Get the Most Out of Your LinkedIn Page

If you’re like me, you sometimes wonder what the point of LinkedIn is. Granted, it’s fun to play the "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game using non-celebrities, but its necessity hasn’t always been evident to me. However, local social media guru Kyle Lacy (author of Twitter Marketing for Dummies and CEO of Brandswag) recently blogged about great ways to get the most out of your LinkedIn status updates, and I think many professionals (and their businesses) may find some benefits. Here are just a few of his suggestions, but read the entire blog here:

Wouldn’t you love to have the opportunity to get in front of customers and prospects every day to share your expertise, passion, and ideas? Well thanks to LinkedIn, you do—if you take the time to update your status. Just like your updates on Facebook help you stay in touch with friends, LinkedIn status updates can help you stay connected to your professional contacts in ways that can have a dramatic impact on how you’re perceived—or whether you’re thought of at all.

While it may seem difficult to come up with something to say, there’s actually quite a bit worth talking about. Here are ten ways you can update your status so that your name not only stays in the mind of your audience, but starts conversations with them as well.

  • Mention what you’re working on. One of the best status updates is a simple mention of the most interesting thing you’ll be working on each day. Over time, mentioning different aspects of your work will have a bigger impact on what people know about you than even the most carefully written profile.

  • Share what you’ve read. Building a social media audience isn’t about self-promotion—it’s more a matter of being seen as a resource. That includes being seen as a go-to person when it comes to the latest thinking in your industry. If you’ve read something that’s worth your audience’s attention, tell ‘em about it (and link to it, if possible).

  • Share advice/opinion. You have expertise to share—why not summarize it and share it? Even if you think it’s simplistic, there’s probably someone out there who would benefit from your knowledge. And if your status is more opinion than fact, just be aware of how your audience might react. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging a little debate—as long as you can respond.

  • Share memorable quotations. A great quotation can inspire, educate, and amuse. Share others’ thoughts when they reflect your beliefs, and you’ll help the audience understand not only what you know, but what you value.

  • Ask questions. A question mark is the only punctuation mark that demands feedback. Phrasing your status in the form of a question is a great way to engage your audience, tap into their expertise, and show them you care about their opinion.

  • Mention events you’re part of. Location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla aren’t the only way to tell people where they can find you. Tell your audience what events you’re part of—before, during, and after they occur—and you’ll be better positioned to connect with them not just online, but also face-to-face.

Getting LinkedIn: 39 Million Users and Counting

The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) recently featured advice from human resource professionals about how job seekers and those looking to network should use LinkedIn. Seems as though many are finding it useful, albeit with different opinions on how to use it:

LinkedIn users know that they can significantly expand their reach by joining groups, which has triggered debate among users and the site over the potential for so-called serial invitations.

LinkedIn users, of course, know that the site takes issue with inviting people you don’t know and "trust."

"Let’s say you’re connected to someone that you met once at a conference and don’t ever really intend doing business with them," said Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman. "Your network update feed, which shows who’s connecting to who in your network, what questions your connections are asking, etc., will include this person’s updates now too. If you’re connected to 20 or 100 connections like that, then that’s even more useless update feeds that you’ll receive."

By contrast, she said, "if the 100 people you’re connected to are old co-workers, former employees, potential clients, etc., then that feed is a gold mine.  . . . If an old co-worker switches jobs and lands at a company that you’d love to work with, well then now you know that you have an inside edge at that potential client/partner."

Others don’t necessarily see it that way.

"I think the idea is to not be sending random notes to people," said Elena Radeva, a UT-Arlington employment supervisor and M.B.A. graduate, who is working on her Ph.D. and researching how companies use social-networking sites to choose employees.

Radeva said she doesn’t see anything wrong using LinkedIn to reach out to casual professional acquaintances. She and other experts recommend personalizing invitations to remind acquaintances of the link.

O’Malley said he sees no value to vast personal LinkedIn networks that contain large numbers of connections the user doesn’t know.

"There are people who have thousands of connections, and to me, that’s a waste of time," says O’Malley, who has 1,200 first-level connections and estimates that he would know 800 of them if he ran into them on the street. "The rest have been to my classes, read my blog, been to my seminars."

If you’re on LinkedIn, I encourage you to join the Indiana Chamber group(s) and get involved in — or initiate — discussions on issues important to you. We have a general Indiana Chamber group for public policy and business topics, and a Human Resources group that will feature discussions on relevant HR topics and products.