Get the LinkedIn advantage
Unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can mix personal with professional, LinkedIn is specifically for business and professionals. There are over 25 million registered users from virtually every industry and profession.
LinkedIn is a non intrusive way of staying in touch with business contacts. And even better, it's an easy entry point for small businesses looking to get into social media because doesn't take much time and it's pretty easy to use.
When you join, take time adding your profile - add a summary of where you are working now, and your previous positions. Don't forget to add a professional photo. Also include what you want to be contacted about. At the bottom of your profile, you can select interests like reference requests, consulting offers, or career opportunities.
LinkedIn allows you to quickly add your contacts via Outlook. You can search for people you want to link with and LinkedIn suggests people you may know, and then you can send them a message asking them to add to your network.
LinkedIn isn't a popularity contest - it's the quality of connections rather than quantity. Having said that, the more connections you have the more networked you are. As with ‘real-life' networking, people would much rather work with people who their associates are connect to.
After each networking function I attend I add the people I have met to my LinkedIn connections so I can easily stay in touch with each other without having to email or call. I also take a look at my connections' connections to see if I know anyone that I would like to reconnect with.
Ask and answer questions
LinkedIn's, LinkedIn Answers is where you can ask and answer business-related questions to your network and the extended LinkedIn network. Participating is a great way of gaining trust and building your reputation, as well as chance to show off your own expertise to others.
You can also get business referrals through answering or asking questions. Recently, a colleague (and great marketing strategist), Clodagh Higgins emailed me a question she saw on LinkedIn "Can anyone recommend a good PR firm for professional services. Location specific: Sydney Area, Australia". This was a great new business lead for us.
There are thousands of Groups on LinkedIn. Joining groups is a great way to build your online networks of connections on LinkedIn. They allow you to find communities of professionals who share a common experience, passion, interest, affiliation or goal. You can join a Group or even create a Group. For example, Tony Arena started a number business networking groups called Lets Do Biz and created a LinkedIn group to connect all of the participants both online as well as offline. They can then create discussions, make news announcements, even jobs that go specifically to members of the group.
Recommendations are an effective of promoting, and getting promoted by the people who you work with. People who are happy with your work can write a brief description of their experience on your LinkedIn profile. Ask clients or co-workers to post recommendations, which future employers and clients can view to gauge your skill and level of trustworthiness. Obviously, what goes around comes around, so you should also take the time to recommend people you've had good experiences with.
Improve your Google PageRank
Have you noticed that when you Google a persons name often their LinkedIn profile is highly ranked. This means you can influence what people see when they search for you online. So make sure you add not only important (credible) information but also your website, blog on your profile. Remember to create a public profile and select "Full View."
For the public profile instead of using the default URL LinkedIn automatically gives you, customize your public profile's URL to be your actual name. I have addedmyLinkedIn Profile addressto my email signature as well as my website and blog. On your website you can add the LinkedIn badge to each of your staff bio's so potential clients can read more about