To many people, LinkedIn seems like a chaotic, confusing mess. It can feel like there are too many strangers trying to connect with you, too many people trying to sell you something, and too much content that isn’t relevant to you. Or, it can feel like the worst parts of high school where the popular people are interacting and by contrast, you feel ignored or rejected.
Before giving up on LinkedIn, though, I recommend taking a closer look at how other people are successfully using it to benefit their careers and businesses. I asked some LinkedIn fans to describe the details of how they use the social media site. This article is long because they had so much to say, but persist in reading it and I think you will be inspired.
When I was first introduced to LinkedIn, I was a bit skeptical about its power. I thought “I don’t know that many people…what good will it do?” But I gave it a try and it was one of the best business decisions I ever made. Like many people I lost my job during the recession and I was a bit despondent. But I started reaching out to my network, growing it by leaps and bounds. People knew people I should talk to, I met people at job fairs and recruiting events, and I even added people I interviewed with. Eventually recruiters were finding ME and contacting me about jobs they had available and asking if I would be interested. Sometimes it was a good fit, sometimes it wasn’t. But those recruiters all became contacts and I’ve landed some great jobs, including the contract I have now at Microsoft. I can honestly say LinkedIn is the best tool I’ve ever found to help in my career.
Jennifer Dills, Events Manager, Microsoft Services
I run an online software company that provides SaaS event management tools and apps, and not only do we receive lots of traffic to our website via LinkedIn but we also convert about one customer every other day to use and pay for a subscription to our software.
The reason we receive so much traffic is due to my participation in LinkedIn Groups. We have created a company page for our business, but most people find us by reading one of our posts in a LinkedIn Group and then viewing either my profile or my company’s profile or simply seeing my title on a LinkedIn post and doing a Google search for us.
Here are the six basic steps I take in posting on LinkedIn groups:
1. Conduct a search for groups that are relevant to my industry and have members of my target audience; then apply to be a member of those groups. You can sign up for up to 50 groups.
2. Spend a week reading posts in those groups and responding to posts, mainly to gain a familiarity with the topics being discussed and the tenor of the conversations.
3. Find content on the Web that would be useful and relevant to those groups. I’m talking about articles, blog posts, studies, anything that would help them in their professional life. IMPORTANT: Don’t be self-promotional with your posts, and only include content from your blog or site about 1/20th of the time. Most people can smell out a self-promoter, and those posts are usually ignored. I have set up a Digg reader to pull content from industry blogs and news sources, and that’s how I curate content.
4. Respond to people who reply to your posts to keep the conversation going.
5. Post at least once a day to each group. I use Hootsuite to automate my posting.
6. Vary your posts between links and text only.
Jeff Kear, Owner, PlanningPod.com
Being active on LinkedIn has helped me to land work and travel to Japan for Gengo, to Doha for Qatar Airways, to Norway for SuperOffice, and most recently to Philadelphia for WorkZone.
I keep my profile up to date, I share relevant content (blog posts, white papers, and guides) and also content I create, and I have recommendations published from former colleagues. I use LinkedIn more than any other social network and I’m more active on LinkedIn than on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter combined.
Increasing the size of my network and connecting with new contacts is easy as LinkedIn suggests people I should connect with. However, another way I am able to increase my number of connections is through guest blogging. I usually include a link to my LinkedIn profile in my author bio for when I guest post, which in turn also boosts my audience reach and potential client reach.
LinkedIn is a professional network. Keep it professional and most of all, use it for what it is best at: networking and connecting with new people.”
Steven Macdonald, Online Marketing Expert, Kingspoint
Do you want to be found by employers? Get on LinkedIn, and make your profile public. That’s how I landed the perfect job.
Since the summer after my first year of college, I provided booking services to radio shows across the country. I started out as an intern of the now-defunct BizRadio Network, and then I branched out and added several other radio shows to my repertoire. Guests on my shows included Congressman Ron Paul, CNN’s Ali Velshi, Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, and authors Michael Lewis and Robert Kiyosaki. By the end of my senior year of college, I had three years of production and hosting experience for nearly ten business shows while booking more than 700 experts in the fields of finance, economics, business management, entrepreneurship, self-help, leadership, sales and marketing.
Despite my work experience, I couldn’t find a decent full-time gig in media. I spoke with contacts at Bloomberg, CNBC and FOX, and they all said I needed even more experience. Despite their rejections, I didn’t lose faith in my abilities. But once I started graduate school at Duke, I finally threw in the towel.
I use most major social media networks, and I generally keep my settings private. However, I have always made LinkedIn public.
