More than half of Canadians have a social media profile, according to 2009 numbers from Ipsos Reid, and a recent Nielsen study concluded that Americans spend more time using social networks than they do on e-mail. LinkedIn is the largest professional network for business people, with 80 million users worldwide as of October 2010. Yet most of those 80 million are using only part of the site’s power. The LinkedIn experience starts with completing your profile.
Tip one: you are permitted 2,000 characters for the description of each work experience, so use every single character. This is your branding. For example, half of my work these days is focused on sustainability, so on my profile one section focuses solely on sustainability. On top of describing recent clients and providing links to streaming interviews, the section lists consultants and authors with whom I share a focus or skill set. So, for instance, if you search “David Suzuki” my profile will come up in the results, because I list Suzuki as a kindred expert.
Tip two: once your profile is complete, begin connecting with others by uploading your contacts from Outlook or Gmail. But a word of caution: I’ve met thousands of people over my two-decade career as a journalist and I can’t remember them all, which means not all of them will remember me. So personalize your invitations. For instance: “We met at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and I write for Backbone magazine in Canada.” Sending even a simple sentence rather than LinkedIn’s standard request will greatly increase your connection rate.
At the top right of the screen is a search box. To the left is a pull-down menu allowing you to search for People, Jobs, Groups, etc.
Tip three: use Advanced People Search to find relevant people. (Select People and click on Advanced.) To help market a recent Toronto conference on sustainability, I put “Sustainability” in the Title search field, selected Canada, entered my postal code and set the Within field to 160 km. What came back was 372 professionals in the Toronto area. This was the perfect target group.
If you use the free version of LinkedIn you can only see 100 results at a time, but there’s an easy workaround: tighten the search area to 15 km and then pick a postal code on the East side of Toronto and then one on the West. You can further tighten the results by focusing on certain industries or levels of seniority within the organization.
Tip four: you can also use LinkedIn to follow companies. By entering “Intel” in the company field in the advanced search I find 94,541 results within my contact network. In my search, I also get the invitation to “Check out the Intel Corporation Company Profile.” Clicking that allows me to follow Intel. The first tab shows me how many Intel employees are in my network, the second Intel’s new hires and the third the total number of Intel employees.
This is a great tool for competitive intelligence. If Intel starts hiring all sorts of engineers in a particular field, I can infer the company’s strategic intent. In April 2010 news that Apple had acquired chip designer Intrinsity broke in The New York Times because Intrinsity employees had started to list Apple as their employer on LinkedIn.
Many members do not use the full potential of LinkedIn, and that may be hurting their career planning and job search efforts.
Jim Harris is the author of Blindsided, a number one international bestseller published in 80 countries worldwide. He speaks at 40 conferences a year around the world. You can reach him through LinkedIn or through his Web site at www.jimharris.com