Until recently, I was one of those people who created a LinkedIn account but never touched it. I had about seven connections, well, six if you don’t include my mom.
I assumed LinkedIn was for stuffy, high-end professionals who weren’t savvy enough to use Facebook, but wanted to engaged in social media. Boy was I wrong.
LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional social network with 161 million members in more than 200 countries. This is compared to Facebook, which has more than 500 million active users. The beauty of LinkedIn is quite simply that it’s not Facebook. They are completely different sites, with completely different rules. Here are some ways to properly and efficiently use LinkedIn.
Strangers aren’t danger.
The whole point of LinkedIn is to network with professionals and increase your circle. It’s OK to connect with professionals you don’t know, as long as you do it for the right reasons. Don’t go adding anyone and everyone you see on the sidebar.
LinkedIn displays people you may know based on similar professional and shared connections. If you notice an individual with whom you share similar interests or somebody that you want to know more about, do not feel bad about inviting him or her to connect on LinkedIn.
With Facebook, the rule is you only add people you know, but because LinkedIn is a professional network, adding a new connection is okay.
Customize your invite.
Now that you have decided to add a certain individual to your connections, it’s time to send the invite. LinkedIn comes with a generic invitation along the lines of “I would like to add you to my professional connections.”
Please do not use that.
If you see the option of changing the message, do it. You are inviting a complete stranger to connect with you. The least you can do is show the individual why you want to connect and make yourself personable.
Here’s an example of a personalized note: “Hi Mr. Smith. I see that you work as an Account Executive for _____ and I would like to add you to my network of PR professionals in Los Angeles. I am a PR student at Biola University in LA and would like to connect with those already in the industry. Thank you and have a great day.”
Watch your stats.
LinkedIn comes with statistics for your profile and network. If you click on the “Connections” tab, you can check your network statistics, which have information about growing industries as well as the top locations in your network. You can also see who has viewed your profile in the last few days. Plus, based on your statistics you can find more professionals in those networks and connect with them, starting the cycle over again.
How has LinkedIn helped your career? As a PR newbie, I had to connect with complete strangers who have turned out to be some of the biggest helps in my career.
Meilani Kieu is a student at Biola University in Los Angeles studying Public Relations. You can follow her on Twitter @MeilaniKieu or check out her blog at brandingmeilani.wordpress.com.