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Seven tips to maximize LinkedIn

July 12th, 2008 · 18 Comments

LinkedIn Smurfs courtesy of 99zeros on FlickrI’ve been using LinkedIn for almost five years and I just hit 500 contacts this week. Since 2004, LinkedIn has evolved from a site I used occasionally into an invaluable resource I access several times a week. LinkedIn cut short my job search when I moved to Columbus three years ago, rocketing my resume right to the president of the midwest’s top PR agency. Understandably, I’m a fan. 

In fact, LinkedIn is one of a handful of social media sites I recommend to everyone I meet. That said, I’m not into ”connection collection” just for the sake of numbers. For your LinkedIn network to be truly valuable to you and your contacts, you really do need to know the people to whom you’re connected.

I’ve collected a wealth of helpful articles and blog posts about LinkedIn here and I’ve shared my own favorite tips and tricks below. Before diving in, your LinkedIn profile should already be as complete as possible. Be sure to add a photo, links to your blog or company site, information about all of your past positions, and other interesting or relevant tidbits about you. Think of your profile not just as a resume on steroids, but as a way to seed search engines with positive content about you. For this reason, you’ll also want to activate your public profile. Ready to take it to the next level?

1. Add new contacts to your network. Add each new business contact you meet to your LinkedIn network. After every conference, networking event or new business meeting, I sit down with a stack of business cards and enter each name into LinkedIn. If they’re members, I invite them to connect. If they’re not yet on LinkedIn, I invite them to join my network. Either way, I always include a personal note reminding them where we met and why it would be good to link up. As long as you make your request relevant to the recipient in some way, they’ll likely accept.

2. Grow your network with existing contacts. Upload your contacts from work and personal mail programs (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) to see if they’re on LinkedIn. Connect with those who are or invite those who aren’t. Also, connect with former colleagues and classmates using the LinkedIn search tools. I’ve recently reconnected with people I haven’t spoken to since college and it’s very fun. It’s good to check out the LinkedIn home page from time to time as well – occasionally it will suggest people you may know and I’m always amazed by how often it’s correct. Connect to those people too, but remember the personal note.

3. Find the network within your network. Peruse the connection lists of your LinkedIn contacts and look for hidden relationships you didn’t know existed. Make your connections accessible to others so your contacts can do the same with your contact list. We’re not talking about random adding here, but rather finding people whom you really do know or want to meet. If there are people on your contacts’ lists whom you don’t know but you’d like to meet them, ask your contacts for an introduction. It’s done all the time on LinkedIn and as long as you include a personal note about why you’d like to meet the person, things should go swimmingly.

4. Participate in the community. As with any other social network, what you get out of LinkedIn is directly a result of what you put into in. Go to the Q&A section on LinkedIn and ask or answer business-related questions. Thoughtful queries and responses position you as a leader within your network. If you do this enough, you’ll be flagged by LinkedIn as an expert which builds credibility for you and increases your visibility. You can also add content and value to the LinkedIn community by writing recommendations for those you’ve worked with and know well. In turn, be sure to ask for recommendations for your work from former managers, clients or colleagues.

5. Take a gander at Groups. Join an official LinkedIn Group to network with other like-minded souls, such as an alumni association, regional or industry-based networking group, etc. This is now easier than ever because LinkedIn just opened up a new Groups directory and search function. If you browse the LinkedIn groups and don’t find one that suits your interests or needs, it’s easy to create a group of your own – and then you have a reason to reach out to your LinkedIn network and invite them to join. My experience with LinkedIn groups is that the best ones meet in person for networking face to face as well as online.

6. Prep for important meetings. Before a big new business pitch or interview, find out who you’ll be meeting with and connect to them on LinkedIn. This allows you to get to know a little about them, find out what connections or interests you may share, and walk into the meeting with great conversation starters like “Can you believe we both went to school in NY and now live in Ohio” or something similar.

7. Merchandise your profile. If you’ve built an impressive profile which positively reflects your personal brand and professional expertise, put it to good use. Add it to your email signature file, include the link in your signature when leaving comments on blogs and discussion forums, and link to your LinkedIn from your own blog. All of these will help your LinkedIn profile to pop up in Google and other search engines.

Bonus step – lather, rinse and repeat all seven steps on a regular basis to be sure you’re getting the most out of this valuable tool. Hungry for more? Here are 100+ smart ways to use LinkedIn.

What are your favorite ways to use LinkedIn? Also, if we’re not connected, let’s link up.

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Tags: Networking · social media

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nancy Sutherland // Jul 12, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    This is one of the most concise explainations that I have seen on LinkedIN. I still find it confusing. Since I am Educational Coordinator for my BNI chapter I want to learn more so that I can share networking tips with them using LInkedIn. Thanks for sharing.

  • 2 Ryan Swigert // Jul 13, 2008 at 12:30 am

    I saw your tweet about this post and had to check it out. Great ideas and tips! And I am not just saying that because I am a fellow Buckeye… Haha. Looking forward to your future postings!

  • 3 larak // Jul 13, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Thanks, Nancy and Ryan. Glad it was helpful!

  • 4 Jeff Davis // Jul 13, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    What a great compilation of LinkedIn tips and best practices. It’s still early in the game, and there will certainly be more uses and benefits, so join in if you haven’t already and most of all, participate.

    Jeff Davis (aka Lara’s 500th connection)

  • 5 Nate Fuller // Jul 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I am definitely going to keep the blog running. Being able to connect with people from all over and share each other’s opinions makes my blog my most useful tool as a student. Thank you for being an influential voice and helping me tap the surface of social media!

  • 6 Joseph Hurtado // Jul 14, 2008 at 12:52 am


    A very insightful look into the real world of networking using LinkedIn. Thanks a lot for the tips, I find the first and the fourth to be the most valuable. How many times have I gotten business cards only to forget to follow through, and get valuable future business colleagues.

    Great post, and quite a good blog too.

    Take care,

    Joseph Hurtado
    from Toronto

  • 7 larak // Jul 14, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Jeff, thanks for the visit and for being my lucky #500!

    Nate, glad to hear you’ll continue blogging and I look forward to continuing to read your work.

    Joseph, thanks for stopping by and glad you found this useful.

  • 8 MsCatalysta // Jul 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    I really need to do some of this!!! My LinkedIn is a little bare. I have to start working on it…

  • 9 Jacey Jenkins // Jul 15, 2008 at 11:59 am

    That was really helpful Lara! Especially for someone who is new to the professional world. LinkedIn is a really great tool and resource. Thanks for sharing!

  • 10 Ms. Single Mama // Jul 18, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Awesome. I hadn’t realized the power of LinkedIn.

    They need to work on their navigation … not intuitive to use Gen-Yers at all.

  • 11 larak // Jul 18, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Megan, Jacey and Alaina, thanks for being such awesome colleagues and visiting my blog! I hope I’m linked to all of you on LinkedIn, too. If not, let’s link up. :)

  • 12 Huy // Oct 20, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Thank you! The suggestions were very helpful. I’ve been “trying” to understand how best to utilize the different social networking sites and stay real.

  • 13 John J // Nov 29, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Great LinkedIn tips I just started using LinkedIn, and can use all the help I can get THANKS!!!!

  • 14 Sharon Horning // May 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

    great post, good tips and some things you can start immediately

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