No matter your age or experience level, LinkedIn is the platform for social networking when it comes to business. Today, there are more than 300 million registered LinkedIn users with 100 million of those users residing in the United States. And while that statistic makes it seem like everyone is already on LinkedIn, that’s not entirely true. More people are joining every day.
For years Sandler Training has impressed the importance of networking in order to expand your connections and your horizons. Today, that same notion is applied to social networking. If you’ve been considering joining LinkedIn, here are some terms you should know before you get started:
- Profile – A page that describes you and your professional experience. You can customize your profile to include a variety of information about your professional life, including work experience, education, skills, certifications and projects that speak to your professional portfolio.
- Connections – Your network of contacts on LinkedIn. To start you should send invitations to connect with contacts you know on a professional level while also accepting incoming connections from people you know. Connections come in a variety of levels:
- 1st degree – Those who you are directly connected with on LinkedIn, you can send and receive messages from these connections and view their full profile.
- 2nd degree – Those who are connected to your 1st degree connections, but not directly connected to you. You can send them an invitation to connect or request an introduction from your 1st degree connection. You can also use InMail to send them a message.
- 3rd degree – Those who are connected to your 2nd degree connections. You will only be able to see a limited view of their profile. And depending on their personal settings you may or may not be able to send an invitation to connect with them.
- Groups – A place to connect with professionals in certain industries or that have specific interests. LinkedIn Groups allow professionals to post questions and engage in discussions relevant to a specific industry. Some groups are public and anyone can join, others are private and require an administrator’s approval to join.
- Company Pages – These are pages used by organizations to create brand awareness and share news and helpful tips with followers
- InMail – The LinkedIn messaging platform that can be used to contact users on LinkedIn that are not in your current list of connections. This is a paid function of LinkedIn, so you must have a Premium account to use InMail.
Now that you’ve been informed of the key terms, you’re ready to move forward and start making “connections” on LinkedIn. Use the following steps to optimize your efforts and get the most out of your newest business development tool.
- Set up your profile. Your profile is your foundation to success on LinkedIn. At the very least you should include a summary (refer to your thirty-second commercial for this), detailed information about your work experience and a professional quality headshot.
- Connect with people you already know. Build your base of connections with professional contacts you know and trust. LinkedIn can access your address book to help you find contacts. This will expand your network of 2nd degree connections that you can reach out to in the future with an introduction from someone you already know or if you have a premium profile connect with through InMail.
- Join groups. Engage will others in your industry by asking questions or joining in discussions on groups.
- Post relevant and interesting content. Share articles related to your industry or business. Providing valuable information to your network of connections is one way to showcase your expertise and thought leadership.
Once you’ve set up a profile with a solid foundation, LinkedIn can be a great tool for prospecting. Do you have any tips for first-time LinkedIn users? Share your suggestions in the comments below.