As the Internet buzzes about with social media activity, identifying what sites provide the best networking opportunity is simply a mouse click away.
While LinkedIn Networking may be viewed as an online resume, it moves to the top of my list for professional networking. Look outside of your preconceived notion and you will see that LinkedIn provides visibility for the business professional looking to establish themselves as a subject matter expert.
While Facebook, Twitter and other social sites build familiarity and awareness for your personal brand, LinkedIn is unique in its business focus. LinkedIn is a society designed to connect business professionals, marketers and vendors interested in building a community.
LinkedIn’s growth over the last several years also builds a strong case for utilizing this site for more than a static resume. With over 150 million users, LinkedIn is growing at a speed of more then 2 new members per second according to LinkedIn statistics.
That translates into a lot of missed opportunity if you haven’t taken the time to connect with professionals within your community and across the country.
LinkedIn: Your Online Networking Connection
Before diving in, make sure your personal LinkedIn profile is complete. There’s nothing worse than attempting to connect with business professionals with an incomplete bio and resume.
If this is you, take a quick moment to log into your account and walk through each step until you’re 100% complete! Do not proceed until this is done.
Once you have entered all of your information from past employment to contact details, begin finding ways to connect and be seen.
1. LinkedIn Groups
Join groups on LinkedIn and start a conversation or comment on topics relevant to your niche. You will find groups by by searching keywords or topics to identify groups with similar interests.
Click on Groups and then “Groups Directory”to research featured groups that offer content that you find interesting.
You can create your own Group in a few easy steps. Think about who you are trying to attract or who your target audience is. Do a little research and see what other Groups might already be out there and what they are doing right or wrong in your opinion. How can you improve upon it and add value to the community?
2. Ask and Answer Questions
Click on the “More” tab.
Choose “Answers” to ask or answer questions relevant to your industry. Navigate to the “Advanced Answers Search” toolbar and choose your topic or enter your keyword. You can choose to view only unanswered questions or view all questions within that category.
Answering questions is another great way to establish your presence within the community and in your industry.
3. Check Your Skills
Click on the “More” tab:
Choose “Skills” to locate top professionals in your area of expertise. You can establish connections with other experts in your niche from anywhere in the world or choose to focus on a particular city or region.
The skills section also gives you an advantage by aggregating information from top professionals within your field. Stay ahead of your competition by researching skills required to succeed in todays market.
4. Find Events in Your Field or City
Click on the “More” tab.
Choose “Events” to find local, regional, and national events based on your interests no matter the location. LinkedIn will also identify events they believe you might be interested in.
If you are ready to “get local” and engage with your community face-to-face, locating events is a great way to do it!
5. Make Your Connections Count
LinkedIn is an excellent way to connect with like-minded business professionals. There are, however, a few rules you must abide by and a few “don’ts” you must avoid.
Don’t send requests to connect without customizing the standard LinkedIn email verbiage. Whenever you send a friend request, LinkedIn will by default send your request along with this message: “I use LinkedIn to keep track of my professional network, and would like to add you.” Sounds great, right? Wrong!
That cookie-cutter message does not give any indication of who you are or why you want to connect. Spend a few moments scripting out a short explanation of why you are interested in connecting, who you are and what your business is all about.
6. Get Networking
The ideas above barely scratch the surface of the limitless possibility you have to make connections on LinkedIn. If you are ready to expand your reach, then capitalize on this burgeoning community.
If you are willing to put in the time, LinkedIn truly has the ability to establish credibility, open doors of opportunity and expand your personal brand.