12 LinkedIn secrets to supercharge your social networking

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To know me is to know that I love—loveLinkedIn.

At 150 million members and growing, LinkedIn is a powerful professional networking tool, and it’s not just for job seekers. Frankly, if you’re in the professional world and not using LinkedIn, I’m not sure what you’re thinking.

Our team at V3 uses it for new business development, competitive research and analysis, participating in groups and discussions, and engaging with and learning from peers—and, of course, it’s the go-to site for savvy job seekers everywhere.

One of the cool things about LinkedIn is there’s always something new to learn. Sure, the first step is to sign up and create your profile. But once you’ve got the basics covered, there are a number of ways you can customize your experience in not only achieve your professional goals, but also to get more out of LinkedIn.

I do a lot of corporate LinkedIn training and these are some of my favorite tricks and tips:

1. How to remove a connection

Want to ditch a connection? Sometimes you need to give someone the boot. Maybe it’s a colleague, a competitor, an ex, or just someone you don’t want to be associated with. Getting rid of them is easy as pie. Even better, they won’t know you’ve given them the heave-ho.

How to wield this magic?

When you’re logged into LinkedIn, Select Contacts in the main navigation bar. At the far right, you’ll see two options: Add connections and Remove connections. Click Remove connections, check the box next to the contact’s name and click OK.

2. Hide your status updates

Sometimes it makes sense to operate in stealth mode. If you’re connecting with new business prospects or making changes to your profile in preparation for job seeking, you may not want to broadcast that activity to your network.

Click the drop-down menu under your name in the top right corner of the page, then select Settings. In the profile section, click Turn on/off your activity broadcasts under Privacy Controls. Uncheck the box that appears in the pop-up window and click Save Settings. Easy as can be and now you’re flying below the radar.

One tip: Remember to turn this setting back on as soon as you’re done, otherwise, you’ll be invisible on LinkedIn and that kind of negates the whole point.

3. Privacy matter to you? Opt out of ads

There was a big brouhaha about LinkedIn and privacy a few months back when it was discovered that a default setting called “social sharing” allows LinkedIn to pair an advertiser’s message with the social content from a LinkedIn user’s network.

If you don’t want your info showing up in random ads, opt out. Click Settings under your name, then click Account. Under Privacy Controls, select Manage Advertising Preferences. If you don’t want to see ads, uncheck the box that appears in the pop-up window and click Save Settings. You can also read more about each type of advertising, if you want to learn more.

4. Get a custom URL

It’s much easier to publicize your LinkedIn profile with a customized URL, rather than the clunky combination of numbers that LinkedIn automatically assigns when you sign up. Plus, if you use a consistent name across all of your social networks (and you should), this is a great way to boost your own “brand awareness.”

Laugh if you will, but it’s an important part of networking. And when it comes to networking, do you really want anything less than a custom URL on your business card? We think not.

How to get your own custom URL? Log in. Click Profile > Edit Profile in the main nav bar. At the bottom of the gray window that shows your basic information, you’ll see a Public Profile URL. Click “Edit” next to the URL and specify what you’d like your address to be. When you’re finished, click Set Custom URL.

5. Make yourself anonymous

If you’re gearing up for some serious LinkedIn stalking, whether for competitive research, new business prospecting, or job hunting, you may want to switch your profile setting to anonymous so that individuals and companies can’t tell that you’ve been looking at their profiles.

To make your profile anonymous, choose Settings > Privacy Controls > Select what others can see when you’ve viewed their profile. From there, you have three options: Display your name and headline; Display an anonymous profile with some characteristics identified such as industry and title, or totally anonymous.

Once you’re done with your sleuthing, be sure to switch your settings back— remaining anonymous on LinkedIn for a long period of time won’t do you much good when it comes to networking and lead generation.

6. Customize a link to your website

When you set up your profile, LinkedIn lets you display links to up to three URLs. And although LinkedIn provides several choices when identifying the website content to which you’re linking (personal website, company website, blog, RSS feed, etc.), it’s better to customize those. For instance, mine says: The V3 Website, The V3 Blog, Shelly Kramer’s Facebook (which is where I’d like to send people if they want to know more about me).

To customize the URLs on your LinkedIn profile, select Edit Profile from the Profile menu in the main nav bar. In the gray box that includes your photo, select Edit next to Websites. From there, choose Other from the drop-down menu. A new box will appear that lets you name the website and enter the URL. When you’re done, click Save Changes.

