So far in this three-post series on Getting the Most of LinkedIn, we've discussed creating a complete and engaging profile, as well as building a strong network on- and offline. Today, we will be talking about going beyond just the resume and social aspects of LinkedIn to really harness the potential of the world's largest professional social platform, which clocks in at 150 million users and growing every day (by about 2 new members per second, according to founder Reid Hoffman.
Hoffman lamented in an interview with Wired magazine that most of the site's users aren't really getting as much as they should from the site's functionality. Here are a few ways you can get more out of LinkedIn.
Engage with LinkedIn Today.
LinkedIn Today is a sort of morning briefing of stories that matter to people in your industry. It's a collection of links posted and recommended by members. As such, it's a great way to know what your colleagues and clients are talking about on a daily basis, as well as a good way to observe trends. It's important not to just be a passive viewer, though. Get in the fray and let your connections know what is important to you, too, by sharing stories there. ANd customize what you see in your feed by subscribing to pertinent topics and following your favorite news sources.
A nice feature on your LinkedIn profile is the Profile Stats, which allows you to see who has viewed your profile, how many views your profile has gotten and how many times your profile has appeared in search results. Premium members can get even more information, such as top search terms, as well as views by industry and geography. To view the information, just click on the Profile Tab, and the basic information will be on the right-hand side. You can click through to a daily graph of views.
Groups are an incredibly important aspect of building your career on LinkedIn. Each member can join up to 50 groups, but it's probably more manageable to start with just a handful. Before you jump in and start promoting yourself, your business or your services, it's best to follow the accepted online social etiquette of doing your homework to find the best groups that fit your needs, spend a little time getting a feel for the tone of the conversation there and then participating in a truly valuable way. It's good to find a mix of groups that represent both your peers and your clients or target industries. This way, you will have contact access to trending topics in your own field, but also in the industries you serve.
Give and get the answers.
Another way to both reap and contribute valuable content on LinkedIn is to be active in the Answers section. On LinkedIn, you can both ask questions and answer them. If you want to get started wit,h Answers go to More tab on your homepage, and click on Answers. From this page, you can ask a question and follow the prompts to select the right category and even send it by email directly to your connections who are most likely to have the answers. Your question will be listen publicly under the Answers tab, on your profile, on the LinkedIn homepages of your connections and in the emails of people you've chosen.
Answering questions is equally easy, and it's a simple way to brand yourself as an expert in your field by providing clear, helpful, well-written answers that will be voted up by the community. Top experts in given fields are featured on the Answers homepage.
Use Company Pages.
LinkedIn allows you to post a profile of your company that other members can follow. For the people in charge of creating the company pages - whether it's the executive director, CEO, community manager or sole proprietor, this function gives you the chance to really tell your brand story, connect with millions of LinkedIn members who care about what you do, promote career opportunities (a function available to paid subscribers) and drive word of mouth about your products or services. To make the most of it, be sure that the company page is complete and thorough, and that you use it as a way to really engage with people and share news about your own company as well as trends in your industry.
For the average member, following pertinent company pages gives you a chance to stay current with companies that drive innovation and set industry standards. And for those who are always on the look-out for career opportunities, this is an excellent way to really get to know the companies where you want to work.
Job searching on LinkedIn really deserves its own post - heck, it could deserve its own book. If you want an in-depth look at all the ways the site can help connect you to your next job, LinkedIn offers great webinars and other educational modules on the site. Look at the Jobs section on the LinkedIn Learning Center. In short, LinkedIn has a rich search function for its free membership level that allows you to set specific variables that go beyond just city and industry. Premium "Job Seeker" members have even more tools at their disposal, such as moving their LinkedIn job applications to the top of the list, reaching out directly to hiring managers or connections at the companies where they’ve applied and displaying a Job Seeker badge on their profiles.
Follow LinkedIn Signal.
You can follow the activity on LinkedIn via your connections' updates with Signal. To do this, hover over the News tab on your homepage, and click on Signal. This will show you a listing of your connections' updates and postings. You can use it as a way to quickly browse their activity in a way that is very familiar to Twitter users. You can also customize this vew by clicking on the options in the left-hand column.
Use the right apps.
Although nowhere nearly as exhaustive as the apps you'll find on Facebook, there are a number of third-party apps that will enhance your profile, help you get industry-specific insights and news, and cross-publish from other sites. By visiting the Applications Directory on LinkedIn, you can see the full list of applications that are available. They include apps that connect blogs and publish previews of your recent posts on your profile page, a portfolio display module, a SlideShare app that allows you to showcase your presentations, as well as several others.
Make it real (life).
When you get those updates in your mailbox that tell you about your connections' new jobs, promotions and projects, take a few minutes to jot them a note of congratulations. The operative words here are "jot" and "note." In a sea of electronic connections and emails, a simple, handwritten note of congratulations is absolutely unforgettable.
Photo by TheSeafarer via Flickr Creative Commons