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How to be a LinkedIn superstar

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I'm a huge fan of LinkedIn. In fact, I am constantly professing my love for LinkedIn. However, I still encounter a lot of naysayers who argue that they don't want to add another thing to their list of things. I completely understand. I took stock the other day of all the social networks that I participate in, and it totaled more than 20. I even use the social network capabilities of sites like Netflix (to see what movies my friends are watching) and Rhapsody (to share music with them).


But I put LinkedIn in a category all its own. LinkedIn is for business -- not for catching up with friends or planning family reunions. I use it solely for connecting with people I meet and interact with in business settings.


Of course, much has been written about the opportunities that LinkedIn presents to advertisers. And indeed, it is a social channel that offers plenty of opportunities for marketers looking to build their brands. But what about your own personal brand? What about you and your company's professional reputation within your industry? Whether you're on the brand, agency, or service side, marketing is all about building relationships. And in interactive marketing especially, the people you meet and do business with expect you to be wired into their community.


In an effort to do my part to keep LinkedIn legit and help out those who fear yet another social network, let me give you my tips on how to best utilize LinkedIn for you and your business.

Let me state this up front: I don't know anyone who works at LinkedIn, and I have no financial interest tied to LinkedIn becoming the next Google. I'm just a fan of the site and, more importantly, I'm a fan of the concept of a comprehensive business social network.


It all started for me several years ago when I began getting emails from business acquaintances with the subject line: "Invitation to connect on LinkedIn." For the most part, I ignored them. I spent five minutes creating a basic account and then every time someone sent me an invite, I just hit accept and never looked at it again. There was the initial wave where I got about 50 invitations over the course of a year, and then silence. For the next two years or so, I averaged maybe one a month.


But something happened in the spring of 2007. I started getting invitations more frequently. By July, I was getting several a day. LinkedIn was catching on and starting to become a standout property. It was beginning to cross the chasm that separates websites. There are plenty of trendy concepts that get a little love from the tech blogs, but only a few transcend into the mainstream. We've seen it happen with Google, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and, most recently, Twitter. LinkedIn is headed in that direction but hasn't completely become ubiquitous -- which is a good thing. (For the moment, the porn purveyors haven't mastered LinkedIn!)

In order to position yourself to leverage LinkedIn for you and your business, here are the four areas on which you need to focus.


First, understand what LinkedIn means to you personally. LinkedIn is the new resume. We all know how frustrating it can be to limit our accomplishments to two lines and hopefully keep that resume to one or two pages. If used properly, LinkedIn gives you the room and breadth to help bring your resume to life. I often say that LinkedIn allows you to tell your story and not just list bullet points of your accomplishments. After a resume has cleared my HR department and made its way to me, if I like what I see, my next step is to look at that person's LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is where I go when I want to know more about what they did at a particular company.


Second, put your photo on LinkedIn. What are you afraid of? You put your photo on your MySpace and Facebook pages. You probably have a Flickr account, and maybe you've even done some online dating. You put your photo there, so put it up on your LinkedIn page. I'm looking to see that you embrace new technology and that you are using all of its capabilities. I'm not going to judge you by that photo. I just want to know that you are a social person and not going to hide in the background.


Third, connections are important. I have a rule: Everyone that works for me needs to have at least 100 connections. Don't go and audit us, please -- I'm sure there are some delinquents. (And they know who they are!) Once again, I'm looking to see that the people at my company embrace the concept of social networking and have built up a list of contacts. It shows me experience in the workplace and the impact made on others. Yes, I run a digital engagement marketing agency that specializes in using social media. But if I were on the brand side, I'd be thrilled to see that my people have an army of contacts that might become frequent customers.


The fourth and final note pertains to the recommendations element of LinkedIn. This one is a personal beef with me. If I like you, I will recommend you. If I don't do it on my own, then ask me personally. Don't send out notes to 100 people asking for recommendations. It seems desperate and, frankly, I think it is rude. The result is that you either get a fake recommendation because the person feels obligated, or you don't get anything and you end up feeling slighted. Understand that if someone gives you a recommendation, they took time out of their busy day to think of something nice to say about you.


It goes the other way too. The recommendations you write are important. Each recommendation I write takes me about 20 minutes. I have to think about someone's best characteristics and try to say it in a way that I haven't said on other people's profiles. And it has to be good. Once it's up there, it is there for good, and people will see what I've written. They'll now not only be judging that person, but they'll be judging me. And please, for the sake of mankind, if someone writes a recommendation for you, write one back. I'm getting red in the face just thinking about the countless times I've been asked to write a recommendation without reciprocation.


