How to Use LinkedIn to Your Advantage

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In my previous posts I talked a lot about the functionalities of LinkedIn, how to set it up, which other social networking sites to use besides LinkedIn and how to integrate it with your Outlook.

Many readers asked me more or less the same question "how can I use LinkedIn to grow my business?".
There is no straight answer to this question, but I will share how I use LinkedIn. Maybe you can take one new tip away for your LinkedIn strategy.

First, you need to have a complete profile. Make sure that you have a professional picture of yourself. I see a lot of profiles with pictures that belong on profiles of MySpace and Facebook. LinkedIn is a business social networking site; your picture should reflect nothing less than business.

A complete work history and a list of all your skills is a must. Whoever reads your profile wants to know who you are from a business point of view. If you own a business, the key message of your business should be part of the description on your current position.

Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations. Recommendations are like a score cards; the quality of the recommendations is as important as the quantity. Here's another tip; you can selectively show recommendations. If you have a lot of recommendations, only showcase the very best ones and preferably from people that are either higher up in your job hierarchy or from clients, if you own a business. Recommendations from colleagues and friends are nice, but not very impressive for visitors who don't know you.

Here are a few tips on how to use LinkedIn to get an introduction to a key person in a company you want to get either a job opportunity or to gain a new business contact and/or client.

The new LinkedIn company search lets you search for specific companies. The same advanced search criteria as the person search are available. Once you found the company profile you were looking for, you can then see a list of the people who are employed at this company and how they are related to you from a LinkedIn network perspective.

If the person that you want to contact is no more than in your second level network, you could try an introduction via one of your first level contacts. This is possibly the most effective way to contact somebody you don't know, introductions through a mutual friend.

There's a good chance that this person is either on your third level network or not connected to you at all. In this case there is another approach available to you. You should read this person's profile carefully and seek out which group this person belongs to. LinkedIn allows you to contact fellow group members directly with no restrictions.

Maybe you belong to the same group. If not, join the group right away. LinkedIn has a limit of 50 groups you can belong to. To overcome this limit, you can temporarily drop one of your existing groups and join the group you want to contact this person. Later you can reverse this action.

Once you joined the group, you can contact the person you're interested to talk to. This is not an introduction via a friend; this is a direct email to a fellow group member. For this reason you should keep the first contact focused on the objectives of the group. Ask a question, comment on an article or a comment this person posted, find anything about this person you could refer to. Keep in mind that you contact this person to share common interest and not to start a sales pitch. Once you established a conversation, then you move on to your primary reason why you contacted this person in the first place.

I can't tell you how to do this, but you should always be respectful and be not too pushy. Don't sell yourself, but rather refer yourself or your product.

If you don't get the desired result with this person from this company, move on to the next contact from the LinkedIn list of company employees via the company search.

Yes, this is a lot of work. But the chances of a successful connection are much higher than traditional cold calling. It's up to you where you want to spend most of your time prospecting.

That's it for today, thanks for reading.

Peter Dobler