. Potential clients and employers are much more likely to contact you if you can prove that others have been satisfied with your work, product, or services. Don’t go too crazy with recommendations, though, as too many will diminish their value and credibility.
Join relevant groups
Search for and become active in groups to expand your search visibility. The ability to search for new contacts within a LinkedIn group is particularly useful if you have a small or non-diverse network.
Use the Answers feature
LinkedIn’s Answers feature allows you to ask a question and invite your network to respond. Asking a question once a month provides an opportunity to probe your contacts in a creative way. In turn, if someone asks a question that you can answer intelligently, do so, as this increases your visibility in the broader LinkedIn community.