Unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can mix personal with professional, LinkedIn is specifically for business and professionals. There are over 300 million users from virtually every industry and profession across the globe.
LinkedIn is a non-intrusive way of staying in touch with business contacts. And even better, it's an easy entry point for small businesses looking to get into social media as it doesn't take much time and it's fairly easy to use.
Have a good profile
When you join, take time completing your profile -- add a summary of your professional experience, details on where you are working now, and your previous positions. Don't forget to add a professional photo.
You can also add links to blog posts, media coverage, videos, SlideShares and other online media that highlights your expertise.
For your public profile instead of using the default URL LinkedIn automatically gives you, customize your public profile's URL to be your actual name. For example, mine is http://www.linkedin.com/in/catrionapollard. I have added this to my email signature as well as my website and blog. On your website you can add the LinkedIn badge to each of your staff bios so potential clients can read more about them.
LinkedIn allows you to quickly add your contacts via Outlook. You can search for people you want to link with and LinkedIn suggests people you may know, and then you can send them a message asking to add them to your network.
LinkedIn isn't a popularity contest -- it's the quality of connections rather than quantity. Having said that, the more connections you have the more networked you are. As with 'real-life' networking, people would much rather work with people who their associates are connected to.
After each networking function I attend I add the people I have met to my LinkedIn connections so I can easily stay in touch with them without having to email or call. I also take a look at my connections' connections to see if I know anyone that I would like to connect with.
There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn. Joining groups is a great way to build your online networks of connections on LinkedIn. They allow you to find communities of professionals who share a common experience, passion, interest, affiliation or goal.
You can join a group or even create a group. For example, Tony Arena started a number business networking groups called Lets Do Biz and created a LinkedIn group to connect all of the participants both online as well as offline. They can then post discussions, news announcements, even jobs that go specifically to members of the group.
Recommendations are an effective way of promoting, and getting promoted by the people who you work with. People who are happy with your work can write a brief description of their experience on your LinkedIn profile. Ask clients or co-workers to post recommendations, which future employers and clients can view to gauge your skill and level of trustworthiness.
Obviously, what goes around comes around, so you should also take the time to recommend people you've had good experiences with.
Improve your Google Page Rank
Have you noticed that when you Google a person's name often their LinkedIn profile is highly ranked. This means you can influence what people see when they search for you online. So make sure you add not only important (credible) information but also your website and blog URLs to your profile. Remember to create a public profile and select "Full View."
Utilise LinkedIn Pulse
The Pulse platform was originally reserved for well-known influencers such as David Edelman, Richard Branson and Peter Guber, who used the platform to share their insights with followers. Now, all LinkedIn members are able to publish their own content. For businesses and thought leaders this is a good way to share knowledge, and build a reputation and credibility.
About the author
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognized as influencers in their field.
Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.