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LinkedIn- How to use this useful Business Tool

February 15, 2012

This article looks at the success of LinkedIn as a business tool and shows how to use it and maintain it for success in business. 

Now at 135 million members, half in the United States, this business networking website is becoming the standard way to maintain a professional presence on the web and to network with your colleagues’ connections.

Linkedin members’ focus on personal business development starts with the creation of an online profile similar to a resume but with the freedom to add more information. Beyond just work experience and education one can add sections to their profile such as a list of skills, volunteer work, independent projects, publications, and patents. A strong profile is more than facts — it tells a story.

Once a profile is established it is time to connect with those you know professionally. Linkedin will look through your profile and provide suggested connections to existing Linkedin members. I uploaded my own contact list into Linkedin and it helped me find additional connection opportunities, and the website continually finds new connections for me as others I know join Linkedin.

The most powerful feature of Linkedin is its ability to connect you with just about any type of businessperson you can imagine. It allows you to identify specific people that you would like to meet and then lists out your mutual business “friends” so you can request appropriate introductions. I have only 120 connections but they offer me over 31,000 second-degree connections, or access to the friends of my friends … not a bad reach for a relatively small network.

As Linkedin networking coach Jan Vermeiren says, Linkedin’s power is based upon three foundational steps: know/like/trust. First you have to know the folks in your network, and then you need to have, or build, a familiarity with one another that allows for the trust needed to make personal introductions.

While Linkedin has its own internal email capability to send messages and request introductions, it is suggested by aficionados that it is better to communicate with your network outside of Linkedin. The point is to be more personal with your own email — or better yet, a phone call.

I see three primary reasons folks use Linkedin: 1) to keep abreast of developments in your industry; 2) to prospect for introductions and leads for new business; and 3) to find a job or fill a position.

Groups in Linkedin are easy to form and join. When you join a group you have folks with similar interests with which you can share and ask questions. Simply posting a link to an article relevant to the group, or looking for a recommendation on a piece of equipment, can easily be done within your group.

Advanced searching of companies and people provides a strong research tool for business development. Suppose you wanted to pitch your company’s services to a new client. You would do an advanced search of the company to see if anyone in your network knows someone in the company. You could also look for folks that used to work at this company and ask them for insights.

Finding and posting jobs is an area of Linkedin that has been growing dynamically and seems poised to do well. While Linkedin will review the keywords in your profile and match them to current job listings, old-fashioned research to find companies that are a best fit is the priority. As job seekers know, 70 percent of new hires are found through networking, so Linkedin is just a natural place to research your industry and target companies and folks in your network that can help you access the decision makers you seek.

Spending time maintaining your profile and personal business relationships on Linkedin is a good way to stay connected, to keep current with industry trends, and to build your own career while helping others build theirs. In the end, it is all about personal branding and strength of relationships. Linkedin is the tool for the job.

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