You've filled out your LinkedIn experience, summary and maybe some other accomplishments and interests. But, what other LinkedIn features do you use to your advantage?
Listed below are my Top 7 features that all professionals need to be comfortable with in order to build deeper professional relationships.
1) Posting Updates
It's that big white box that stares you in the face when you log-in. Do you use it?
This feature allows you to broadcast your interests and point of view. The next time you read an article, ask yourself: "Is there something other people could learn from this piece?" Even if the article is about a personal hobby, is there a cool fact or a lesson to be passed on? If so, your contacts would appreciate seeing the content and you will be providing a point of view based on your unique set of experiences and expertise.
2) News "Signals"
Have you ever sent someone an email only to receive the dreaded "Out of Office" response in return? Well, think of News "Signals" as a quick way to learn how many of your contacts are currently active on LinkedIn, which may mean that those contacts have some spare time. Located as the third option in the drop down "News" menu, "Signals" lets you see your contacts' activity in real-time. Check it out every now and then to get a sense of how people are using LinkedIn and to understand who might be free for a quick catch-up.
Tags are another lesser known feature that allows you to organize your connections however you see fit. LinkedIn automatically organizes your contacts based on company, location, industry, recent activity, and your relationship with that person. Additionally, you're also able to create new tags so that you can organize your contacts as you wish. Just click on the "Contacts" drop down and organize connections in a way that makes it easiest for you to reference.
4) "Get Introduced"
Ever wanted to contact someone outside of your network without cold emailing or calling? Then you may want to check to see if you have any mutual connections. LinkedIn's "Get introduced" feature, located on the drop down to the right of 'Connect', allows you to send a message to one of your current contacts that is connected with the targeted professional. Yet, be sure to know that mutual connection well and clearly state sound reasons why you'd like your contact to put his reputation at stake to introduce you to one of his connections. NOTE: If you have a basic account (the free one), you're limited to 5 introductions. So, if that relates to you, choose your battles wisely.
5) Personalizing Messages When Connecting
Most of the connections people receive include the stock LinkedIn message attached. I don't have proof to back that fact up, but I'd be willing to bet it's true. When you personalize a message, you're creating a more memorable connection between yourself and the professional you're trying to add as a contact. It only takes a few seconds to say "Hi John Doe -- I really enjoyed our discussion at the Big Important Networking Event. I look forward to touching base again soon!" Little personalized details like this can go a long way.
Let's face it: You didn't get to where you are today without any mentoring, guidance or help. Somewhere along the way, someone has helped craft the person you are today. If you have never recommended anyone on LinkedIn before, start with the people that mean the most to you. But, if those people aren't on LinkedIn, recommend someone that you had or have a great working relationship with. Even if it's only a few nice qualities that you wish to point out, write it anyway! It's one of the best ways to show your appreciation and respect for a fellow professional, and recommendations look great in a profile.
Also, if someone is nice enough to recommend you, consider returning the favor.
7) "Groups You May Like"
Like most popular social networks, LinkedIn relies on algorithms created by really smart people so that us users can be totally freaked out when the site recommends that you reconnect with your best friend from middle school. Well, the intention obviously isn't to freak you out but rather make your experience more customized and relevant to your interests. "Groups You May Like" is a list of groups that are automatically selected for you based on "similar attributes between you and other members in groups (such as companies, schools, or industries in common)." Essentially, the more information you provide to LinkedIn in your profile, the more effectively LinkedIn will be able to recommend groups that you're going to be interested in. Joining a group and getting involved in discussions that relates to your area of expertise is one of the best ways to generate new contacts, learn what professionals in your field are talking about, and present your expert knowledge.