LinkedIn has become a dominant player in the recruitment and human resource space in the past few years, with 150 million members and availability in 200 countries. Its launch on the NYSE was reminiscent of the dot com boom -- shares began trading at $US45 each and quickly topped $US100. It has successfully carved out its own niche in a social media landscape dominated by Twitter and Facebook.
LinkedIn has become the place to establish connections and find links to career opportunities, and it is frequently used by IT professionals. As of 31 December 2011, signup rates topped more than two new members per second. Last year, LinkedIn members did nearly 4.2 billion professionally-oriented searches on the platform. We take a look at the A to Z of LinkedIn -- minus some of the trickier letters.
Some may view LinkedIn as simply an online version of their resume, but features such as applications allow you to personalise your profile with information relevant to your industry. Applications such as polls and events encourage your network to talk and interact.
"It's important your profile of record is what people find when they Google your name or company, and obviously you want to be as well represented in that profile as possible," managing director of LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand, Clifford Rosenberg, says.
You may be solely focused on the image your organisation is presenting online, but your personal brand is just as important. Ensuring your profile represents who you are is vital when engaging with your audience.
"You can set up a profile for your company. We have well over a million companies who have profiles on LinkedIn," Rosenberg says.
It's also a great way to attract talented staff as potential recruits can keep tabs on companies they want to work for. Activating a company profile puts a personal face to your organisation. It is a simple way to see a snapshot of any enterprise -- just be aware that your competition will be keeping an eye on you also.
LinkedIn isn't about a one way conversation -- it is based on interacting with other professionals. The discussion tab on each group page is there to allow people with similar interests to post questions and share experiences.
It may seem obvious, but just because LinkedIn is online doesn't mean professionalism should diminish. Interacting with colleagues politely when asking for something like a recommendation is important if you are to create a positive impression.
LinkedIn users are able to access their personal RSS feeds through the social network. You can subscribe to industry discussions as well as external feeds from sources such as Google.
There is a variety of open and closed groups on LinkedIn. Joining those relevant to your industry is a must for CIOs. You can discuss issues among peers and make new connections in the industry. Discussions in open groups can be viewed by anybody, whereas closed groups are for members-only.
CIO Australia group is where Australian CIOs and IT leaders can connect and share their ideas on using IT to create business value and make the most of opportunities in a growing local market. The group is open to CIOs, IT directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers. You can be working for an Australian organisation, heading up APAC operations or an ex-pat living and working overseas but the group is not open to sales executives, consultants, recruiters, business development managers or IT service executives.
If you're searching for the next IT star to join your place of employment, you might want your HR team to place a job advertisement on LinkedIn. You can share the advertisement using other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and post them to LinkedIn groups. "Because CIOs are always on the lookout for skilled talent, and with a war for talent out there, having a good profile allows members to connect and network," Rosenberg says.
Including an up to date, professional and appropriate image as your LinkedIn profile picture is vital for IT leaders in order to make a more personal impact and connect with colleagues. Making sure that this image is consistent with your online brand is necessary too.
Having relevant information on your profile is not only important to maintaining good relationships -- it could land you your next big career change. LinkedIn also allows users to browse for jobs by company and informs you once a colleague or contact leaves his or her current position.
Keeping up to date
Having an up to date profile with the right information is vital. It lets you reap the benefits of any career opportunities, so updating your profile with current position, location and other details is a must.
The learning centre, also known as the Help Center of the social networking site, is where you can find relevant and up to date information about several topics. It is a must for anybody new to LinkedIn.
There are LinkedIn apps for several mobile platforms, including Apple's iPad and iPhone as well as phones and tablets running the Android and BlackBerry operating systems.
"On certain Optus and Vodafone/3 plans you can actually get free use of LinkedIn on your mobile," Rosenberg says. "We've realised that more and more of our members are mobile and not tethered to their PCs. We really want to be available where our members are."
Without networking there would be no LinkedIn. Being the world's largest professional online network, LinkedIn is a great way to get in touch with old connections and establish new ones through groups and associations with similar interests to yours.
LinkedIn Outlook Connector lets you access LinkedIn from Microsoft Outlook. You can view updates from members of your network and send invitations to new contacts to connect using LinkedIn.
While keeping your Facebook profile private from your colleagues can be a good move, leaving your LinkedIn profile with some information visible to others is vital according to Rosenberg.
"Make sure you have a fully complete profile; make sure you have an updated photo of yourself and preferably one that represents you in a professional light," he says.
Questions and answers
LinkedIn's Answers section allows members to pose questions to other members of the site, as well as respond to others' questions. People who provide the best answers to questions in certain categories are flagged as experts on their profiles.
"Recommendations talk about credibility; it shows trust," Rosenberg says. "Because the recommendations are linked to someone's profile, one can very quickly see it was a colleague or a boss or someone in the same industry that posted the recommendation."
One easy way to complete your profile is to get past and present colleagues to recommend your work. You may want to reciprocate by writing a recommendation for them.
Specialties and skills
Adding specialties to your profile allows other LinkedIn users to get a better idea of exactly what it is that you're good at. This doesn't need to be a large amount of text, but provides a little more detail than your standard resume would. LinkedIn also includes Skills & Expertise tracker.
Adding your Twitter name to your LinkedIn profile provides another way for users to contact you. LinkedIn also allows you to share updates using your Twitter account.
A unique URL allows you to include a link on emails or on the cover letter of a resume. It not only saves time, it shows potential employers that you care about being contacted via LinkedIn.
Want to know who is looking at your profile? Click on the 'edit profile' button to see who has viewed your account, depending on their privacy settings, and what industries they work in. You can also see how often your profile has turned up in search results.
This is a variety of widgets available for Linkedin. You may want to add a snapshot of your LinkedIn profile to your blog, for example. You can also add a 'Share on LinkedIn' widget to your website, which lets people share your content with their LinkedIn network.
This article first appeared in CIO magazine. Subscribe now.
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This story, "The A-Z of LinkedIn" was originally published by CIO Australia.