In the wake of numerous individuals and organizations realizing they either don't have a LinkedIn profile or need to update their existing one, here are 12 ways to use LinkedIn today.
1. If you have a LinkedIn profile, please keep it updated. If you want to know why, ask your friend to open his or her Web browser and search your name. Chances are, unless you are omnipresent everywhere online or your name is very common like John Smith (not that I've ever met anyone with that name), your LinkedIn profile will appear in the top 5 search engine results. That's why it should be updated.
2. Fill your profile with colorful language, not drab resume-speak. There is a reason why the site is called LinkedIn, not ResumePlace. Verify the headline either is a mirror of your job title or a description of what you do. Change your headline as often as you'd like; mine currently states, Online media strategist and community manager for business and government, and Newburyport City Council candidate. Flesh out the summary and don't be afraid it's too long. Most summaries I see are too short. Which leads me to...
3. Write in first person, not third. Unless you introduce yourself in third person at job interviews, cocktail hours, and networking mixers, keep your page about you in your words. Be transparent to who you are, not a third-person essay of what you'd like people to think you are.
4. Upload the same photo you use elsewhere online. Ensure the picture is what you look like today, or within the past few months. Don't use a picture that's more than a year old. Again, think of the cocktail hour; unless you wear a mask to the event, show me who you are and what you look like.
5. Join a group. Prove to me that you can connect to random people who share your beliefs. The more groups you join, the better. But don't overdo it. You can also choose, when joining groups, whether they appear on your public page or not. If you look at my page, I am displaying a fraction of the groups in which I belong. Don't display irrelevant groups to the rest of your profile.
6. Ask and answer questions. Social media is about a dialogue; and the more questions you ask, the more frequently your connections will see the questions you ask in their streams. The more questions you answer, the more likely your answer will be marked "the best" and appear next to your name for future questions and answers. There are dozens of topics you can participate in, so go crazy. I was selected for having the best answers in selected questions on blogging, organizational development, and using LinkedIn.
7. Don't accept every connection request. This is a controversial topic, as some people prefer to use LinkedIn like a typical job recruiter and be connected to anyone and everyone; I am in the other camp. If we've met in person or communicated enough times online -- if you're someone I trust and respect and wouldn't hesitate to recommend to someone who asks for a referral, then I'll connect with you. But if I don't know who you are, I'll archive your request, nicely reply no thanks, and ask you to connect with me elsewhere as a precursor. The caveat is if you're seeking to hire me and indicate that in your introductory message, I'll say yes.
8. Don't mirror your LinkedIn network with other social networks. Just because we're friends on Facebook or mutually connected on Twitter doesn't necessarily imply I will connect with you on LinkedIn. Point is, you can always decline. (Try not to click the "I Don't Know" button which has negative consequences; just archive the request.)
9. Recommend your connections. Whether someone is a friend, a colleague, a co-worker, a teacher or student, or any other connection to you, recommend the person. Some suggest you should recommend a new person every day, a strategy I sometimes commit for a few days and then forget to continue. You don't have to work with someone to recommend him or her. I've recommended (and been recommended by) people whose blogs I respect, for instance. Just don't add two sentences; make your recommendation prolific.
10. Ask your connections to recommend you. Sometimes, people will recommend you if you recommend them first. Other times, they won't. Either way, if you don't ask, you'll never know.
11. Add applications to your profile. If you have a blog, there are applications to add recent posts. If you travel a lot and like to share where you go, or attend networking events, there are applications you may want to add to your profile. If like me, you have a Slideshare account for your presentations, link that.
12. Most importantly, be a person, not a robot. If you're not connected to someone on LinkedIn and would like to be connected, don't accept the default invitation text that would arrive in my inbox like this:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Tell me why you want to connect with me, for your assumption may be different than mine. Again, think of the cocktail party. If you give the same business card to every person with the same line, "Call me," then please send the default invitation. But if you give the business card to people and personalize the action, why not echo that on LinkedIn?
More people are visiting LinkedIn every day. Maybe these tips will enrich your online experience. If you get confused, add a comment below or send me a message on LinkedIn.