LinkedIn is an effective tool to expand your network strategically.  As you connect with people you have access to second level contactees you can strategically approach them.  It is important to respect your first level contact’s connections.  It is not just a blatant hard sell to as many people as you can contact with the hope of a 2% success rate.  Networking is not the traditional sales model, this is connecting for lasting and sustained relationships.  If you put one person off you may end up tarnishing your own reputation. I recall that annoying one person generates 30 complaints to others, so it is wise to respect your contacts.  So you have to consider how to effectively use this networking system to ensure a win/win for everyone.  So here are some tips.

Tip 1:     Photo opportunity:  some people are uneasy about putting up their photo, but a good professional picture that flatters you professionally is a good first step.  The holiday snapshot on the beach being fed grapes is probably not the message you want to send, that is more the end result of your career.

Tip 2:     URL: Customisation of URL for example http://www.linkedin.com/in/arnoldshields

Tip 3:     URL:  Hints for company website click on website, select Other from drop down menu, then type in your business name and website.

Tip 4:     Name:  Ensure you use a name that people can find you on, many use their personal names for LinkedIn.  LinkedIn comes up close to the top in a Google search.

Tip 5:     Making connections:  When you invite people to join your network rather than send a generic request like the standard one ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’, why not personalise it.  Here is a few ideas for sending a invitation message …

Hi (name) it would be great to keep in touch, would you like to part of my network

Hi (name) remember (me) I met you through (contact) and similar to you, I enjoy (topic) and thought you would benefit in being part of my network, please accept my invitation.

Hi (name) I thought of you today and think you would enjoy this network of (likeminded people) I would personally like to invite you.

Hi (name) I value your business and as a trusted colleague I would like to introduce you to some great contacts that will benefit your business. I would like to personally invite you to join my network.

 If you just send a standard reply people can see you are after numbers and not personal contact.

 Tip 6:     Email address:  use both your work and personal email, as you may move positions and it is good to be contactable, never know it could be a job offer.

 Tip 7:     Backup Contacts:  export all your contacts to ensure you have a spare copy, alternatively if you have a Gmail account as a backup to this account.

 Tip 8:     Recommend others – this is the giving part.  You can recommend a person to others, which is always appreciated by both parties.  In reality you are emailing goodwill.  As you recommend others, others will recommend you and this is ‘word of mouth’ which is very powerful in marketing circles.

Tip 9:     Answers:  This is an opportunity for you to showcase your expertise, or you can exercise your networking by recommending a few experts to answer questions.  It is great for people to share knowledge, they feel valued and may be able to save someone a lot of heartache or money.  For some, that is the same thing.

 Tip 10:  Research:  The Answers function also assists in enabling you to find out information.  You can get pointers for your business, your blog, marketing strategies, new clients or finding out from those in your network in your particular field. This is effective networking, a reciprocal process.

Depending on your time and inclination, there are a myriad of ways to utilise LinkedIn.  Those who do optimise their knowledge and activity on LinkedIn will be able to generate more opportunities.  It is true to say it is ‘Who You Know’ not ‘What You Know’ that counts.  It is also good to get to know people who are different from you, they are often the best teachers.  We do have tendencies to want to be with those who reinforce our world view, but you learn more from those who have different ideas.

So you will determine how successful LinkedIn is.

We can be professional but it is important to have fun whilst you work on your business circle and fulfil your life.