LinkedIn: You Get What You Put Into It

Recently I gave a speech to over 500 human resource professionals on the use of social media in the workplace. I started the speech by asking how many of the attendees had an account for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Overwhelmingly the majority of the audience indicated they had both Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Less than half of the audience used Twitter. When I asked how many used Facebook for work purposes, very few people raised their hands. The vast majority, however, indicated they used LinkedIn for work. But where it slipped for LinkedIn was when I asked the audience how many of them believed they used LinkedIn effectively. Almost no one raised their hands. The majority of the audience members used LinkedIn only to develop a contact list, but never actually took any steps to interact with that contact list or engage with other LinkedIn users. These same people often wonder why LinkedIn and other social networking sites don’t work for them.

Frankly, it reminded me of sage advice I received from a business advisor long ago. I was trying to decide whether to join our downtown Rotary and whether the time commitment would be help me develop new business contacts.  He advised me that I shouldn’t worry about whether Rotary would help me develop contacts. Instead, I should be concerned about whether I was committed to the organization’s ideals and willing to participate. That meant I needed to roll up my sleeves and REALLY participate. He explained that if I wasn’t willing to do that, I wouldn’t get much out of Rotary. Just being a part of the group wasn’t enough.

The same goes with LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become a very powerful networking tool for me. I’ve received several referrals recently due to some new groups I’ve joined and networked with some very influential professionals in my area of practice.  For the longest time I just responded to invite requests or occasionally invited contacts of my own.  But the more I’ve become engaged, the more LinkedIn has delivered for me.

To use LinkedIn more effectively you may want to consider the following:

  1. Identify which groups are best for you. Hands down the franchise groups I belong to offer the best networking opportunities for me. There are a relatively small number of members (a few hundred) but a substantial percentage of those members are actively engaged.  Find the group that will work for you.
  2. Target Popular Discussions. If you can add value to the conversation, you will likely become known as a thought leader of the group and start to become “Top of Mind”.
  3. Start Your Own Discussions. My recommendation is that you don’t start discussions immediately. Rather engage in conversations with others and become comfortable within the group. I also advice you not to start discussions for the sake of starting discussions. It should be a meaningful topic and interesting to other group members. Asking for advice is a great way to start.
  4. Start Your Own Group. I haven’t done this personally but one franchise professional I know has done this very successfully. It has elevated his status and he has become almost universally known in social media circles for franchising.  Is there something you’re interested in but no group exists? Start it yourself.
  5. Connect Your Social Media Channels: Everything I post on Twitter and my blog go to LinkedIn. This is very easy to do. One of my business contacts told me just last week how much he appreciated the content I put out there.  He isn’t a client but at least I appear to be top of mind and that’s at least starting point.

Some resources to help you use LinkedIn more effectively:

Have you found success attracting clients, new business relationships, or anything else positive for your practice since joining LinkedIn?  Have you created your own groups?  Please share in the comments.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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