Using LinkedIn Effectively

I have been asked by several people, and been recommended to several people, as a resource on how to use LinkedIn effectively. The reason for the questions is that people who are in my network see a flurry of activity coming from my account on a daily basis. While I would not claim to be an expert on all aspects of using LinkedIn, I am, however, familiar enough to give others some direction to getting their professional networking off to a good start.

Before I describe what I have done, and continue to do, to keep my account looked at, I feel obliged to provide a small warning. Networking at this level requires a fair amount of work, and the payoff can take many months to appear. It is hard to keep focused and to put in the work as time goes on. However, persistance does pay off after time.

When I signed up for my account, it took me several weeks to fill out my account information. Schools I went to, places I worked, building up my network to connect to people I know who also have accounts. I sent out masses of e-mails to people I know who were not on LinkedIn, and soon many of them created accounts as well.

The next step for me was to join a few groups with whom I share a common interest. I belong to a group relating to IT jobs, another group for my local community, and another for my local Chamber of Commerce. I read the discussions that are being discussed in the group and provide answers or responses on occassion.

Finally, I entered the world of answering questions. As of the writing of this article, I have answered 124 questions, including referrals to other people in my network. I have had 6 answers selected as the Best Answer, and 24 selected as Good Answers (the selection is done by the person who posted the question). By doing this, other people on LinkedIn with whom I am not directly connected can see what areas my expertise covers, and get a feel for my credibility. Answering questions takes a lot of time. On any given day, there are 100’s of questions asked, and reading through all of them can take over an hour a day, plus time spent providing answers where possible.

On any given day, I tend to spend in excess of 2 hours on LinkedIn, most of it answering questions. However, I also spend some time looking at updates from people in my network. That way, if someone in my network is looking for something which I can help with, I know right away.

LinkedIn is a way for you to publicly establish your credibility using your existing network. The more active you are on the site, the more other people outside your network will see you. That, in turn, will make them pay attention to you, by visiting your profile, visiting your personal site if you have linked to it, and getting in touch with you when they think they have an opportunity that you may be interested in. (I have been contacted by 4 people in the last month who found me through my activity on LinkedIn.)