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How to use LinkedIn effectively


LinkedIn is a great tool for the modern day business professional, and while the longevity of commercial value with Facebook and Twitter continues to be questionable, there is no question that LinkedIn is here to stay. LinkedIn is designed for professionals, by professionals, to connect, network and learn so they can do more business. 


However, many struggle with using this amazing tool effectively, or to obtain the maximum potential from it, gathering as many connections as possible without ever gaining any sort of meaningful interaction. 


You don't have to be at guru level status to benefit from this (mostly) free gift of modern technology. With help from our partners we have compiled these simple tips that can be applied with a little effort to make LinkedIn your new power broker for success.


1. Have Clear Purpose

LinkedIn is a tool and like all tools it serves a specific purpose. If you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, then the tool will be useless. You have to drive the process. Decide if you want to expand your network inside your industry or beyond. Are you looking to explore new careers or create new business development opportunities? Perhaps you are looking for mentors or peer groups? It's okay to want all of this, but the more you focus your efforts, the easier it will be to get a specific and successful return.


2. Refine Your Profile 

You would never enter a client sales meeting to tell the buyer that you are job hunting unless you want them to believe you have no confidence in your company and will be leaving soon. However, this is the sort of inconsistency appears in every LinkedIn profile that sounds like a job application. Your profile is public and should send a message consistent with your description on your company website. It should demonstrate your background and experience in a way that exudes confidence and opportunity for people who might engage with you. It should be brief, engaging and accurate. Post an appropriate picture that you are happy to share with the business community, and the all important hiring managers and recruiters who will be looking at it. 


3. Refresh Your Profile

Points 1 & 2 both highlight how different goals should mean different approaches – if you are searching for a new job then highlight personal skills that show you would be an asset to any firm. If you are using LinkedIn to increase sales and develop more business, then change your profile to highlight what you are selling and the quality of your product – make sure your profile focuses on the product/service offering, rather than a public job application. Refreshing your profile does not take long, and there is no limit on how often you change it and what content you put up. 


4. Pick Groups That Matter

There are three good reasons to join a group. First, to stay in touch with peers you are already connected to through organizations like fraternities, service, or alumni. Second, to learn about an area of interest. This could be academic, social, or trade. Lastly, to keep up to date with current affairs in a particular industry or area of commerce. Pick your groups that will be relevant to your job search, and cut out the ones where discussion update emails are clogging your inbox - it takes effort to sort through the noise; so don't spend a lot of time trying to keep up. If you are going to engage in a discussion, avoid pointless confrontations that can be seen by 100s of others. No one is going to hire a candidate who appears to spend his time shouting at people from behind the keyboard. If you do disagree, let someone else voice their opinion, instead of bringing yourself unflattering attention. 


5. Use Your Network

Being on LinkedIn and having 500+ connections does not make you a world class networker. Solid, efficient networking is still done through face and voice contact. But LinkedIn can be a great tool for enhancing those lunches and meetings. Before your next lunch meeting, review the connections of the people attending and identify two or three of their connections you would like to meet. Ask your lunch-mates for introductions and watch the fun start. They'll be pleased you took the time to explore their profiles and may be surprised at the people you mention. (Be aware, they may not actually know them.) Offer to connect them with anyone they find in your list as well. Make sure you both have specific purpose in mind and report back any benefit received. This works for both job searching and business development.


6. Dig Deep Into Your Connections

Count how many meaningful interactions you have initiated with your connections. Every week, identify five connections out of your list that can bring you real value, and send them a brief but personal message to connect by phone. Look for ways you can help them in their journey. If they are local, grab a drink, or lunch and do what networkers do best, connect and create mutual benefit.


7. Personalize Everything

Whilst it is very useful that LinkedIn provides an auto-phrase for interactions, it can convey you are too busy to be a meaningful connection. When requesting a connection, review their profile and tell them why it's worth their time. If accepting someone's invite, review their profile and suggest a simple way you can help them. You wouldn't be effective at a networking gathering playing a recorded, canned message so treat communications on LinkedIn as the same.


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