I meet people all over the country who say that LinkedIn is a waste of time and irritating because they keep getting invited by people that they don’t know to join their network. In my opinion LinkedIn can be a very powerful networking tool. At the time of this writing LinkedIn has 400 million members in 200 countries. Many people often ask me about LinkedIn and if I believe that it has value. My answer is I believe that it has value because of the depth and breadth of the network, and I also believe that has value for reasons sometimes people don’t expect.
I currently have over 20,000 direct connections on LinkedIn. I also have my own group on LinkedIn that has over 15,000 members. I find that LinkedIn has tremendous credibility in the business community because it seems to be populated mainly by professionals, it doesn’t have some of the questionable content that Facebook can sometimes have and people seem to trust their connections on LinkedIn because they are business people.
So obviously I believe in the value of LinkedIn. Here are some things about LinkedIn I would like you to look at and think about.
One of the first most important elements of networking on LinkedIn is your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn calls this your profile but if it were being used in the interview world I would really call it your resume. It’s actually better than a resume because you can list a lot more information in your profile. The biggest mistake that I see people make on LinkedIn is not having a profile which is complete. On the top right hand side of the page on your LinkedIn profile page it shows you your profile strength, and then actually make suggestions on how to improve your profile strength. So the simplest step you can start with is to make sure your profile is completely updated and complete. Many people think this is not important but they would never show up for an interview with a resume that was not complete.
Once your profile is complete there are also many other great add-ons to your profile that you can post to make your profile even richer and more interesting to read. There is a section on your LinkedIn profile page which says at a section to your profile. If you click the arrow button you will see that you can add in things such as language is that you speak, volunteer opportunities organizations you belong to, honors and awards, courses you’ve taken, organizations that you support certifications personal details and your social media post. Why is it important to add these elements to your LinkedIn profile? I believe they are critically important because they help cement establish your credibility.
Additionally I think it is important on your LinkedIn profile to have a good professional picture as part of your LinkedIn profile. I see many profiles on LinkedIn that do not have a picture at all. When you do not provide a picture for your profile LinkedIn replaces this with an anonymous robot looking head. Have a professional picture taken by a professional photographer is well worth the money in the effort to have that kind of photo on your LinkedIn profile.
So why is your LinkedIn profile so very important? When you invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn you basically are asking them to become part of your network. If you ask someone to become part of your network, they will often click on your profile to see who you are. If they see you wearing shorts and no shirt at the beach with a beer in your hand, they probably are not likely to link to you because you don’t look like a professional. Please keep in mind I’m not being judgmental I’m just saying this is how the world works. I once had a phone call with a prospective client who is thinking about having me speak at their meeting. I asked the client many questions about the meeting their objectives what was that they were looking for in terms of topic and the makeup of the audience that I would be speaking to. Towards the end of the conversation I said to the client “ let me just give you a quick overview about me.” His response was very interesting and I was simply “no need I already went on LinkedIn and viewed your profile- a very impressive profile- wow 19 books!” many people when they are thinking about doing business with you will go to LinkedIn to review your profile before they make that decision. Secondly LinkedIn is also becoming a search engine for finding connections suppliers, vendors or associates. So if you make sure that your profile describes exactly what you do that people can actually find you and seek you out to do business with you. One little-known fact is that your LinkedIn profile also shows up when people do a Google search on you.
Other people’s profiles
The other great aspect of profiles on LinkedIn, is if you are calling on a prospective customer vendor supplier, you can research on LinkedIn by reading their profile. Yes of course you can do other research about someone by doing a Google search to see what information you can find about them and their company. The huge advantage of a LinkedIn profile is the LinkedIn profile was written by the person who it is about. I often also find that people put much more personal information in the LinkedIn profiles then you could find elsewhere. For example I was once calling on a prospective client and found out that she was a collegiate lacrosse player. That probably would not have been listed in a Google search. Additionally looking at someone’s profile allows you to see who else there connected to what their interest are and what kind of groups that want to. As a caution keep in mind that everyone is not on LinkedIn, but most people are.
In the world of LinkedIn somebody who is part of your network is viewed as a direct connection. So a direct connection is someone you have contacted and asked to be part of their network or someone is contacted you and ask you to be part of theirs. Once you click except with a click except you then what LinkedIn refers to as a first level connection. The other kinds of connections are second-level connections, we are not connected to that person be your connected someone who knows that person. A third level connection is connected to some people who are your second-level connections. (I would only worry about first level connections if I were you the rest just gets too complicated)
So the question people often ask me is how many people should I be connected to? My answer is as many as possible. In my opinion the larger your network the more beneficial it is. Through LinkedIn I have able find an SEO expert (one of my first level connections) an expert in Word press for my websites and a graphic designer of websites.
There is a controversy about connections. I was giving a breakout educational training session at a company’s meeting and I was ask a very interesting and controversial question which was : “Shawn- having 20,000+ connections obviously indicates that you connect to people that you don’t actually know. As a matter of course I do not connect with people that I don’t know. So why would you connect with people you don’t know?” My response is was simple and sincere- “so you can get to know them.” The woman then replied to me that she only connected to people that she “actually knew”. The problem with this idea is if you only connect to people that you actually know your network will be very small maybe only two or 300 people at the most. There are some very compelling reasons to connecting with everyone. Obviously, the more people you have in your network, the more value it has. Of course there may be people you don’t want to connect with and that is OK too, like direct competitors or people who are in “questionable” (as defined by you) lines of work. Yes, there have been a few people in certain industries who have asked me to connect and I declined. Keep in mind that others can see who is in your network, so who you are connected to can be “a good thing,” as Martha Stewart would say, or not so good.
There is another compelling reason why you should link to people who invite you: to build your list. Your list has value because these are people you can send information to on a regular basis. People ask, “How can it be my list if these people are in LinkedIn?” That is a good question. What you can do is export all of your connections from LinkedIn, then take those e-mail addresses and put them into some sort of contact management program. Now you have a list outside of LinkedIn, which is a great form of permission marketing because the people have already said they want to link to you. You never know where your next opportunity will come from.
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