I wrote the last version of this white paper well over two years ago. Much has changed in the world of social networking with the explosive growth of Twitter and Facebook and it is clear that how we build personal and business connections is ever evolving.
Without a doubt, the best tool for connecting business people is still LinkedIn. It focuses on connecting business professionals and doesn’t bore you with the minutiae of Twitter or the more social, casual focus of Facebook although both are gaining popularity among recruiters to find candidates.
Despite the rising popularity of these new tools, LinkedIn has also enjoyed rapid growth as a recent search of their website revealed that LinkedIn has more than 175 million members as of August 2012 in over 200 countries, and is adding new ones at the rate two new members per second.
Consider these statistics:
All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented on LinkedIn. In fact, all of them are represented by director-level and above employees
More than 1.4 million members self-identify as senior executives
Most members tend to be between 30 and 55 years old
More than 2 million companies use LinkedIn.
For the purpose of this white paper, I make two basic assumptions: you are familiar with the Web site and you are interested in expanding your network for personal or professional reasons. With these assumptions in mind, let’s explore different ways to approach LinkedIn, changes to LinkedIn since the first version of this article, paradigm shifts among users of the site, and best and worst practices.
“I have a profile, now what do I do?”
This is the question I hear most often. Whether you are a job seeker, a sales professional, a recruiter or simply interested in making new connections, you will see your best results by approaching LinkedIn with this mindset:
1. Have a “pay it forward” attitude.
2. Focus on finding people you don’t know.
This seems obvious, but it can be easy to fall into the habit of “collecting” contacts you already know. I find the real value of LinkedIn is connecting with people of different backgrounds outside of your current network who can help you with your objective.
3. Reach out to those people you don’t know.
A majority of people on LinkedIn are open to networking, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Networking is likely why they joined in the first place.
4. View LinkedIn as an enormous spider web.
Your direct connections and their connections and their connection’s connections are all part of your network. So, get as many direct connections as possible to ensure that you can run searches within a very large population.
5. Be transparent in your profile and complete it fully.
Give clear descriptions of the jobs you have had and always include a bio under the Summary section. Also, I advocate sharing personal interests, charitable causes, hobbies, affinity groups, faith, etc. We will review why this is important later.
6. Recognize that the Internet does not allow you to hide.
In the age of Google, it is practically impossible to hide work and personal information. Utilize LinkedIn to showcase the information you want to share. Therefore with the typically high placement of LinkedIn profiles in Google searches, you are likely to have this seen first by others.
7. Don’t let LinkedIn serve as a substitute for human interaction.
Any people oriented business thrives on relationships and face-to-face meetings. Utilize this tool to make the connection and build a bridge, but always follow up with a phone call and a meeting.
These approaches to working with and maximizing what LinkedIn offers have served me well. And it continues to evolve as my needs change and the technology becomes more sophisticated over time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Randy Hain is an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Executive Education Programs offered at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business. He is the Managing Partner and Shareholder of Bell Oaks, a nationally recognized executive search firm. Randy has an established track record of leading successful searches and building teams in diverse industries and functional specializations ranging from individual contributors to C-level leadership. He has earned a reputation as a values-based leader who invests heavily in his colleagues, candidates and clients. Randy’s deep sense of community is reflected in his work and that of the partners of Bell Oaks. Randy is a prolific writer with his third book, Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life (foreword by NY Times best-selling author Chester Elton) being released March 1, 2013. The book is available through Amazon and at bookstores around the world. Randy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his personal website, www.randyhain.com.