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Brian Cuda: LinkedIn, the social network for professionals

It's All Geek to Us

Posted: October 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

As a professional in the technology field, I am often asked technical questions even if they don’t relate to my specific expertise.

Some people assume that because I work on websites, I should also be an expert in fixing computers. It’s like meeting a podiatrist at a party and asking her why you get migraines.

I am frequently asked, however, one question that does apply to my area of expertise. But I often find myself at a loss for a satisfactory explanation.

The question is deceivingly simple:
“What is LinkedIn, and how will it help my business?”

With such a simple question, and my inability to provide a succinct explanation, one might assume that either I don’t clearly understand the application myself or that I drink too many party beverages.

While I do have a good grasp of the benefits LinkedIn provides — and I do enjoy party beverages — the real reason for the difficulty answering this query is that there is no short answer.

So, here is the long answer.

LinkedIn is an online social network with more than 120 million members. Unlike other social networks, such as Myspace and Facebook, LinkedIn is focused on connecting professionals worldwide.

A professional’s profile on LinkedIn looks much like a resume, and his or her connections are usually fellow college alumni, past and present co-workers, vendors, customers or other types of professional contacts.

It is a way to stay connected to your business world without seeing pictures of your co-worker’s weekend in Las Vegas.

Unlike Facebook, status updates on LinkedIn usually consist of industry news, company announcements or a professional’s career-related accomplishments. The groups on the site are generally industry-specific and provide a good way to expand one’s professional network.

Staying connected to other professionals on LinkedIn may be beneficial for several reasons.

A sales professional or small-business owner may find it profitable to stay connected to clients because the online relationship may lead to future sales.

Someone looking for work might find LinkedIn a helpful way to network, identify opportunities and present his or her resume. Human-resources professionals may use the network to identify and reach out to talent.

Accepting a LinkedIn invitation to connect and adding a few details about your education and work experience may not be enough to secure a job offer, find an employee or connect with a new client.

Like most things, you get out of the system what you put into it.

Business Coach Kelly McCormick, author of “OutSell Yourself: Go from Hello to Sold with Ethical Business and Sales Techniques,” posted an excellent tip on “The huge overlooked marketing opportunity on LinkedIn” (http://bit.ly/q1swct).
In the post, Kelly explains:
Regardless of how you’ve set your preview settings, anyone who searches for you and/or your profession within LinkedIn will see your photo and the description you put beside it.

Think of your “professional headline” as your tagline. It can be a statement, or select words that quickly tell people how they would benefit from your products or services.

A well-written headline can include the following information:
* what you do/offer;
* how you provide your ideas/products/services;
* how long you’ve been in business and/or doing what you do;
* types of clients you serve;
* benefits of your ideas/products/services;
* successes, e.g. “Sold $25 million in 40 days!”;
* or professional designations or status e.g. expert or specialist.

Kelly’s point is that you are selling “a product” on LinkedIn, and that product is you.

Would you be more likely to buy a product named “president/CEO” or a product called “Industry expert, changing lives and delivering results?”

While this example may sound a little generic, the point is that your professional headline should be descriptive and use keywords that help those in your industry find you.

Once you have been found, a creative and informative headline will set you apart from the 120 million other professionals on LinkedIn.

Clearly, in this small space, I’ve provided just an overview of LinkedIn, but I hope it answers some questions.

While this doesn’t help me explain the system any faster, I can now just bring copies of The Signal to every party.

Readers can submit questions to: brian@geek2us.com.

Brian Cuda is co-founder of Conceptinet, a website design, development, hosting, social media and marketing firm located in Santa Clarita and can be reached at (661) 338-0830  www.conceptinet.com. Mr. Cuda’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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