LinkedIn is a professional network with over 39 million members. While it has some social networking features, it’s notably one of the most specialized business networks used for sharing information, promoting business, and expanding your contacts.
If you’re currently using LinkedIn but are unsure how to get more out of it, or if you’re just starting to build your network, this post will outline a few of the ways to get more from your LinkedIn account.
The most important part of your LinkedIn account is your profile, as this is what connections, other users and the public will see when they search for you. If you do nothing else on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete and accurate. Here are some areas you’ll want to complete:
- Summary: This is essentially your elevator pitch, and how you introduce yourself in networking situations.
- Experience and Education: Just like a resume, these sections chronologically show your current and past positions and where you received your education. Also like a resume, you should format this data in an easy-to-read, clear and succinct manner.
- Additional Information: This is where you include website and blog links, personal and professional interests, LinkedIn groups in which you belong, professional associations, and awards you have received.
- Public Profile: This is the information that will be shown to users not signed-in to LinkedIn that are searching for you via search engines like Google. You can control what elements of your profile are public, and select a shortened URL which you can use to promote your profile.
It’s also a good idea to include a photo of yourself because it allows recognition for people you’ve met in person and provides a sense of security for new connections in knowing that they are connecting with a real person.
Groups on LinkedIn provide a way for you to connect and collaborate with other members who have common interests. By searching the Groups Directory, you can find groups for specific experience, industries, affiliations, organizations, schools, and companies.
LinkedIn Answers is a section of the site that lets members ask and answer questions posted by colleagues, while staying up to speed with industry topics. When you ask a question, you assign it to a specific category and it is posted under the Answers tab, on your profile, and on the LinkedIn homepage of your connections. You can also send your questions directly to connections via e-mail, which is a great way to start directed conversations.
Answering questions gives you an opportunity to share your knowledge, while establishing yourself as an expert on the topic. When you answer questions, you have an opportunity to gain “expertise.” If the person that posted the questions picks your answer as the best, you gain a point of expertise in the category of the question. And the more points of expertise you gain, the higher you appear on LinkedIn’s lists of experts.
There are several ways you can search LinkedIn:
- Quick Search: This is a dropdown option at the top of the site when you are logged in that lets you search by people, jobs, companies, answers, inbox and groups.
- People Search: The people search is done by entering in keywords about the person you are trying to find. You don’t even need to know their full name, but a combination of company, title, school, etc. may be enough to identify them.
- Reference Search: This search option can be used for reference checks on colleagues. You can enter in the company name and years of employment to locate colleagues who can provide references.
There are many ways to use LinkedIn as a freelancer or business owner to advance your prospects and professional network. Just like social networking tools, building a powerful and extensive network on LinkedIn takes time, but once you get started, the benefits are unlimited.
For More Information
A great resource to learn the basics of LinkedIn is Dave Taylor. He is a technology and business expert, and he has written a number of posts about how to use LinkedIn effectively.
Much of this information included in this post has been provided by the LinkedIn Learning Center. There is a wealth of information to help users of all levels enhance their LinkedIn experience.
For me, LinkedIn is a great way to reconnect with past and current colleagues, and I mainly use it for creating connections with people I have met professionally. What LinkedIn feature do you get the most out of? How has LinkedIn helped you professionally?