7. Add your blog feed

If you have a WordPress blog, we highly recommend feeding your blog into your LinkedIn profile (unless, of course, the content isn’t appropriate for a LinkedIn page.) To enable this setting, select More in the main nav bar and select Applications. From there, choose the WordPress application and enter the link to your feed. The blog will then appear in your profile and will update each time a new post is added.

Want to move where that blog application is appearing in your profile? Easy. Click Profile > Edit Profile and hover over the application title. Your cursor will change into a hand, and you can “grab” the element and move it to a different spot on the page. You can also use the BlogLink application if your blog isn’t a WordPress site.

8. Hide a recommendation

Ever get a recommendation you didn’t ask for? Or one that isn’t something you’d want to showcase on your LinkedIn profile?

If you get a recommendation that’s poorly written or is unsolicited and don’t feel comfortable reaching out to the writer and asking for some revisions, no biggie. You can easily hide the recommendation. Select Profile > Edit Profile and go to the position with which the recommendation is associated. Click Manage. Uncheck the box next to the recommendation that you want to hide, and click Save Changes.

9. Add to your connection base

Duh. (Sorry, that just slipped out). A social networking site doesn’t do you much good if you don’t focus on building a network and adding to your connection base.

If you’ve mined your email contacts for possible connections and have exhausted LinkedIn’s People You Should Know recommendations, there’s an easy way to expand your network—stalking. Yeah, I said stalking.

Simply go to a friend or colleague’s profile and click Connections in the main profile box. From there, you’ll see an alphabetized list of connections, and before long you’ll probably be saying to yourself: “Oh, I know her. And him. And I can’t believe I’m not connected to that guy.” And you can quickly and easily send invitations to connect.

For me, this is one of the easiest ways to build LinkedIn connections—and candidly, I also get a little thrill out of stalking.

One last reminder: Don’t forget to customize the invitation before you send it. Nothing’s worse than getting the default, “I’d like to add you to my connections,” email for telling someone “you’re so unimportant to me that I can’t take the 20 seconds it would require to send you a personal note.” Just. Don’t. Do. It.

10. Block connections and group activities from competitors

If you’re using LinkedIn for new business development (or job seeking), it’s probably a good idea to slip into stealth mode again when you’re focused on this kind of work. In some cases, it makes sense that you’ll want to keep competitors (or current employers, if you’re job hunting) from seeing your new connections and group activity.

It’s easy to do. Select Settings > Account > Customize the updates you see on your homepage. In the pop-up window under General, uncheck the box that says New Connections in your network. Scroll down and, under Groups, uncheck the box next to Groups your connections have joined or created. Click Save Changes and you’re set.

11. Get LinkedIn updates in an RSS feed

Want an easy button when it comes to LinkedIn Updates? If so, you can add LinkedIn updates to your feed reader. This is especially good when you’re focused on new business development. And when doing this, you can choose from the public feed and your personal feed, which contains private information from your network.

To add a feed to your reader, go to LinkedIn’s RSS feeds page. You can turn on the feed for network updates and add it to your reader using one of the reader buttons or by copying the link. Additionally, you can add an RSS feed of a LinkedIn Answers category, a great way to stay up-to-date on discussion about a particular industry or subject.

Before you add a personal feed to your reader, be warned that some Web-based readers will publish your feed URLs, meaning that information could show up in search results. If you want to avoid that disclosure, make sure your feed reader guarantees that your feeds are kept private (sorry, Google Reader fans).

12. Beef up your experience with projects

This is a relatively new LinkedIn feature and it is über cool!. You’ve probably listed a summary of your career experience, as well as individual jobs, to your LinkedIn profile, but Projects take it to a whole new level. It gives enables you to further showcase specific skills. Plus, you can add a relevant URL to each project and, if your team members are also on LinkedIn, you can connect them (by name and by link to profile) to the project as well.

Want to add this to your profile? Click Profile > Edit Profile. Under the primary gray box of your profile, you’ll see a new Add Sections feature on a blue background. Click Add sections, Projects and enter a project description. You may want to add other sections, too, depending on their relevance.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get going! LinkedIn is a powerful business social networking site and the time we invest in this space pays off in spades. If I’ve missed any tips that you think are stupendous, leave them in the comments. And while you’re at it let’s be sure we connect on LinkedIn.

Shelly Kramer is a digital marketing strategist and the CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Miss. A version of this story first appeared on the blog 12 Most.

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