Are you linked in?
If you’re in business, you likely should be!
LinkedIn is a business networking tool that allows you to keep track of your previous and current contacts as well as get linked to new ones.
Why should you care? Because each of your contacts is worth an average of $948 in annual revenue, according to a 2009 article by Business Week Magazine/Harvard Business Review. (note: there used to be a link for this article but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have been archived — at least I can no longer find it). .
I’ve been using LinkedIn since it was founded by Reid Hoffman in December of 2002.
You can see my profile here: LinkedIn (note: You’ll only be able to see my public profile there unless you are already a LinkedIn member).
LinkedIn is similar to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, only it’s focused purely on business.
There are numerous other professional networking sites out there — with names such as Plaxo, Xing, ZoomInfo, Ecademy, Spoke, OpenBC — but I believe LinkedIn has them all beat.
Here are some of the reasons I recommend this online networking tool:
- Old Friends & Colleagues Can Find You — LinkedIn has a neat feature that allows you to enter in past emails that you have used (e.g. from old jobs or personal email addresses you don’t use much if at all) so that your contacts don’t have to know your current email address to reach you.
- You Can Network Into New Partners & Customers — You can go onto LinkedIn and find individuals with their titles at most major businesses and many smaller ones. LinkedIn will indicate how many connections away from you they are (e.g. 2 connections away means that the two of you have someone in common (which LinkedIn will then tell you so that your friend can introduce you to the third-party!).
- Company Profiles — You can search a company by name and find profiles of many of their current and former employees; as well as see who their newest hires are and the most-viewed profiles. The Companies section even shows you their average age, gender breakdown and top schools that their people attended!
- You Can Size Up People You Are About to Meet — If you’ve been introduced to a person and are soon going to meet with them for the first time, I recommend linking in to them ahead of time; that way you will be able to see who their connections are (perhaps you even have shared connections) and do some extra homework for the meeting.
- You Can Have a Permanent Resume/Biography — LinkedIn allows you to put the background of your entire career in one place for you or others (recruiters love LinkedIn) to use.
- You Can Post/Find Jobs Closer To You — LinkedIn’s Jobs section is a very logical way to match a business with a worker since it shows how many connections away from each other the hiring manager and prospective employee are.
I have a short-cut for you to beef up your number of LinkedIn connections..the following tool helped accelerate the growth of my linked in network.
Use their Import Webmail Contacts feature (It’s an option in the Add Connections section and might also be offered when you first sign up). LinkedIn then will go check out all of the email addresses from your email account and offer you the option to invite any or all of them to link in.
I personally chose to invite only the people who were already LinkedIn members (LinkedIn indicates that) and you can send one email to all of them with a personalized message (which I recommend).
Here’s a great 8-Step Action Plan on Setting Up & Maintaining LinkedIn written by a networking pro for a Webinar he presented to Chubb.
And if you want to expand your network even further, check out The Connector Exercise.
Good luck with your networkin’.