If you do all these things, you are miles ahead of your competition. The world hasn't caught up yet, so do this now before everyone does.


Once you've got yourself a stellar profile, then it is time to market yourself and your company on LinkedIn. There are a number of ways to do this. If you run a business or a department, then it is critical that you embrace all the different methods available to you on LinkedIn. Here are some of my hints on how to tackle a few of them.

As a marketer, your network of contacts is a valuable source of ideas and feedback. Build up your contacts, and then communicate with them. Look, it doesn't do you any good to have 500 contacts and then ignore them. You need to communicate with them. And I mean communicate, not pester. One of the things that scare people away from LinkedIn is the thought of someone inviting them into their network and then harassing them for business or to make an introduction to a contact.


Use LinkedIn to engage and inspire. Let me give you an example: Last year I moderated a panel at the Bandwidth Conference in San Francisco, where I asked a group of young people how they consumed media (music, TV, movies, video games). I could have sat down and written out a handful of questions, but I thought to myself, "Why not crowd-source questions by asking my LinkedIn connections?" I picked out 500 people I knew would understand my topic and asked them what they would ask a young person. Within a week, 100 people fed me more than 200 questions. Yes, I just helped myself out tremendously. But more importantly, I communicated with my network.


Follow-up is equally important. In the case of the above example, I wrote every individual person a thank you note, and I promised to get them an answer to their question. After the panel, I wrote a guest blog post for Ypulse summarizing the panel. I sent a note to everyone telling them to take a look at that post. A week after that, I transcribed a recording of the panel, posted the entire document on my blog, and sent a note to all of my contacts to check it out. Add to that the countless emails that I answered as a result of this one particular event, and you can see how I maximized this opportunity to engage with my network. Plus, I did it in a non-intrusive manner with relevant and trusted content -- the best kind!

Groups
Start a group. Start a few. This is the best way to promote your company on a broad level versus the personal one that I've been explaining. If you have something to say, and you think people will want to listen, then create a group and communicate. Post your blogs, announce your press, create topics and discussions.


Make sure you invite a core group of people, including all of your employees and some of your close business associates, just to get the thing started. People will join. Trust me. Each day thousands of people search groups just looking for a source of inspiration that is relevant to them. For fun, start another group that interests you. Recently I noticed that people were starting alumni groups for their schools and their employers. So I started a group for the record company I worked at in the '90s. I have 55 members already, and I haven't done a thing to promote this yet.


Q&A
Thought leadership is incredibly important to a business. What are your specialties and what knowledge can you impart on those willing to listen? Chances are someone is asking a question that you can answer every day. Start answering. After a while, you'll become recognized as an expert. More importantly, each time you answer a question, you get your name out there and increase what's known as your "search equity" -- the opportunity for your name or company's name to come up in a search engine.


As I was writing this, I popped my name into Google. No. 1, at the top of the queue, is my LinkedIn profile, which means that anyone who wants to know about me is going to check my LinkedIn page first, so it better be good. At the end of the day, LinkedIn is a PR tool for you and your business. It is only as good as you make it. If you take some of my suggestions and explore the hundreds of other opportunities that LinkedIn offers, you'll see what I mean. You can't rest with just LinkedIn -- you need to embrace Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and other social networks as well. But if you have to focus on just one, LinkedIn is where you want to be.


Larry Weintraub is CEO and co-founder of Fanscape.

Larry Weintraub is CEO and co-founder of Fanscape (www.fanscape.com), the leading Digital Engagement Marketing Agency reaching and activating consumers to foster targeted word-of-mouth marketing through online and emerging media. Fanscape's online...

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Comments

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Commenter: hebron gifyt

2009, December 08

how is someone felling to be a star

Commenter: Larry Weintraub

2009, February 24

@Rick Itzkowich thanks so much for the nice note and for putting this on your blog. I like your suggestion as well. Also, as a result of this article, I have had a lot of people LinkIn with me. Something new that I try to do every time is to reply with a thank you. It never hurts to be nice and at the end of the day, if someone wants to be in my network, I'm honored that they want me there.

Commenter: Rick Itzkowich

2009, February 24

Excellent article. I specialize in working with Social Networking for Newbies and this article is going right onto my blog.

I would like to add another way I personally use LinkedIn that is extremely valuable. I use LinkedIn to connect people to each other. My goal is to be the "go to" guy when anyone in my network has a need. So by building my LinkedIn network am better able to accomplish this.

