Many professionals choose not to participate on social networks. Indeed, more people are now opting out, sometimes publicly, from Facebook and Twitter, saying that the noise and recent commercialism are making the networks less valuable for professional use.
Depending on your job and your industry, you can argue whether people who do opt out of social networks like Facebook are hurting their careers. However, for those who want to get a new job, or get ahead in their current job, there's really no arguing that participation on LinkedIn is a must. And that doesn't just mean throwing up your resume and calling it a day. To make effective use of LinkedIn, especially with recent updates made to the platform, you need to do some care and feeding.
LinkedIn is generally considered to be the most business-oriented of all public social networks, although Google+ is definitely a contender. However, up until the last year or so, LinkedIn was considered, well, kind of stodgy and old-school. To the chagrin of some who appreciated that old-school bent, LinkedIn has recently made a series of updates that make the platform look and feel more like a modern social network -- along the way providing more opportunities for users to brand themselves.
The changes are mostly positive, but they do require that you pay a little more attention to your own presence, and, in some cases, more attention to the presence of others.
In some ways, making effective use of LinkedIn requires the same best practices we've recommended before. These include:
1. Make Sure Your Profile Is Complete.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people start entering their information and never finish.
2. Join Groups.
Do some research to see which are the most active and the most relevant to your areas of expertise, as well as which groups include people you respect and would like to be associated with. Your groups are also listed in your profile, so you will want to make sure they reflect your professional interests and goals.
3. Demonstrate Your Expertise.
It is one thing to reel off your accomplishments resume-style, but it's another thing entirely to demonstrate that you know your stuff. This can be done, for example, by answering questions posed publicly by industry peers, or by sharing relevant content with your contacts.
4. Be Selective About Your Posts.
This goes for pretty much any social network, but especially for LinkedIn: Update your status with informative posts that provide value to those reading them.
5. Get Referred.
A very powerful feature on LinkedIn is References. Ask colleagues and managers, past and present, to write you a LinkedIn reference.
6. Be A Referral.
Don't forget to return the favor. Not every reference can and should be reciprocated, but referrals are another form of networking and another reflection on you.
7. Get Connected.
Again, this one sounds like another no brainer, but effective use of LinkedIn depends on actively cultivating your contacts. Periodically check the "People You May Know" list, and request a connection with people you have done business with or want to do business with. The more connections you make, the bigger that list grows.
8. Use Those Connections.
As your network grows, so should your efforts in cultivating it. When you get a notification that someone has changed his title, check it out and send a note of congratulations if the change shows a promotion. Have you noticed that someone has added new experience similar to yours? Send a quick message and offer to compare notes. These are the kinds of efforts that build your brand and can open doors.
9. Be Smart.
Make sure that any information you provide about projects you are working on or about your company in general is in line with stated social networking policy. And, even if it's not in writing, use common sense and don't provide information that could be considered confidential or sensitive. When in doubt, leave it out.
10. Get A Great New Job.
Any network cultivation that you do on LinkedIn could lead to your next job, but LinkedIn also provides job listings, and your connections to those jobs will be listed when you open the listing. It's all about networking, and LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with people who might give you an in.
With all that said, there are some newer features -- and newly updated features -- that you should be using to get the most out of your LinkedIn experience. In this slideshow we point to some of those features and recommend how to make the best use of them.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.