A Publication of WTVP

Many people are starting to devote more time participating in online communities. While many casual social networkers actively use their Facebook account, they are missing out on a great opportunity to improve their online identity with LinkedIn.

For many years, my LinkedIn account saw the same amount of use as the treadmill in my basement. The only difference was that my treadmill doubled as a convenient place to hang clean dress shirts. Once I started investing a significant amount of time into LinkedIn, the benefits were substantial, and a world of contacts opened up that I had never imagined possible. To ensure that your LinkedIn account is being maximized to its fullest potential, you should make sure you have an up-to-date profile, participate in the groups section of the community, and utilize the applications that are available.

Keep Your Profile Current

Keeping an up-to-date profile is one of the main keys to developing relationships and interest in an individual account. In many ways, one’s profile will begin as a condensed version of their resume with a few key bullet points about responsibilities at each position held. This can be very effective for both active and passive job seekers in today’s market. The current state of the economy has led many potential jobs seekers to become reluctant in posting their resumes on the major job boards for concern that their current employer might be researching the current staff to see who might be “testing the waters” with a career search. A properly updated LinkedIn profile can provide enough information for most recruiters and Human Resource professionals to contact a potential candidate about career opportunities.

With employees changing jobs at such a rapid pace it can be difficult to remain in contact with former peers and supervisors. LinkedIn provides a great opportunity to locate and retain relationships with former co-workers. The recommendation section of the profile is an excellent way to increase credibility and provide a visible reference list and testimonial sheet for current and potential business contacts.

Join the Crowd

The groups section is one of the most powerful features of this online community. There are many different types of groups available on LinkedIn, ranging from international groups focusing on software development to local groups concentrating on developing business in central Illinois. One of the greatest benefits of joining a group is the ability to post a question for discussion in the Q&A section. Often, this is beneficial to get unbiased advice on a “touchy subject” in the office or a method to find out what other professionals in an industry are doing to stay current with their skill set. By joining some of the larger groups on LinkedIn, members acquire access to leaders in the industry that was previously unavailable. Many industry leaders will post quite often in the groups and answer discussion questions with timely insight. Low-cost webinars and training materials are often well-publicized and provide excellent return on investment.

The groups section has individual job boards which incur zero cost to the user listing the position. With the rising cost and diminishing returns of larger job boards, being able to reach qualified candidates is welcome news to HR managers. Current employees of an organization may be able to benefit from employee referral plans if they post a job and send the interested party’s information to the Human Resources department.

Expand Your Experience

Customized applications have given users the ability to expand their LinkedIn experience. The current applications section allows several options for users to enhance their profiles and further develop their online identity. Here are some of the more popular applications to date:

WordPress. The leading blog site has given users the option to link their blogs directly into their accounts. With blogs so closely tied to many professionals trying to establish their personal brand, this is a very useful application.

Tweets. Twitter and LinkedIn have joined forces to allow users to update accounts simultaneously. Given that many users have multiple social networking accounts, this feature is an excellent time-saver and should continue to see a steady increase of new users.

Reading List by Amazon. This tool gives book lovers a chance to unite and share reviews on literature they would like to read, are currently reading, or have already read. With each book, there is a review section for users to post feedback and gives the option to see what other members in the network are reading as well.

Company Buzz. Web 2.0 and social media have given unprecedented power to people to report and spread information at a rate never before possible. The Company Buzz application gives the user the ability to track what is being discussed about their company on Twitter and LinkedIn status updates.

While many people are actively using Facebook as their primary social network, there is one point that should be considered. Facebook was created for college students to interact and communicate, while LinkedIn was created for the sole purpose of helping professionals connect and develop relationships. It is a very effective tool for professional development, but just like the treadmill in the basement it needs to be used properly to achieve results. iBi