As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. On occasion, people ask why and how I use it, so I started to jot down some notes about and ended up with what you see below. However, it really only takes a couple of minutes every few days — less time that it takes to read this post.
Why: it brings business/job opportunities
As an independent analyst/consultant, LinkedIn acts as a part of my marketing efforts. I’ve had people contact me on several occasions and tell me that they found me through LinkedIn, although they didn’t use LinkedIn to contact me: they looked at my website or blog and used the direct email contact information there. In other words, if you’re an independent or in a small company, you should be using LinkedIn.
I’ve also received invitations to interview for employment positions through LinkedIn, although I’m not really looking for full-time employment right now. Many recruiters use LinkedIn extensively for locating candidates, so if you’re looking for a job, you should also be using LinkedIn.
How: connect to everyone who you meet, and make sure that your profile is up to date and complete
First and foremost, every time that I meet someone, I search for them in LinkedIn and add them if I find them. The best way to do this is by their email address, because if you have their email address, then you can send them a direct invitation to be in your network even if you aren’t otherwise connected to them. To add someone by email:
- From the My Contacts tab, click “Other Contacts”.
- Click “Add more contacts” (near the top right).
- Click “Enter Contacts Manually”.
- Enter one or more email addresses in the entry field, each on their own line, and click “Search”.
- In the resulting list, you’ll be able to see which of the email addresses correspond to an existing LinkedIn user (they have the LinkedIn icon to the left of the name).
- Uncheck all the ones in the list that aren’t already LinkedIn users, or that you don’t want to invite right now. I have a general rule that I no longer send invitations to people who aren’t already on LinkedIn, since it’s not my job to proselytize on behalf of LinkedIn, and I usually just end up removing them after a year when I’m still their only contact.
- Scroll down and write the message that will go to all the check names, and send it. All of the names that you didn’t send to will be retained in your Other Contacts list and can be invited or deleted later.
On a regular basis, I do a sweep of my contacts in Outlook (my primary contact database) to see if I’ve invited everyone on LinkedIn. I export all of my email addresses since my last sweep, and paste them into LinkedIn using the method described above. When I first got started, I pasted in my entire address list of 1,500 email addresses, which worked fine. Note that this doesn’t send to all of them unless you send the invitation on the following page, it just creates them in your Other Contacts list where you can pick and choose which ones that you want to invite at any given time. The list is smart enough to filter out the ones that are already on your LinkedIn contacts list, and those that you’ve already send invitations to but haven’t received a response yet.
Every time that a contact accepts my invitation, I look at their profile and at their connections (I consider people who don’t share their connections to be poor LinkedIn citizens: this is all about social networking, and you can’t network with someone if you don’t have an idea of their network.) If there’s something particularly interesting in their profile, I email them about it right away. If there’s a contact of theirs that I’d like to be connected with, I request an introduction through LinkedIn. If we have a contact in comment — which shows at the top under Shared Connections — I might send off a note to either the person who just accepted my invitation or the person who we share a connection with to let them know that we know someone in common. I know that they could see this themselves, but I assume that not everyone is checking this when they add someone to their contacts.
Every day or two, or if I’m on there because I’m sending or accepting invitations to connect, I check the Network Updates section of my LinkedIn home page: this shows all of my new connections plus a list of my existing connections who have added new connections. I always click through to the latter and see who they’ve added, and follow up with them if it’s someone who I’d like to get connected with or if it’s someone that I already know. You can also go to the My Contacts list to do this: people with new connections have their connections link to the left of their name encircled in orange.
Also on the home page is a list of people who have just joined LinkedIn and have something in common with you: either they worked at one of the same companies that you have in your profile, or went to one of the same schools. You can click through on these to see if there’s anyone that you know, and connect with them directly.
This last point also shows why it’s absolutely critical that your profile is not just up to date, but complete, with all of your past jobs and schools on it so that people can find you easily by that association. Many people just put their current job on LinkedIn when they first sign up, intending to go back and fill in the rest later, then never do — and wonder why no one ever finds them on there. One thing that has resulted in a lot of new connections for me is my practice of publishing each customer contract as a separate “job”, although they’re clearly shown as contract positions and many only last a few months. Since it’s obvious from my current position listing that I’m an independent contractor, this makes a lot of sense, and has the value of easily allowing people who I might have worked with at those companies find me.
When you have your profile created as you want, make sure that you have a public profile that can be seen by people who are not on LinkedIn, too, like mine here.
Less frequently, I also take a browse through all of my LinkedIn connections to see if it prompts me to call or email anyone to keep in touch — sort of a long-term tickler list. In many cases, I’ve started some new project or had an idea recently, and as I look through my connections it jogs my memory about who might be interested in getting involved in whatever new thing that I’m working on. I never do this with my Outlook contacts, which is much too big and contains personal as well as business contacts: LinkedIn is a short list of people who I might want to do something business-related with.