LinkedIn Tips

Tips for Using Social Media’s Neglected Child, LinkedIn

Many of us browse LinkedIn with the same mindlessness used to flip through Facebook profiles. Maybe you’re ogling a friend’s glamorous career, stalking that cute boy you used to work with, or simply wasting time during the workday.

Either way, one thing is certain — you’re probably not taking full advantage of LinkedIn. That’s why freelance writer and author Susan Johnston refers to the site as the “neglected child of social media.”

Yet with her new ebook, LinkedIn and Lovin’ It: Unleash Your Business Potential with LinkedIn, there’s no excuse to ignore the tool’s potential.

If LinkedIn lacks tender love and care, that’s a perception that will soon change. For some websites, referral traffic from LinkedIn dwarfs that from Twitter, TechCrunch reports. And hundreds of freelancers worldwide, some of whom Johnston interviewed for her book, vouch for LinkedIn’s ability to drive traffic, clients and business.

Here’s a sneak peek at Johnston’s hints for using LinkedIn to make new connections, showcase your skills, and find an “in” with companies you admire – rather than as a two-dimensional resume.

Have fun — without security concerns and distractions

The fact that LinkedIn is geared more toward professional networking may be “a benefit, not a bug,” Johnston says. “You don’t have to worry about creating circles or limited profiles because you should assume that everything you post on LinkedIn might be viewed by a boss or prospective client. That awareness lets you focus on building your professional network but that doesn’t mean you have to be all business all the time.”

But don’t be fooled: Just because the site isn’t all fun and games doesn’t mean you can’t give your profile a bit of pizzazz. “There’s room for personality but there are fewer distractions, silly polls, and so on,” says Johnston.

So what’s one creative way to stand out and give your profile character? Johnston encourages adding apps to display your portfolio, link to blog posts, create events, identify travel plans or present slideshows.

Avoid awkwardness with flattery

LinkedIn’s main purpose is linking people, yet sometimes it’s difficult to do that when you don’t actually know the person you want to connect with. Johnston recommends approaching someone you only sorta, kinda know by requesting an introduction from a mutual connection or using InMail. But how can you do so without seeming creepy?

“I’d recommend customizing your invitation to connect instead of using the default,” says Johnston. “For instance, ‘I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself at the Designer’s Conference last month, but I really admire your packaging designs (especially the ones for Old Spice) and I’d love to connect if you’re game.’ Flattery can’t hurt, right?”

Need proof that LinkedIn messages are more credible than cold e-mails?

One of Johnston’s favorite stories is about an author who set up an interview with Zappos’ director of customer loyalty. “She didn’t have an email address but she’d worked with someone from Zappos before, so she sent a customized LinkedIn invitation and that person referred her to his colleague,” says Johnston. “She’s now connected to both people and told me she doesn’t think she would have landed that interview without LinkedIn.”

Explore uncharted territory

Like other social networking sites, LinkedIn is constantly evolving and adding new features. Even once you think you’ve mastered the network, there are probably tools or simply ways to use them that you’re overlooking. Even Johnston was surprised to learn of several throughout her research. Which topped her list? SpeechIn, which allows you to listen to LinkedIn headlines on the go, whether you’re on your computer or smartphone. And InMaps, which offers a color-coded visualization of your network.

Remember: Just because LinkedIn can be more straightforward than Facebook and Twitter doesn’t mean it’s no fun. Earning new clients, securing a job or simply researching your options all sound like great fun to me!

How have you used LinkedIn to grow professionally? Got any tips to share?

Alyssa Martino is a writer and editor who loves digging for stories that connect people, place and possibility. Click your way over to her website to learn more.


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  2. A lot of my friends were not thrilled with the recent introduction of LinkedIn social ads, wherein all members are automatically signed up to potentially appear in advertisements relating to companies that they follow or have an interest in. This isn’t really a tip for how to use LinkedIn, but it *is* something to be aware of when using the site.

    Here’s how to turn it off:

    The other thing to be aware of with LinkedIn is that, unlike Facebook, depending on your privacy/account settings, members can see if you’ve looked at their profile. So if you’re “stalking that cute boy you used to work with”, be aware that that cute boy can see that you’ve visited his profile… (this is under “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile”)

    • Anonymous

      Hi Nathan, good points. I hadn’t heard of the social ads yet, so thanks for the tip. I think with the who can see your profile feature, it can work for or against you — yes, it can be awkward or creepy to know who has looked at your profile. But it could also be a little bit flattering? Maybe they’re interested in your career. Or maybe your company. Either way… but if it’s me doing the stalking, I may be inclined to send a note or try to connect if I know I’m interested in connecting with someone. JUST having them see that you viewed their profile isn’t going to do much good if you want to try and network! Thanks for bringing these great points to the surface.

  3. White Media

    LinkedIn is something I didn’t initially like, but now it’s growing on me. Give it a shot. Great for networking within your field.

