LinkedIn is one of my favorite social networks. Well, it's in the top three, but you may find it interesting that it's number two after Twitter and ahead of Facebook. Yep, I like LinkedIn more than Facebook because of its functionality as well as it's ability to add value to my professional and business needs.
I remember joining LinkedIn way before Social Media websites were popular and when I was employed at General Motors. I don't even remember when I got my first invitation to "link in" but it has got to be a decade or so. Initially it was made up of the select few career professionals who joined it and then sent invitations to each other. Now of course it has grown to become one of the top professional networking sites for working professionals and business owners.
Although LinkedIn doesn't have as many users as Facebook's 500 plus million, there is no other network that offers you detailed information about professionals in every field you can imagine. The data is well organized, well-searchable, and easy to find and use. LinkedIn's biggest advantage to you, as an individual or company, is that it allows you to showcase your profile with as much detail as you can possibly add. Your profile becomes an impressive presentation of your company, your skills, your education, your accomplishments and your connections. If you have a captivating profile, people are attracted to you and you'll find yourself being connected to others who become a valuable network for you.
The best way to create a captivating profile is by studying other profiles in your field and outside your field. Yes, even profiles that are not in your field can give you ideas to make your profile more comprehensive and interesting. Also, review corporate profiles of your competition and see what they are saying to make themselves look good. Don't copy but certainly use similar ways to create your own corporate profile so that you can stand head to toe in comparison to your nearest competitor. Testimonials are great for attracting attention of the one who may be tougher to convince simply based on your attractive profile. Testimonials from current and past clients, employees, and colleagues are a great way to let others know what people think of you.
Focus on building a network that is hand-picked with individuals whom you want to be associated with. Yes, you won't always be able to focus on who you want and may need to add people who don't appear to be "valuable" from a connection perspective but that's ok. You aren't getting charged for each connection you add so why sweat the small stuff?
Start building your network with the people you already know. Do your research and connect others keeping in mind "givers gain". I'd say focus on quality of contacts and not so much the quantity because that'll bring more value in the long run. Also keep an eye on the suggestions for connections that the LinkedIn database offers (on the right hand side of your LinkedIn screen). These people are offered as possible contacts by the LinkedIn database based on the interests you filled out in your profile.
Update your profile frequently to keep it fresh. Send out notes to your connections letting them know if you have information that they find useful. Integrate your twitter feed to LinkedIn because it's a great way to gain the attention of others who may not be in your network directly. Make use of the Answers section to answer other people's questions and post some of your own in a way that engages other people's attention, not spams them. Use LinkedIn's extensive database to search for company contacts or people whom you wish to reach to showcase what you do and what you sell.
And of course, make sure your profile includes links to your websites including your blog. Share a little bit of your personal information that is not "private" and that may interest others.
So if you've only been thinking of playing on Facebook and Twitter, perhaps it's time to give some attention to LinkedIn. Trust me, it'll be worth it.