So my criteria for inviting and accepting people to my network is that they need to be someone who would either add value to my contacts or someone to whom I feel comfortable referring my contacts.

Rick Itzkowich
http://www.snfornewbies.com
http://www.socialnetworkingforbusinessprofits.com/

Commenter: Larry Weintraub

2009, February 19

@AL Freeman, @John Homiblow, @Tall Netzer, @Hillary Feder, Thank you so much for the nice comments. I'm glad this was helpful. I'll try to post a part two to this article in the coming months and add some additional tips. Thanks again! Larry

Commenter: Hillary Feder

2009, February 18

Larry,

Thanks for your inspiring and meaningful article. Full of action items any to use linkedin as the marketing tool it was designed to be. I appreciate your insight.

Commenter: Tally Netzer

2009, February 16

Hi Larry...
Thank you - i completely agree with the article and most of the additional tips in the comments.
in fact, everytime i have a business meeting with a new person, i try to do a quick background check to get a better feel of the person - Linkedin plays a big role here.
Its yet another insight regarding offline significance of online social networks.

Tally

Commenter: John Horniblow

2009, February 13

Larry , great article , many thanks

Commenter: Al Freeman

2009, February 12

Excellent Article. It was a pleasure to read. http://www.linkedin.com/in/alfreeman

Commenter: Steve Patrizi

2009, February 12

@Em - we don't have a specific stat on what percentage of companies are using LinkedIn, but there was some interesting information revealed in a study by Facetime Communications about social networking at work: http://www.facetime.com/survey08/socialnetworking/

Note: we weren't affiliated with the study, so I don't have much more information on that particular piece than what's listed on their page.

Commenter: Larry Weintraub

2009, February 12

Hi everyone, thanks for all the great comments. I'm glad you liked what I had to say.

Some quick responses:

@Ern, I don't know the % answer, I think Steve would probably know better than I would since he works at LinkedIn.

@Steve P: Thanks for chiming in. I could have gone on for days about LinkedIn, but I had to keep it short. You added more than I ever could.

@Phil: You are dead on. My email signature has a link to my LinkedIn page and since I write at least 100 emails a day, I'm constantly branding my "resume"

@Roger: I see your point about recommendations. I definitely live in the 'don't say anything if you can't say something nice' world At a minimum, if someone recommends you, thank them. I can't tell you how many times that hasn't happened for me!

@Steve N: I keep my contacts public. In the world of Social Media, I go for transparency. There is definitely an argument for privacy, but I choose to publicly display myself via LinkedIn so I might as well keep everything else about me public. I'm here because I want you to know me. So I'm not going to keep things private.

@Henriette: Great example, thanks for sharing.

Hope that helps and thanks again for all the great feedback.
Larry

Commenter: Steve Patrizi

2009, February 11

@Steve Nesich -

Deciding to keep your connections accessible or private is a personal choice; the people you've chosen to connect with (and who have chosen to connect with you) are a big part of your "professional brand" and for many members that's an important item to display. For others, they'd prefer to keep that list of trusted connections private. There's really no right or wrong answer, it all depends on what you're looking to accomplish on LinkedIn. Since I'm quite selective when it comes to whom I choose to connect with, I allow my connections to view my connections list as I know there's a low risk of abuse.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Steve
http://linkedin.com/in/stevepatrizi

Commenter: Ben Reiss

2009, February 11

I agree with Mr. Weintraub wholeheartedly on this one. It is, in fact, in a class of its own within the social-networking world. I think this is the watershed for a new era of Business-related networking.

Ben Reiss
Direct Marketing Executive
American Heritage Data Corp.

Commenter: Henriette Hedlov

2009, February 11

I am having a great experience using LinkedIn to as a support tool for applicants to the Telenor Group Global Trainee Programme.

We have established an informal place where the applicants can ask questions. This works really great, and we have discovered that this way of communicating is building a positive brand experience through dialogue.

With more than 4000 applicants, of whom 923 passed the initial qualifications, we expected a lot of disappointed candidates to write negative things. And some did, but at the end of the day they were thankful for getting personal feedback.
Another great experience is that the LinkedIn group became a huge "live" user generated Q&A, providing useful information to many people at once.

Since the recruitment process started, January 10th, the LinkedIn group has got 580 members, and new ones are arriving every day.

