At the risk of exposing how much of a LinkedIn geek I am (and going a bit off-topic as well), I must confess that at various points during the holidays, I found myself chatting with friends and family about how they use LinkedIn. And I say this even though I know that some of you will doubtless consider any such conversation that devolves to LinkedIn to be lacking one or more fundamental elements of holiday spirit. All that said, I was inspired to memorialize my top five tips for optimizing your use of LinkedIn. I haven’t tried to suggest how to create or improve your LinkedIn profile – there are lots of great articles out there already on those topics. My focus is a bit more nitty-gritty.
Tip Number One – We’ll start with an easy one: change your public profile URL to something more user-friendly than the computer-generated version that LinkedIn assigned to you when you signed up. If it suits your style and business, use your URL in your marketing materials, email signature block, and perhaps even your business cards. You can also highlight your LinkedIn profile by adding a nice-looking LinkedIn badge to your blog or website, using a variety of prepackaged templates available on the site, like this:
Tip Number Two – Decide how active you want to be on LinkedIn – which means, among other things, how often you want to show up in your connections’ update feeds. I’m committed to being active on LinkedIn at least once a week. I ensure I do so by posting a link to my weekly blog on managing legal expenses. I also post the blog link to my relevant LinkedIn groups. I also appear in my connections’ update feeds each time I add a new connection, join a group, or endorse someone or am endorsed (inbound and outbound endorsements being fodder for discussion another time). But I’m always mindful of not overdoing it and cluttering up my network’s update feed with trivia – I don’t want anyone to “hide” me like I’ve done with two ceaseless LinkedIn activists in my network.
Tip Number Three – In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions: set a 2013 goal for the size of your network of what LinkedIn calls “connections.” My first goal upon joining LinkedIn in June 2008 was 100. I didn’t like the idea of sending impersonal automated invitations to my entire contacts list, so rather than using LinkedIn’s tool, I built my network one person at a time while reviewing my contacts list and collection of business cards. This gave me the opportunity to actually review each profile before I requested a connection. Now I primarily add to my network after conferences and networking events, or when I meet new clients or prospects. I also keep an eye out for mutual acquaintances when my connections add new connections of their own. And I may even send you a connection invitation if we play a round of golf together (bonus points if you know where this photo was taken).
Tip Number Four – Consider adding a few relevant media links to your profile – images, presentations, videos and documents – using the tools LinkedIn provides. For example, SlideShare can be a useful outlet for your best presentations, and you can make them available to your network through LinkedIn. As a regular reader of geeky business and legal books, I also liked being able to keep a public list of what was in my airplane reading pile or downloaded to my iPad. However, LinkedIn has eliminated that feature – perhaps you have a good suggestion as to what I should do instead?
Tip Number Five – Assess whether you should pay to upgrade from a free basic membership. For more on the available features, go here and here. I’ve been a Business member for a few years (I’m sure Reid Hoffman silently thanks me every month for my $25 contribution to the revenue line). My assessment of the ROI for my business is that it’s a close call but worthwhile at this point. Your assessment may differ.
Feel free to leave your top tips for using LinkedIn in the comments, especially if you’re a self-employed professional, in-house law department leader, or simply a LinkedIn geek like me.