People use LinkedIn to network professionally, find jobs, seek clients, and explore talent. The site satisfies a bunch of recruitment pains, so why would job seekers want to hide themselves and their flair?
A director at the largest private investment publisher in the world used LinkedIn to find me while I was finishing at Duke. In his introductory message, he stated, “We aren’t acquainted, but I found your profile on LinkedIn and wanted to reach out to say hello. I want to see if you had some time to get on a call to discuss an opportunity we have in the works that may be of interest to you.”
The firm wanted me to help start an entirely new division: an online radio station. I’m sure there were many other qualified candidates from the national networks I previously mentioned, but because I used LinkedIn effectively, I seemed to be a perfect candidate in the eyes of the company’s hiring managers. During my time at the firm, our radio network turned a corner to grow into a profitable, expandable, seven-figure enterprise.
I’m not saying job seekers should depend on LinkedIn to find a job. I might be considered a rare occurrence of LinkedIn success. Nevertheless, if you’re confident about your experience and abilities, why would you keep your profile private? Had I done that, chances are my talents would be rotting away elsewhere.
Naresh Vissa, Media Professional
I seem to be the only big LinkedIn fan in my circle because most of my associates don’t view Linked In the way I do. If they didn’t close a deal after their first month of being on LinkedIn, they abandoned ship. By contrast, I have approached LinkedIn as a giant Rolodex and a free university if you use it right.
In an effort to get a reality TV show I wrote (Celebrity Sugar Detox) off the ground, I hunted for Hollywood power brokers and I developed amazing relationships that took me a long way in Hollywood. Here’s my best Linked In advice:
– Read profiles. Talking to everybody is an energy drain. Hand pick the people you think your energy will be best invested in. What do they really bring to the table that you need?
– Listen and respond. I usually start by reading someone’s post and responding so as to show them that I am interested in what they care about. A few posts later after interacting a bit, I ask a question about my needs. Not only does the original poster give me valuable information, other people jump in and generally the perfect fit for my specific need shows up in that discussion and we take it off LinkedIn.
– Be their cheerleader. Whenever someone in my particular business niche posts a comment about snagging a deal, a big promotion, or an investor on board, I post a personal congratulations in excited terms. They always respond with a thank you and a personal connection has been made.
– LinkedIn appears to be used primarily (at least in the television professional groups I run with) by pretty seasoned pros. I log on there with a CEO mindset, which is very different from how I log onto a Hollywood gossip site and share my random opinions. Be professional and follow the rules (I got spanked a few times for posting promotional videos).
“I love me some LinkedIn,” as the kids would say. The only site I use more for connecting with powerful people is Twitter.
Denise Martin, Author, Eating My Way To Heaven
Being a partner in a recruiting firm, I see LinkedIn success stories frequently, but I’m writing to tell you that my company was ‘born’ from a single status update I made on LinkedIn.
It was March, 2009, the height of the economic downturn. I was happily employed as a recruiter in a large global staffing firm, and had worked for them for 10 years. I was convinced it was the company I would retire from.
So I was caught a bit off-guard when I, along with about 1/3 of the entire company, was called into a meeting to learn we were all losing our jobs due to the economy.
The first thing I did, after cleaning out my desk, was post a message on my social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. I told people what had happened and asked them to keep an eye and ear open for new opportunities for me. Then I updated my LinkedIn profile by adding my personal email and phone number so people could easily contact me.
The very next day I received a LinkedIn InMail from the president of a group of staffing firms. He was interested in talking to me about possibly starting a new staffing business in my niche. While he was not in my #1 network of contacts, his brother was, and his brother had seen my post about looking for work. The brother had passed my info along to his brother, the staffing firm president.
Exactly two months later, we launched the Wunderland Group, a recruiting and staffing firm headquartered in Chicago. We’re doing great and have expanded to both coasts.
Judi Wunderlich, WunderLand Group, specializing in recruiting for marketing, interactive, and design talent
I run a creative video agency, Hoffman Productions, in New York City. A few years ago we began posting our videos in relevant LinkedIn groups. We did this for months before anyone even liked a video in any group, but finally we had a breakthrough. We received a LinkedIn message from someone who we didn’t know, and with whom we had no mutual connections. He hired us for a $25,000 project, which, at that point, was the biggest budget we’d ever worked with. It was just from seeing one of our videos on a LinkedIn group we were both a part of.
On LinkedIn you may not see results right away, but persevere, and you will make connections you would otherwise not have.
