Friday, March 21, 2008

I’m Linkedin. Are you?

A few weeks ago, one of my Seattle colleagues invited me to join her Linkedin network and I figured, what the heck. I’m online with Blogger, Maternitique, a small business magazine on Zimbio, my own bookshelf at and Tara M. Bloom Communications. This is hardly the time to be shy.

So I became a member of Linkedin and immediately sent out my own invitation to friends, colleagues and family (just in case friends and colleagues wouldn’t add me to their network, I knew my mom, aunt and cousins would).

What Is Linkedin?

It’s an online professional networking tool with your choice of free or paid membership. Its unique value is in how it enables you to leverage relationships you already have to create new relationships with people you may not have known you could access.

Linkedin is a great place to create your own professional profile. With space to add your photo, bio, personal summary, work history (a virtual resume), links to your website, blog, RSS feeds for your articles, awards and recognitions, educational history, organizational memberships and more, your Linkedin profile is your customizable CV online in a very searchable, very public, forum.

In addition to the profile feature, it has an active recruiting and job seeking tool and provides a dynamic service provider referral resource.

Why Should I Be Linkedin?

There are many ways to use Linkedin. You can:
* search for a job
* manage your online reputation
* gain credentials as an expert in your field
* network; gain and share access to a variety of people
* recruit for a job
* reconnect with alums and old friends
* build visibility and credibility for your services

Like any tool, Linkedin membership will only be as useful as you make it.

The starting place is to define why you’re there.

For me, gaining “expert” status, both as a marketing strategist and as a maternity resource, is important. How does Linkedin advance those goals? I can earn an “expert” label on Linkedin by participating in its Q&A feature. By answering other people’s questions about my areas of expertise, I gain visibility. When the asker selects my answer as the best, I earn a “point” towards my “expertise” rating. Your status as an expert shows in your profile and appears each time your name comes up on Linkedin search results—a valuable thing for those of us who seek to be published, quoted and sought as a resource to the media.

Another reason I want to participate in Linkedin is to build endorsements for my products and services. Sure, on my websites I can add testimonials from previous clients and customers. I can provide a list of references to prospective writing clients and I can show my finest work in my online portfolio.

But with Linkedin’s Recommendations feature, people in my network can add “thumbs up” signs next to the description of what I do. Actual customer responses in this section are a much more powerful endorsement than anything I could put on my own website and are instantaneously visible in a profile. No phone call required for this type of reference check!

Getting Started

Once you’ve identified why you want to be Linkedin, your next step is to build your profile accordingly.

Because I’m not looking for a job or wanting to build my reputation in industries in which I’ve previously worked, I chose not to enter any past employment information to my profile. If your work history is more relevant to your current endeavors, however, you would want add detail here. The idea is that you want to be the editor of your own information. Don’t fabricate anything, for heaven’s sake, but there’s no need to clutter your profile with detail that doesn’t advance your goals.

Once you’ve created a profile, it’s time to invite people to join your Linkedin network. Linkedin makes this very easy by prompting you through the process and providing a pre-written invitation. Plus, Linkedin syncs with your Outlook address book to automatically generate a list of people you know. With a quick and easy press of a button, you’ll be on your way.

Time to Participate

Like any social networking tool online, you have to be engaged in order for it to work.

First make yourself visible. Make your profile public, choose the option to create a custom public profile link and customize your public profile settings. Next, begin by making recommendations for people you know, and invite people to recommend you.

Promote your Linkedin profile by adding your public link to your outgoing email signature, displaying Linkedin buttons on your blog and/or website, and even adding your public link URL to your business cards.

Then get involved! Since you know what your goals are for your Linkedin profile, work accordingly. My next steps are to make and invite recommendations and to participate in the Q&A.

To keep myself on track, I’ve pledged to devote only 30 minutes during the work-week to Linkedin, but put aside two hours on the weekend or after work hours. This way, keeping regularly engaged stays manageable and outside of normal business hours—so it really does feel more like networking.

View my Linkedin Profile and Invite Me to Your Network:

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