If the number of requests to join LinkedIn, the business networking network, that clog your email inbox is any indication, then you know it is becoming a legitimate business tool, and one that most professionals need to effectively leverage to boost their professional prospects. LinkedIn, in fact is a web worker’s best professional friend.
And although it’s just one of many such networks, LinkedIn, is in short a network for business opportunities. On LinkedIn, people don’t chat about music or what they did on Saturday night, but instead focus on opportunities and how the network can help you. And that’s a winning formula. Here are just some of the most common and productive uses of LinkedIn. : [digg=http://digg.com/software/20_Ways_to_Use_LinkedIn_Productively]
1) Increase freelance work. If you’re a freelancer, or you want to be, getting work can sometimes be a challenge. Or perhaps you get a lot of work, but you want to focus more on quality work that gets you the highest pay per hour. Set up a profile that shows what you can do, your experience, what you have to offer. Link up with others you know, and you’ve got a free way to market your services. It could take awhile before the jobs start rolling in, but it can’t hurt to start now.
2) Find your dream job. You’ve already got a job, but it’s far from perfect. What you really want to do is create the perfect widget. Well, you’ll never get a job doing that if you just sit on your keister. Put yourself out there on LinkedIn, search for companies that are looking for perfect widget makers, and contact them. The search for the dream job starts with a single click.
3) Boost your business. Got a small business but want to generate more customers? Perhaps you’re not connecting with the right people. LinkedIn can increase your chances of hitting that big deal that puts your business exactly where you want to be. Again, this can take some time, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
4) Improve your Google results. When someone Googles you, do you really want the first thing they see to be your posts on the fly fishing forum? As your LinkedIn profile will have a fairly high Google PageRank, it should rank fairly high in your search results. And you can fill it with stuff you want people to see.
5) Check references for potential hires. Trying to hire the perfect widget maker? Well, you’re not likely to find out about an applicant’s sordid past mistakes by calling the references on their application. Do a search for others who worked at the same company at the same time, and get a better background check in minutes.
6) Get advice. Use LinkedIn’s Answers feature to ask a question and get some great answers. As always, you’ll have to sort through the self-promotional fluff, but there are some true experts on LinkedIn, and it’s worth a shot to ask your question.
7) Easy resume. Don’t feel like creating an old-fashioned resume and photocopying, faxing or emailing it to 20 different companies? Create a LinkedIn profile that serves as a resume, and then send people the URL. Be sure to get a vanity URL for this, as you can set the URL of your LinkedIn profile (I think perfectwidgetmaker is available).
8) Do research. Need to find out about business trends for an article, need to find an expert or need to contact people for further information? LinkedIn is a decent place to start, especially if you’re running dry on Google. Start with the advanced search feature.
9) Jazz up your profile. Don’t just go with a plain Jane, boring profile — be sure to put the right information on it to give it the most impact. See Guy Kawasaki’s article on profile makeovers for more.
10) Get connections. When you start out with LinkedIn, you probably have between 0 and 1 connections. That’s not very productive. Get others you know in your network by allowing LinkedIn to access your Gmail contacts. See the Slacker Manager’s article for more.
11) Prep for an interview. If you’re going to a job interview, it’s best to know the background of the person you’ll be talking to. Check out their LinkedIn profile to find out more about their work experience, interests, education and more. This will give you an edge.
12) Batch process messages. LinkedIn, like any other social network, can become just another stream of information and messages that you need to wade through. That’s not productive, and you have enough of these streams to deal with already. Simplify that by setting it to only give you weekly messages all in one batch, or to only notify you of new messages whenever you decide to log in.
13) Increase your cred. If you’re trying to market yourself as an expert, for example, or develop credibility in your field, it looks good to have a strong presence in a network such as LinkedIn, with lots of connections. If you answer questions with the knowledge of an expert in the Answers section, even better.
14) Brand yourself. This is related to No. 13, but whatever your aim in business, be it as a freelancer, as a potential employee, as a writer, as a business … it’s only smart to develop your own personal brand. What do people think of when they hear your name? A strong presence on LinkedIn only reinforces the branding you’re doing elsewhere. And while you’re at it, be sure to link to your website from your profile.
15) Find people. Looking for old friends, for old business associates that you want to re-establish a relationship with, for former employers or employees, for someone you met at a cocktail party but can’t find their card? Do a LinkedIn search.
16) Help others. The best way to network is to help others succeed. They’ll never forget you, and you will be paid back tenfold some day. Use LinkedIn to help others — promote them, link to them, connect with them, recommend them, answer their questions.
17) Get to know a company. If you want to know about a company, you could Google them or go to their website. But using LinkedIn, you can find out much more about it. For example, do an advanced search on the company and uncheck “current companies only” to see what kind of talent has left the company, and how fast. And connect with them to see what they have to say about their former employer.
18) Throw out a net when you don’t need it. Sure, a network like this is good when you’re job hunting. But what about if you’re not looking for a job? That’s the perfect time to put yourself out there and make connections. Because when you don’t need it, people are more likely to get to know you, because you’re not pushing yourself on them. You’re just forming relationships — and that will pay off when you do need it. And who knows? Maybe the perfect offer will come in when you’re not even looking for it.
19) Get publicity. It can be hard to contact media or top bloggers. But many of them have a LinkedIn profile, and you can contact them through the profile. I highly advise you not to spam them — but a press release or a polite email letting them know about a new launch, for example, might be appreciate or at least noticed. It shouldn’t be your whole marketing strategy, but it could help.
20) Market research. Planning to launch a new product? Do a little research into what companies are offering similar things, about what kind of potential customers are out there, and what they’re like, and what their needs are, and what kind of demand there is for your type of product. It can take some creative searching, but the information is there, waiting to be mined. Talk to employees or former employees of similar businesses, or of potential customers, and you can get the answers you’re looking for.
Did we miss something? Why don’t you tell us your tip-or-a-trick to get the most out of LinkedIn.