Shmuel Hoffman, Hoffman Productions, Creative Films for Nonprofits
I’m a sculptor, performer and professional speaker. Recently, I became an author and LinkedIn was instrumental in getting the word out for my new book, Tales from Terri: A Disney Sculptor’s Life. I wrote the book mainly to see what it took to publish a book, and I made mistakes. My biggest mistake is that I forgot to put the bar code on the back, thus limiting how I can sell it. But my motto is, “My little screwed up book is better than your NO book.” I’m now in the process of doing a revised first edition. But even with being a first effort, that book sold out as a collector’s edition very quickly.
LinkedIn was a great way for me to promote my book and to ask if my contacts would help me to get the word out. The book sold over 1000 copies since it made its debut in late Sept 2013. This may not sound like much, but to me this was amazing. Many of my contacts on LinkedIn supported me when I entered a writing contest. Thanks to all of them going over to the site, reading my chapter entry, and voting, I took the grand prize and now my memoir is being looked over by agents as a result right now as we speak. This memoir is on rising above adversity, how my positive attitude and creativity allowed me to become one of top artists and performers in Hollywood. It also speaks to bullying, a very important topic for today.
Because of the book and LinkedIn, my bookings for public speaking engagements went from four talks per year to 25, from September to December.
2014 is proving to be much of the same. I’ve hired a publicist and I look forward to continued success following my dream as a public speaker. I love LinkedIn – it’s a professional, polite, “no silly games, awesome to the point” site.
Terri Hardin Jackson, Professional Speaker, Author, Sculptor
At Ash Brokerage, we created some really great marketing pieces dealing with clients and divorce that are available for financial advisors to use in their practice. We allow our appointed advisors to take these marketing brochures and brand them as their own, which helps keep an advisor’s brand unified. These pieces are targeted toward a particular group of insurance advisors and financial planners who work with clients going through a divorce … and THAT is what is so wonderful about LinkedIn and how it works for this type of need.
Since these pieces were so niche, I needed to find a quality group of financial professionals who would benefit by having them as a part of their practice. CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) is a designation earned in the financial services community by advisors who become trained in divorce financial planning. Simply by putting “CDFA” in the search field of LinkedIn, I yielded more than 1,000 professionals we could meet.
I was able to secure relationships with four advisors out of the first 10 I contacted. I made the introduction warm and inviting. Many of these advisors were in similar groups as me and had already seen some of my interactions with other advisors. Some had seen me speak at industry events and again, it made the introduction less awkward and more engaging right from the start.
We passionately use LinkedIn at our company. As a social organization with more than 300 professionals nationwide, LinkedIn has become our number one social media resource in reaching our current market as well as any new markets we wish to pursue.
Sheryl Brown-Madjlessi, Social Media Coordinator, Ash Brokerage Corporation
I’m a former IRS Officer and current owner of a tax firm in California.
LinkedIn has been a great resource for me and my business over the years. I use LinkedIn on a daily basis to network and develop leads and referrals for the company. One way I do this is by joining LinkedIn Groups (i’m in 53 groups, the max) and actively engage in discussions with other group members and professionals. I joined several industry-related groups that help build credibility for me as a tax practitioner and Landmark Tax Group, such as the National Association of Tax Professionals, California Society of Enrolled Agents, and Tax Business Owners of America.
In these groups discussions, I help answer case-related questions posed by other practitioners in the tax and accounting industry as well as post industry-related news such as changes in the tax laws, new practitioner regulations, or updated publications and forms. I also joined several groups based on the likelihood of reaching potential referral sources.
Since Landmark Tax Group specializes in resolving IRS and State tax disputes, I spend a lot of time interacting with LinkedIn users that are excellent referral sources for the company, such as attorneys, financial advisors, insurance experts, escrow officers, and tax return preparers. As such, some additional LinkedIn groups I have joined are Beverly Hills Bar Association, Corporate Lawyer Network, Bankruptcy Law Firms, CPA and Business Professionals, Turnaround Management Association, and Real Estate Funding, among others.
In an effort to reach prospective clients directly and to maintain a more local presence, I have joined and am active in additional groups such as Irvine Chamber of Commerce, We Are Orange County, California State and Local Tax Professionals, Orange County Entrepreneur Community, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
I’m also a member of the Internal Revenue Service group which is only open to past and present employees of the agency. By participating in and contributing to this group, I am able to maintain a positive and professional relationship with currently IRS personnel which ultimately helps my clients and my firm.
I created and currently manage a LinkedIn group called “California Business Owners” in an effort to stay connected with prospective clients and as a means of providing free tax tips and information to my target market. The group has approximately 145 members and is the only LinkedIn group that caters to all business owners in the state of California, regardless of industry. I personally recruit new members and not only add invite them to the group, but also add them to my personal LinkedIn network. So, as the group grows, my LinkedIn connections grow, which leads to more exposure.
Michael Raanan, President, Landmark Tax Group