LinkedIn is WAY more than a place to keep your business contact information. It’s a place to network, build your status as a resource for information and assistance and a place to connect with people who have what you need. The question is how do you make it work for you?

The first and most obvious is to fill out your profile completely with a mind towards the audience you want to attract. Think about the skill sets you have as well as the ones you want to promote. Fill in jobs that relate to where you want to go.

Recommendations

This is really a two-way street. Recommend people you really value and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much you value your relationship with them. Think about who their audience might be when you write it so it has the most value for them. Be honest and forthright. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from the people you recommend and others with whom you’ve worked.

When a recommendation is received you see a copy of it before it becomes public and you have the opportunity to request changes if something is inaccurate or misstated. If it’s all good make it public and your network will be notified as well as the network of the person who made the recommendation.

Recommendations are a recognized form of communication on LinkedIn and people expect them.

Questions and answers

The questions and answers part of LinkedIn is an easy way for you to step out of your job description and answer questions in other areas too. If you see a question posted give it some thought and post a useful answer. Other users can nominate you as an expert or recommend you to the person asking the question. This can be a valuable way to get in front of the people you want to connect with.

Do NOT post just for the sake of visibility. A “me too” is obvious and isn’t going to gain you any points. Rather, try to give a different perspective. Show some insight and that you’ve actually thought about the question. If you don’t know the answer find somebody in your network who will and recommend them as an expert.

When asking a question first see if there are others like it. If so and it doesn’t quite answer your question, try to get a different twist on it. If there are other questions exactly like it and they are recent, message the person who answered it best and thank them for their insight and then think of something else to ask.

If you ask a question be polite and respond to every person who answers it. it doesn’t have to be a full on conversation but at least acknowledge them with a thank you even if you don’t agree.

Groups

Groups have become a vibrant and lively part of LinkedIn. Sign up for groups that interest you and take a close look at the membership. Meet and converse with other business people interested in the same topics. Establish your own reputation as a resource for information. Locate and connect with other people in your fields of interest. Just as with other groups and forums share information, ask and answer questions. Be helpful, accurate and friendly.

Members of other groups can be freely invited to connect to you through LinkedIn’s invitation service. It’s a good idea to add value to the group before you start adding members. That way you’ll be in their minds as somebody interesting before you invite them to connect.

There are several different “open Networker” groups on Linkedin and while they are a useful resource to go out and find people you’re interested in, going the “add and accept all comers” route can quickly lead to inbox overloaded with spam, so choose wisely who you connect with.

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