Social media is still a bit of a mystery to most people. Even those with social media as part of their jobs it can be a little mystifying. Networking itself is however a crucial part of developing your business and networking is something that computers have been excellent at for decades. The logical conclusion is therefore that computers should be good at helping you network.
From a business perspective, you can squeeze a huge amount of potential out of one social network in particular: LinkedIn. This is a highly business focused social network occasionally described as Facebook for you CV. It is a fantastic way of keeping up to date with people you have worked with in the past who might prove useful to your career or business in the future. I have spoken with several CEOs and business owners who have found it an invaluable tool in keeping up with people that they’ve met at conferences or seminars beyond collecting a simple business card.
Here are some tips on how to get started.
Set up a profile
This can look intimidating, but much like eating an elephant, you don’t need to do it all at once. The site is also very gentle with new users and walks you through each step of the process.
If you haven’t done already, sign up to LinkedIn and follow the steps it gives you to give yourself a basic presence on the site. Getting the profile polished up beyond adding basic things like headshot pictures will probably take several smaller sessions rather than something you get done all at once.
Watch out for accidental spamming
It might not be something that bothers you, but LinkedIn has a reputation for sending out an email to everyone in your address book inviting them to LinkedIn. Some people hate this semi-consented spam email so keep your eyes peeled for a notifaction that it’s about to happen when you’re going through the initial setup process if you don’t want this to go out on your behalf. It is of course not the end of the world if this does happen. Most people have received the email before and are normally aware that it’s probably not your fault.
It is an optional step, so look for the ‘skip’ button around address book integration if you don’t want LinkedIn to send an email on your behalf.
Connect with everyone you know
Get into the habit of looking up people that you do business with, pitch to or otherwise encounter in your commercial life and adding them to your network. The general attitude on LinkedIn is for people to accept network requests even from people they don’t really know very well, as having larger networks is beneficial to all involved.
Some people will advise you personalise each request you send out, whilst others argue that network requests don’t need to be quite so personal or fiddly. It’s up to you how you go about this and neither is really a social media faux pas.
Tidy up your CV and job history
LinkedIn lists your current role and previous roles including the sort of things you have done and the sort of responsibilities you currently have. Making sure this is both up to date and clear, concise and readable is important as it can leave a lasting first impression on anyone viewing your profile.
If you are for example running your own small business, make sure this is clearly listed as your current role. The description can even serve as a bit of an ad for you company if you’re clever.
Set your company up on LinkedIn
Under the companies tab, you can very easily set up a page for your own company, giving you a presence on LinkedIn. You can then link to your website, your employees can list themselves as working for you and it gives you a bit more of an anchor into the social network in general.
LinkedIn can be used to advertise for recruitment positions you might be looking to fill and can drive a decent amount of marketing if you want to really delve into it in the future.
See how people are connected
Once you start to build up a network of people, you can also use LinkedIn as a way to get in touch with people you want to know. Seeing how people intersect with your network can be invaluable and you might find out through LinkedIn that someone you want to know might be connected to somebody you already employ.
LinkedIn is an excellent way of getting introductions to people, which once you start building your company up a little more can be an invaluable way of finding the right people to work with on a B2B front.
Just the surface
Although it is often the case that the more you put into LinkedIn, the more you get out of it, it is not necessarily appropriate to all industries. If you find that everyone in your industry is on a different network altogether, then it would make sense to follow the crowd, but for the most part, LinkedIn is specifically designed and geared up for improving business relations and you very rarely get off topic posts or irritating social-spam that you would get in other social networks.
If you want to know more about LinkedIn, the best thing you can do is just dive in and find out if it is right for you and if it is something you can get any usage out of. There is a premium service, but you can get all of the useful functionality without paying a penny.