In the book I’m on Linkedin – Now What?, author Jason Alba lists three powerful tools to further strengthen your networking proficiency. The first is the Recommendation feature. Find a contact you want to recommend, go to their profile page and click on the link “Recommend this person.” Then click on the button that best describes your working relationship. Then there are several drop-down boxes to clarify the relationship. It is at that point that you will write a recommendation what should be no longer than a paragraph. Then hit send. This person can view the recommendation and choose whether to post it, but they can’t change it. This lends an air of credibility to the recommendation.
Recommendations are valuable endorsements, so it’s wise to not be casual about them. Jason advises that the best way to get recommended is to recommend one or more of your contacts. Having recommendations on your profile is another way to strengthen your relationships and substantiate your skills and talents.
Linkedin Groups are established organizations that are part of the networking structure of Linkedin. The main value of joining a group is that it gives you access to people you might not normally have contact within your three degrees. You can communicate with them as if they were a first degree connection. And it makes your profile available to additional contacts.
The best way to search for members within a group is to click on the “Groups” button at the bottom of your Linkedin home page and search the group categories to locate a group or association which may fit your interest. Just follow the steps to add that group to your profile. You may have to wait for approval from the moderator, but once you are accepted you can take full advantage of broadening your network contacts. New groups are being added on a continual basis and if there isn’t a group that matches your interest you can add an established group.
Linkedin Answers is the last feature that will be addressed and may be the most powerful. Answers allows you to post a question and invite your network to respond. You are limited to posting 10 questions per month, which limits potential spamming problems. There are no limits to how many questions you can answer. The questions can range from help in finding a job, resources needed to further your business, or assistance in resolving business related issues.
First click on the Answers tab at the top of your home page. When you submit a question you can choose up to 200 people from your fist degree contacts who can submit answers. Jason recommends using the email notifier to invite your contacts to answer your question. Your contacts are more likely to see the question if it comes to them through email than by logging on to their Linkedin home page. Each question is open for seven days and closes automatically after the seventh day. The questions and answers are available in archived records.
During the seven days, you can clarify your question or close it if you receive a fabulous answer. Using the Answers feature not only gives you a rich source of knowledge, but you learn more about your contacts. When you choose an answer it builds the credibility of the contact who answered it. Their profile will display with the answer they have contributed. That is why it pays to answer questions as well as pose them. Using this feature allows you to display your depth of knowledge as well build your reputation and brand.
A final note about Answers, the Linkedin staff monitors the Q&A and if they deem something inappropriate it will be flagged and taken down. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to participate in an intelligent and professional manner. Also, don’t forget to thank those who took the time to answer your question. It is proper “netiquette” and they will be more likely to respond to your next request for help.
Links for further information on Linkedin and online networking:
http://www.linkedintelligence.com/– Scott Allen talks about getting the most from Linkedin
http://blog.linkedin.com– Official blog for Linkedin
http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com– Most comprehensive resource for online networking