LinkedIn has become an invaluable tool for many organizations, and I see no reason why it should be any different for ours. However, getting to grips with it has been a tricky proposition.
Firstly, I’ve had to decide exactly how to use my LinkedIn account. Although it may well be nice to add every friend that approaches you, I quickly realised that this was going to leave my profile bloated and unusable. The plain fact of the matter is that no matter how good a friend you are with a primary school teacher, they are going to be unlikely to help you find business and bring in revenue. And, let’s be honest, if they’re that good of a friend, then why wouldn’t they just tell you about any opportunity that they heard anyway?
The counterpoint to that is how many of your friends and acquaintances can be of use to you. A quick search of my university classmates turned up some surprising results – I had a new and social media analyst in New York, a Financial Controller for an IT company in Hong Kong, and an IT support worker for a major magazine in London (not quite so surprising, to be honest, as I’m still close to him). On top of this, friends whose jobs I only had a passing familiarity with suddenly became much more interesting when looked at through the eyes of a possible working partner. Connections were made, and roots laid for possible future business.
The best way to make a good first impression is to ensure that your profile is as complete as possible. Now, I’m still working on this, so I can’t claim to be the expert, but adding a photograph, work history and personal details immediately make your page look ‘live.’ There is nothing more frustrating than finding an old colleague or friend, and finding their page to be barren. Without a photo, how can I tell if this is the John Smith I worked with three years ago? What clues has he left behind? If the answer is none, then you may very well have missed out on a potential partner.
Elicit recommendations from the people you work with. If it comes down to a choice of two potential contractors, one with no recommendations, and one who has ten people saying what a great person he is to do business with then, if all other things are equal, who would you choose?
Finally, don’t be afraid to be cheeky. We’re all used, in this Web2.0 age, to being ‘friends’ with people we’ve barely met, and so we’re conditioned to accept requests. Although this seems to be at odds with my first point, it’s really not – I’m not talking about real-life friends, I’m talking about the people you don’t know, but who may be useful. If you talk to someone on the phone for two minutes, immediately add them on LinkedIn. If you’re fresh in their memory, there’s every chance they’ll accept, and, if they do, then you’ve just opened up a new route to your partners or customers.
As with Facebook, however, it’s always important to remember that, behind every profile is a person. So, whether it’s for business purposes or not, a friendly hello every once in a while doesn’t hurt. Oh, and it may just remind the people behind the profiles who they should have been talking to to help them out of a bind recently…
Feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sean-gleeson/50/785/b57 and let me know what you think. Remember, it’s very much still a work in progress, so if you have any tips or hints of your own, let me know, and you may get credited in a future blog.