Three ways to get more from LinkedIn

While you’ll have to put more work into your account, you can also easily monitor your success

WHEN LinkedIn announced it had surpassed 15m UK members in March, the accompanying statistical breakdown put a new perspective on what passes for professional in Britain. Although the biggest UK employers represented included RBS and Lloyds, 146 chimney sweeps, 744 magicians and five professional mermaids were all signed up too. Yet while compositionally more exciting, LinkedIn is still a stumbling block for many – with the hypernetworking corporate ladder climber rarer than you might think. EY recently surveyed 750 professionals, for example, and fewer than half even had a LinkedIn account.

So how might you use the professional network more effectively? Most of us are fairly unadventurous. A study by LinkedIn trainer Wayne Breitbarth found that only 9 per cent have more than 1,000 connections, and most don’t pay it much attention – logging in for less than two hours a week. We’re also relatively conservative in how we use LinkedIn – typically for research, to reconnect with people, and with a growing number trying the jobs search function. But Breitbarth thinks we’re missing a trick. Here are a few ideas for how to step up a gear on LinkedIn:

Many will be familiar with how LinkedIn attempts to pair users up with relevant jobs. But Hays, the recruiter, has gone a step further. It has integrated its own platform with the network, so it can suggest jobs based on users’ real-time behaviour on the site: when you update your profile, you’re judged more likely to be thinking about a move. Obviously, this calls for extra caution so as not to unnecessarily spook an existing employer. But it also opens up a whole literature of optimisation, allowing professionals to be more easily found by recruiters.

According to Breitbarth, it all comes down to the right keywords – particularly for your headline (the section below your name that many solely use for their job title, but which is also one of the few items other users actually read). He suggests weighing up your competitors and noting any statements or words that resonate. Then simply devise a list of your own keywords, and cram the most pertinent into the 120 characters space.

But Breitbarth also doesn’t see much point in having LinkedIn unless you put in the hours. A Harvard Business Review study of whether sales people were successful at driving new business from LinkedIn found that the most active users were also the most profitable. Even if you’re not looking for sales leads, Breitbarth recommends a minimum of 15 minutes LinkedIn activity every day. And to avoid time wasting, prioritise areas with maximum pay-off – including building new connections. One quick way to flesh out your network is to immediately message anyone interesting who’s looked at your profile in the last day. “They’ve made the first step – they looked at you. Now it’s your move,” he says.

The beauty of LinkedIn, and online networks like it, is the ability to track how successful you have been at meeting your goals. There are simple metrics like your number of connections, how many invitations you get, and how often your page is viewed, which can give you an idea of how influential you are becoming. More complex measures might include the number of endorsements you receive, or how many people comment on your status updates. But although these will be useful for getting an idea of the return on your LinkedIn investment, the ideal metric will obviously either be the number of job offers you receive or business leads you uncover.

The end of business cards
Tired of physical business cards? LinkedIn’s CardMunch allows the professional network’s members to transform them into contacts for your iPhone. Install the app, point your camera at the card, and take a photo. Human transcribers back at LinkedIn HQ will then turn the contact details into a more useful format.

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