At a recent job interview more than one panel member ‘fessed to being at best near the beginning of their journey to explore deploying LinkedIn as a social network.

I’m not really surprised by that to be honest as it’s not a big deal where on your digital journey you are, it’s where you are going that is more important.

So, let’s face it, you only really log into LinkedIn when job hunting, right? Wrong.

Traditional job search kit

Traditional job search kit

Building the foundations

Getting socially networked is now essential for business, regardless of your sector or level, and LinkedIn is one professional networking channel you’d be wise to start engaging through regularly.

Either I’m pretty good at using social media for blethering or I’m an addict, but either way – regardless of whether you’re career-focused and driven, lackadaisical and laid-back, a student starting out, or simply sampling semi-retirement – LinkedIn is one of those basic building blocks I’d recommend as crucial to your professional persona. Here’s why:

  • Future-proofing – you never know when you might face change and in today’s super-connected world you need to think laterally, act collaboratively, do flexibly;
  • Continuous professional development – learning should be part of your journey. It’s a journey we’re all on and it’s incredible how much learning can be shared and harnessed;
  • Maintaining a bank of advisers – got a problem, who you gonna call? Well, no one really. That’s what LinkedIn Groups can offer through sharing questions, providing knowledge and building understanding (via features such as discussions, job postings and email alerts);
  • Follow others as their careers evolve (congratulate them on new roles – and tailor the template);
  • Keep connected even when former colleagues change telephone numbers and email addresses;
  • Discover skills you never knew others had in their locker, and of course;
  • Profile and promote your career history, achievements, qualifications and key skills – recruiters and head-hunters are always on the look-out even if you’re not;
  • Today – LinkedIn Today is their e-magazine that can be tailored to your interests, discipline or sector. Weakness is that content seems largely US-based;
  • Signal – LinkedIn Signal allows you to save searches for specific keywords, topics and members by network, company and location;
  • Endorsements – allowing your credentials to be endorsed in real-time rather than a CV which is only as up-to-date as the last time it as the last time it was circulated and saved;
  • Like, comment and/or share others’ posts – social listening can hep you tailor your approach to market demand.

As a result of this array of options, LinkedIn quite clearly has more dimension than a CV so you need to adopt a different approach. Of course there are other ways to get noticed, as Philippe Dubost demonstrates.

Get what you put in

If you want to grow your business, brand, profile or circle of influence then having a credible and robust social media presence is an absolutely critical basic channel of communication. The more creative your approach the richer the return but you first need to build the basics. And LinkedIn despite it’s flaws and weaknesses should be a cornerstone, if not for your business then certainly for your own personal professional brand.

Never has it been so important to brand yourself as it is now. What you say or what you don’t (like not keeping your sites up-to-date); what you post and what you share; who you’re connecting with and why; your experience and the way you position your role. It all counts and you’re naive if you think it doesn’t.

Breakdown: LinkedIn user stats, UK*:

  • Almost 2 out of 3 users are male;
  • Only a little over 1 in 4 are aged 15-34;
  • Almost 1 in 2 are aged 35-54;
  • 3 in 5 are from socio-economic groups AB;
  • 9 in 10 are from socio-economic groups ABC.

*Source: Ipsos Mori Tech tracker

My tips:

  • Be yourself;
  • Engage, like and share regularly but not too frequently (once or twice every few days would be my recommendation);
  • Only accept and send invites to those you’ve connected with, be it through social networking or in person;
  • If you are accepting an invite from someone you’re not directly connected with then vet thoroughily! View their profile, interests, connections and explore signposted links;
  • Tailor your invite to connect wording. This is more personal and will be received far better than simply using the existing template. The app doesn’t offer the option to tailor the invite last I looked so best avoid connecting through the app if you can;
  • Endorse and recommend, without expectation of reciprocity;
  • Be defined, targeted, measurable and consistent over a sustained period of time.

Seeing the wood for the trees

LinkedIn is a bit like the local flower show really. You cultivate and grow your prized asset until ripe and ready for the big day. Along the way there will be some admiring, even envious, glances. Some will speculate on which shoots will be worth pruning, and when. And like horticulture, social media is all about cross-pollinisation meaning you can also signpost to your wider social and digital portfolio.

Only this time you’re the prize entry. So take a leaf out of my book, get LinkedIn.

Take it easy

Photo Credit: Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library via Compfight cc

5 thoughts on “Time to blossom: branch out your social network

  1. Interesting stuff! I have a personal LinkedIn account and I’ve being trying to think about how we might use it as a project, lots of food for thought here. I’ve joined a few groups to look at if we could implement something similar, but there has not been much genuine engagement so far. That may be down to the content though!

    The stats are really useful too, cheers! We’re running a survey of our information service soon so it’ll be useful to examine that and see how a tool like LinkedIn might fit in.

    • Ooh that’ll be interesting to know the results (if you’re willing to share). Building engagement through Groups can take time in my limited experience. It is that usual social media mantra of being innovative, consistent, flexible, sustained and trialling different approaches to find out what works best for you.

      My personal LinkedIn profile and engagement is work in progress and constantly evolving. I’ve seen many that are very advanced and many that are very basic, so I suppose mine is somewhere in the middle.

      Just spotted this (for students but the themes correlate with my post and are true for everyone really): http://www.scribd.com/doc/110988780/Introduction-to-LinkedIn-for-Students

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