LinkedIn is one of the most popular and powerful social media websites of our time. I would argue that it is one of the most powerful business tools ever invented. I say this because I believe that people with whom you interact are the single most important factor in your career.
Let me be more specific, it is the relationships you have with the people around you—your colleagues, managers, customers and clients– that determine your professional success. And LinkedIn is the most powerful tool for helping you manage and grow your professional relationships.
All social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Myspace and Twitter and are relatively new in the world of business with none of these sites being more than 10 years old according to a Fast Company online article.
Even though LinkedIn launched less than a decade ago, the underlying theory upon which the company is based can be traced back nearly a century. The underlying theory that forms the foundation of LinkedIn is commonly referred to as “Six Degrees of Separation.” As many of you know, the theory says “everyone in the world is connected by no more than six people.”
The theory was originally proposed and researched in 1929 by a Hungarian author named Frigyes Karinthy who is regarded as the originator of the concept of six degrees of separation according to Wikipedia.
Here are some key facts about the growth of LinkedIn according to the company’s website:
- the site launched on May 5, 2003
- at the end of the first month of operation, LI had 4,500 members
- as of August 2003, it had 36,000 members.
- at the end of 2003, it had about 150,000.
- at the end of 2004, approximately 18 months after it launched, LinkedIn had about a million members
- today, LI has over 120 million members in 200 countries;
- if LI were its own country, it would be the 11th largest in the world. . . larger than Mexico
- people are joining LI at a rate that is faster than 2 people per second; to put that in perspective, in the time I will speak with you today, close to 1,000 people will join.
- what if I told you that in 2010, there were more than 500 million people searches on LinkedIn? That is impressive, right? Here is what is even more impressive. . . the actual number is 4 times that. In 2010, there were nearly two billion people searches on LinkedIn.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, are you ready to get started? There are three basic steps :
1. Create your profile.
- Your Profile page includes information about your current job, past jobs, your education, a professional summary, groups and associations, interests, and contact information.
- When setting up your Profile for the first time you can import your resume to populate most of the fields.
- On your Home Page, there is an option to Share an Update. This is similar to Update Status on Facebook; however, do not use it in the same manner. Remember, LinkedIn is your professional network, so communicate only significant, work-related information on a reasonable frequency.
- On LinkedIn, I don’t want to see that your Chihuahua is dressed up as one of Santa’s elves for Christmas. . . unless . . . you are sell clothes for dogs, you are a dog breeder or veterinarian.
- On LinkedIn, I don’t want to see that your child dumped a bowl of spaghetti on his head . . . unless . . . you sell stain resistant baby clothes, you’ve designed spill proof bowls or you’re a photographer who specializes in candid family photos.
- You get the point. . . LinkedIn updates should be about your profession.
2. Invite people to connect.
Once you’ve set up your Profile, you are ready to start connecting with your friends, classmates, current and former colleagues, fellow alumni, and others who are part of your professional network.
- When connecting with people on LinkedIn, you have the option to use a standard message or add your own personal message.
- Always choose to add a personal message. Remember, networking is about building relationships, not mass marketing. Use the opportunity to wish people well, happy holidays or to offer them assistance in their careers or business.
- LinkedIn Groups is another way to connect with people who share similar interests, such as former employers, alumni, and professional associations.
3. Update and improve your profile.
Once you have a profile on LinkedIn, you want people to look at it. LinkedIn provides apps to enhance your profile such as a WordPress blog, Amazon Reading List, Portfolio Display for artists and creative professionals and Twitter. These apps will add interest and allow you to included additional information that doesn’t fit on your profile section.
For additional information about using LinkedIn, I recommend these two books.
- I’m On LinkedIn, Now What? By Jason Alba
- How to Really Use LinkedIn by Jan Vermeiren
- Mastering LinkedIn in 7 Days by Jan Wallen
Also, check out the Career-ology Resources Page for two free tools that will help you harness the power of LinkedIn. The first is for newer users and is an overview of the features and functions of LinkedIn. The second is the Interview & Meeting Prep form that will help everyone utilize LinkedIn to prepare for a meeting with someone you don’t know very well.
Are you utilizing the power of LinkedIn?
If so, then you will agree with me that it is one of the most powerful business tools ever invented.
If not, I encourage you to sign up today and experience the power of LinkedIn for yourself.