  4. When LinkedIn first came along I treat it like any social networking site, I popped in a few details, added a few colleagues past and present and left it at that. I probably didn’t use it for 6 months or so but decided to go back and give it another try.
    This time I spent my time on my profile, upated all of my skills and work experience and within days I had a steady stream of agencies getting in contact with some fairly attractive job possibilities.

    It just goes to prove you get out what you put in!

  5. Tanya

    Great article, Alyssa – LinkedIn has been critical to my professional life for years now. I literally built a successful consulting business through LinkedIn, and landed a terrific executive position when a recruiter saw my profile. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. InMaps was fun – and MANY THANKS to Nathan Ng for the tip about social ads. I suspect that anyone who is an “industry influencer,” even on a local basis, would be concerned about involuntarily being tapped to endorse anything they haven’t specifically chosen to support.

  6. All this is good except that there’s an apparently-little-known catch (certainly they’ve taken great efforts to hide this) that make this extremely risky: If the person declines your invitation and tells the system they don’t know you, then the system greylists you. If you get greylisted enough times you get BLACKlisted and you can’t invite any more people that you “sorta but don’t really know” any more (and for that matter some of the people that you really know).

    LinkedIn scares me, and finding this out scared me even more.

  7. I was so happy to see this post. I joined LinkedIn just a little while ago so that I could have a readily available “resume” online for anyone to check out. When I put up a “Hire Me” page on my blog, it was a great way to give potential employers an idea of my skills and experience. I also put my LinkedIn profile URL on my business cards.

    But I’m definitely a newb at it still, and I’m getting tons of helpful tips from this post and the comments. Heading on over to check out the LinkedIn apps now!

  8. A great benefit to me has been the Groups. Within a group discussion you can send a private message to a LinkedIn member. Also you can invite them to connect with you marking that you share that certain group.

    Being active in the groups of your industry is also a huge benefit.

    • Anonymous

      Ditto, Anthony! I use the groups at my day job for article/story leads even. To find interviewees. It’s almost like twitter in that respect.

  9. I’ve been on LinkedIn for 6 years now and have been a fan all along, although it has gotten better in the recent years with more people using it. It helped me track people during recession when everyone was moving around, I check in with alumni, with my ex students, even with people from high school who are now in my industry. If I need a contact I can search my own contacts and find someone to make an introduction. It never actually landed me a job, but it has been helpful in maintaining my network.
    I think people are more likely to connect with you through LinkedIn than through a personal email because it gives them a chance to check you out before responding. But do be careful about getting blacklisted. I never felt this feature was hidden, whenever you contact someone whose email you do not have you get a warning to “only send invitations to people you know”. Personal message will usually make sure you don’t get blacklisted even if people do not accept you, they’ll be less likely to click on “do not know this person” and go for “ignore” instead. I get requests from people I do not know all the time, without personalized messages, but I’ve been hesitant of potentially blacklisting them, so I usually just ignore.
    I also remember getting a notice about social ads and opting out, it’s not a great feature, but it does let you bow out easily.

    • I’m not so sure about it being not hidden. I myself have personally chosen that “I do not know this person” option just because I thought it was a helpful comment. (You do get requests from people who THOUGHT they know you when they don’t really, and why send them a PM when there’s this handy “I do not know this person” option right there?) I NEVER realized it would cause any trouble to anybody.

      If this option should have such a deleterious effect, there really should have been a big fat warning near that option (so that people won’t choose it by mistake) and not buried inside the FAQ. Other social networks don’t behave like this and there really is no reason why anyone, without reading ALL of the FAQ first, should expect LinkedIn to behave any differently.

  10. Lindsey

    Interesting article and great tips, especially about using a little flattery to make connections. I would love to see a similar article from the perspective of a start-up company. I.e., what are some unique ways to use the site to further your business? Keep it up!

  11. Good post. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. One thing that you didn’t mention in your post (but I can imagine comes up in the guidebook) is the benefits of joining groups on LinkedIn. I have a bunch of very niche (and very nerdy) interests, like renewable energy in Latin America, corporate social responsibility in China, and copywriting, and through groups I can connect with people I don’t know personally but do share similar interests.

    I agree with your tip about customizing your invitation. I received one the other day from a high school friend who is a cop but thinking about transitioning into something else. I haven’t seen him in a long time, but I am so happy he shared that story because it gave me the opportunity to start brainstorming ideas. I’m looking forward to chatting with him now :)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Leslie! Groups are super great. Susan has a bunch of other tips about other aspects of LinkedIn that can be useful in a job search in her book :-) Way too many to cover here …

  12. Bgriffin

    I’ve really enjoyed LinkedIn and look forward to adding these tips. Must say that I’m not crazy at all about the new ‘gray’ look in the profile area. It’s difficult to read and looks like it’s fuzzy typewriter font.

  13. Christina Wood 82

    I definitely would say that LinkedIn has been a great benefit for me. It’s given me a great opportunity to network with colleagues in my field and share ideas in the discussion groups. While it has not led to any job opportunities (not that I’m really looking at this point), there have been some professional opportunities that have come my way that will definitely help to enhance my resume.

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