Here is a link to the group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=1543447&trk=anet_ug_grppro

Henriette

Commenter: Raycent Edwards

2009, February 11

Larry,
Great article and so timely...Thank you! I have recently been speaking of LinkedIn's virtues to some colleagues (again) who still haven't signed on to LinkedIn as yet. And now I can forward this article to them as back up.

Cheers,
Raycent
http://www.linkedin.com/in/raycent

Commenter: Greg Padley

2009, February 10

Good article, Larry. Thanks.

A thought.....think hard about the recommendations you write for others.

If you can, write about successes you worked on together.

Try to include statistics and facts to back up what you say in recommendations (as you would in a resume).

With this approach you "promote" yourself at the same time you recommend your contact and tell more of your career story.

Commenter: Steve Nesich

2009, February 10

Very good article, Larry.

I'm interested in your opinion---and the opinion of other readers---regarding what people choose to do with their Connections List on their LinkedIn profile.

As we know, some people choose to reveal their list of connections to anyone who views their profile. Others choose to keep their list of connections private.

There are obvious tradeoffs to either choice, but I'd like to hear what you and others think: Keep your LinkedIn connections private or make them available to anyone who wants to see them?

Commenter: David Sherman

2009, February 09

Larry,

Thanks for the great article. It's the perfect example of how giving is the best networking you can do.

Commenter: Eileen Lichtenfeld

2009, February 09

Great article and you gave me a good idea on how to leverage my connections in my job search beyond the obvious search for connections. I'm going to ask for advice on interview questions, how they found their current positions, etc.

Commenter: KENT SPEAKMAN

2009, February 09

Great article Larry!

I first heard of LinkedIn in Jill Konraths book "Selling to Big Companies" a couple of years ago and ever since have been a big fan.

It can also be a great tool for establishing trust and rapport with people you are building new relationships with. They can see your past track record as well as the things your clients have said about how you helped them out.

Commenter: Tom Kelly

2009, February 09

Hi Larry,
Good stuf, I agree, LinkedIn is for business. I find an interesting mix of professionals and groups to network with, thanks for the article...

Commenter: Roger Stone

2009, February 09

Great article, thanks Larry.

There is one of your points I would modify, though. Do not feel obliged to give someone a recommendation just because they have given you one. If you do not have anything good to say about them, it is better to be quiet.

However, if you want someone to give you a recommendation, then always post one for them first before asking. It is polite and effective.

Regards
Roger Stone
www.linkedin.com/in/rogerstone

Commenter: Phil Ripperger

2009, February 09

Nice piece Larry.

One small suggestion I'd make would be to include a link to your profile in your e-mail signature and, possibly even include on your business card. As someone involved in sales and marketing, I've found this to be an extremely useful in expanding the network and forging stronger connections.

Commenter: Paul Lavenhar

2009, February 09

Thank you for a very informative, practical "how to" for LinkedIn. I think it has finally pushed me to update my profile and take advantage of it as a marketing tool - and encourage my clients to do the same. One added motivator is that LinkedIn also serves to improve SEO results.

Paul Lavenhar, PL Communications

Commenter: Brett Sherman

2009, February 09

Linkin is clearly the best business network tool out there.

Commenter: Steve Patrizi

2009, February 09

Hi Larry -

Thanks for sharing this with the iMedia Community. It's always rewarding to hear about how our customers are using LinkedIn and see them advocate its use to other professionals.

Two other items I'd add:

1) Edit - or create - a Company Profile. Company Profiles are an important research and marketing tool for your business that can help potential customers, clients and employees learn more about your company and the people who work there. You can learn more about Company Profiles here:
http://blog.linkedin.com/2008/11/17/creating-company-profiles-on-linkedin/

2) Use the LinkedIn Application to share information with your network. Last year we introduced the ability to add applications that allow you to:

- Monitor what's being said about your company on Twitter (Company Buzz)
- Share presentations (SlideShare)
- Integrate your blog posts into your LinkedIn profile (WordPress)
- Share files with trusted contacts and customers (Box.net)
- Collaborate with your employees or contacts (Huddle)
- And much more...

You can learn more about the LinkedIn Application Platform here: http://www.linkedin.com/apps.

And if you're a marketer looking to discuss how you can put LinkedIn to use in your marketing efforts, you can reach me at http://linkedin.com/in/stevepatrizi

Best,
Steve

Steve Patrizi
Director of Advertising Sales
LinkedIn Corporation

Commenter: Em Maillard

2009, February 09

Inspiring. Do you have some idea of what pourcentage of companies are using Linkedn as a professional network tool?

Commenter: Peter Nelson

2009, February 09

Excellent article!