Today we continue our social media blogging theme by looking at the basics of LinkedIn.
When lined up against other social networks, LinkedIn seems a bit strange. At first glance, it has normal social network features – users maintain a profile with information about themselves, they can post content and, most importantly, they can connect with people they know and people with similar interests – but dig a little deeper and a fundamental difference appears: LinkedIn is not about having fun. Where other social giants (Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc) are focused on supporting their users in socialising, sharing personal information or news and generally enjoying the experience, LinkedIn is dedicated to corporate networking.
LinkedIn isn’t attracting people as other social networks do (for personal interaction and pleasure) but it is undeniably attracting its own audience – recent estimates put the number of LinkedIn members at around 450 million. It has become the first port of call for many professionals looking to research people in their field or expand their business network.
Profiles are hugely important on LinkedIn – they summarise your skills, experience and job history to anyone dropping by, basically providing a picture of you as a professional in your field. Also, LinkedIn culture is business-centric, so you’ll need to sculpt your profile accordingly (ie: leave out the funny goat videos and selfies from that party on the weekend).
Happily, building a basic profile on LinkedIn is free, but upgrading to some of their paid plans can unlock extra features, such as seeing who’s visited your profile.
This is the core of LinkedIn – forming professional relationships with key players in your area of expertise. Your options for communicating or connecting with people depends on, as LinkedIn puts it, “how closely connected you are”. Your LinkedIn network is broken down into five categories based on your connection:
1st-degree contacts are people you’re already connected to (either you accepted their invitation or they accepted yours). You can message these people freely.
2nd-degree connections are people connected to people who you’re connected to. You can send them an invitation to become 1st-degree contacts.
3rd-degree contacts are people connected to your 2nd-degree contacts and your options for interacting with them depend on their settings – if you can see their full name, you have the option of inviting them to connect with you. If you can only see the first letter of their surname, you can only send an ‘InMail’ (a form of internal LinkedIn message that’s only available to paying members).
People in LinkedIn Groups that you’re also in. You can message these people through LinkedIn as usual or message them through the group.
Out of Network – people who aren’t in any of the other categories. You can only contact them by InMail.
Remember – the goal in managing your connections is to build a network of strategic business relationships.
A big part of managing your LinkedIn network is growing it and LinkedIn provides some powerful search options to help you find the right people.
Basic search – returns up to 100 matches when you enter names, keywords or job titles.
Advanced – does much the same as a ‘basic’ search but offers additional filters and options to refine the results.
The basics of LinkedIn – advanced search
Boolean – lets you use conditional logic to refine your search (eg: use “NOT”, “OR” and “AND” as well as parentheses to exclude or include terms).
Quotes – are handy. If you’re wanting to search for a specific term or phrase (eg: “project manager”), wrap your term/phrase in quotes.
Saved searches – are very cool. If you find a specific search is returning lots of relevant results, you can save the settings for it to quickly run it later. You can additionally set it to generate emails with new results at set intervals (eg: weekly, monthly or even never if you don’t want the emails).
Groups bring a stronger community element to LinkedIn and are basically spaces for professionals to connect with other professionals from the same field or interest area. The interaction allowed within groups is quite broad – members can share relevant content, answer each other’s questions and provide guidance and even advertise and respond to job opportunities.
Having examined the basics of LinkedIn, it’s easy to see how its unique corporate focus has made it a honeypot for professionals looking to connect with their peers and potential business leads. Stay tuned for our follow up post on LinkedIn tips and tricks!