November 26, 2010
How to make the most of LinkedIn, the business social network
New York Times News Service
Joanna Wiseberg began Red Scarf Equestrian, which makes handbags and other luxury goods for horse lovers, two years ago -- just as the economy plunged into recession.
Nevertheless, Wiseberg was soon meeting people who invited her to showcase her goods at elite events such as the Cannes Film Festival. Now, she says, her Toronto-based business is poised to take off.
Her tool was LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals. But as Wiseberg discovered, the website is more than just a place to post a résumé. “I wouldn’t be here without LinkedIn,” she says.
By joining the site, anyone can network with the more than 80 million people who use it, in large part, to find jobs or to recruit candidates for jobs.
LinkedIn offers plenty of information and tools that can help its users conduct research, find new customers and expand their business contacts. Much of it remains free, although some advanced features require a subscription ranging from $25 to $500 a month.
For the LinkedIn novice, the first step is to create a profile, which is much like putting together a résumé. But the online profile is different from a printed résumé.
For example, including more content, rather than less, will make your profile more likely to come up in searches. Change the privacy settings to be as open as possible; if you are looking for work, you want strangers to find you.
It is good to have other people vouch for you. Ask people you know to write brief recommendations that also appear in your profile.
Then, network as if LinkedIn were an industry trade show. Search for people you know and invite them to be part of your network. Regular users of LinkedIn say a common mistake that newcomers make is to limit their network. So how many is enough?
There are no absolutes, but Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, says that 35 connections appears to be the minimum to make the viral properties of social networks useful. As in any network, you don’t want to include people who could drag down your reputation. LinkedIn lets you deflect unwanted invitations with the Archive button.
LinkedIn will be rolling out LinkedIn Signal in the next couple of months. The product is a new way for the site to display information that will make it look more like Twitter and Facebook. It will include article sharing, status updates and customized filters.
Perhaps the most useful places to look for jobs on LinkedIn are the 1 million or so company pages. They will reveal the names of people who were recently hired or left the company.
If you have your eye on a specific company, “follow” its LinkedIn page. As when you follow friends or businesses on Facebook or Twitter, you will receive updates on company news, job postings, hirings and departures, and activity in your network connected to the company.
The premium services allow you to see who viewed your profile and the keywords that were used to find it. They also let you check references and see expanded profiles of people outside your network.
Anyone who is trying to use LinkedIn effectively will want to do more than snoop around. Being active on the site can get you noticed by others.
Wiseberg joined about a dozen LinkedIn groups and began participating in discussions on them. That helped others in her industry discover her, and they began inviting her to sell at events throughout the world.
“I had to go global, because the market in Canada is too small,” Wiseberg says. “I’m getting there.”
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