How to Get the Most From LinkedIn

Last Updated May 21, 2010 6:36 AM EDT

We live in a connected world and I'm reliably informed the previously six degrees of separation may soon be reduced even further. Give grown-ups a tutorial in 'social networking', a point and click interface and an opportunity to meander, chat and network though three degrees of their business peers and they may be bound for business success.

LinkedIn is one of the worlds premiere business focused online social networks, and unlike some of its childhood peers, it's still growing. In fact there are over 50 million users worldwide, and over 11 million in Europe. Have you joined the fold yet?

With some careful planning, even if you already have a LinkedIn profile, you can extract significant value from your profile.

Here's a quick guide to a few things to think about when optimising or creating a LinkedIn profile:

  • Do you want an open or a closed networker? You can be a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) and try and connect to the whole business world, and you will have a profile that allows people to see how well connected you are by flashing your contacts around. You may prefer something a bit subtler and discreet, closed for a select few eyes only. Accounts can be set up to suit your privacy needs, so my LinkedIn profile for example sits somewhere in the middle.
  • Do you want to increase your visibility? By adding connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they're searching for someone to do business with. Get more testimonials from peers, colleagues and clients added to your profile. It's like dating; they're your social proof and prove you're worth talking to.
  • Always wanted to appear in Google? Here's your chance. LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search and they get very high rankings so it's a great way to influence clients, prospects and even headhunters. When you do this make sure you also use the option to have a unique LinkedIn address, not the auto generated one. It will help boost you up the rankings in the search engines, so make it your name.
  • Want to improve your connectability? Most new users put only their current company in their profile. You should fill out your profile like it's an executive biography, including previous employers, your education, affiliations, and activities. Add a photo and make it a good one, people react with greater integrity and become more open when they have an idea of what you look like, you become a person, not just a voice. You may even want to try adding a link to your profile from your email signature. LinkedIn can help you do this.
  • Want to make interviews and meetings go smoother? You can use LinkedIn to find out about the people you're meeting, and their company. Imagine how much easier and comfortable you would feel knowing that you went to the same school, that you both play hockey, or share mutual connections.
  • Want to gauge the health of companies you want to work with, or for? Try doing an advanced search on a company name and uncheck the "Current Companies Only" box. You might be surprised by how many people have abandoned ship, if you're looking for a job you could even find information on the person you could be replacing. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company's prospects than someone who's still on board and you may be able to see this in their profile.
  • Want to get some business advice? LinkedIn Answers allows you to ask the LinkedIn community business-related questions. You can even get in touch with your contacts to ask them these questions specifically. you contact your network directly to help you find new jobs, new staff, service providers -- just pick who you talk to carefully so you don't waste their time.
LinkedIn has become such a versatile tools it's almost impossible to not find a way it can add some value to your business. So why not spend a moment to work out exactly how LinkedIn can help you, and how you can improve your chances of grown up social networking working for you.

See also: Seven Basics For Job-Hunting on LinkedIn
(Pic: nan palmero cc2.0)